How many pictures are enough?

As the title suggests, I’ve been wondering how many pictures are enough from a single shoot. This is likely to be obvious to some but it hasn’t always been like that for me. Usually when I shoot, I aim to have at least 20 good shots of various poses, angles, etc. then the edits. But to get these 20 good shots, I create several lighting schemes, employ different backgrounds and sometimes locations. I don’t think I’ve been doing this all wrong but this process isn’t efficient.

Scouring the net for iconic and lasting images, I found that photographers almost always use the best shot from a single shoot for their portfolios. Fine art photographers do this as well. Most of the time, these shots consist of simple backgrounds, simple attractive and defining poses. The real kicker is lighting. If the lighting looks great the aforementioned requirements fall into place. If we look at iconic images of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Peter Murphy, Morrissey, Ian Curtis, and on and on, it has come down to lighting and the ability of the photographer to engage his subject to flesh out their personalities, tell their subjects’ stories and reveal their “image” — all within a single shot.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m learning that effective photos are usually the simplest ones. Bono of U2 once said that he success of his band was due to simple melodies. I think when things are simple, the real meat of the subject is revealed more easily.

I had a shoot in December in which my client asked me to photograph their singers for an hour each. Based on their requests, I found that I was able to achieve the shots they needed within a half hour. For good reason, and because they were paying, they wanted me to continue shooting until the hour was up, which I happily obliged. I wasn’t thinking then about simple images. I just thought, “Hey, I got the shot already.”

Anyway, so the picture below is of my gorgeous girlfriend. It’s one of the shots I liked the most from this shoot (and the only one for that sequence I’ve posted). I edited this photo to give her more of an ethereal look. I was introduced to the paintings of Eugene Carriere (example below my photo) during my recent visit to the Met. In case you haven’t heard of him, he was a French painter who created these eerie ethereal looking portraits — very unique stuff. Since, I’ve been working a long time on this style, I was instantly attracted to his work. The image below is my attempt to create a simple, ethereal, eerie portrait while still maintaining the intensity and beauty of her eyes.

For great iconic images, check out this BLOG.

As always, thanks a ton for reading.


4 responses

  1. Ragazza Paparazza

    My Photography professor once told me that if you get one great shot from a single roll, then it was well worth it. Always choose only the best and take stock in the power of editing! Love the photo of Aryn, stunning.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

  2. Very true!

    Your photog professor imparted some good wisdom there. Had I been able to get past my photog professor’s hotness, maybe I would have learned this earlier.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

  3. Very well written. I am not an avid photographer, but I often have thought to myself, am I taking too many pictures? Or why AM I taking so many pictures. In the end, I find something of value in most of them, if not all of them.

    You are going to be a great asset to the students you will be speaking with! 🙂

    January 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm

  4. Yeah, it’s all relative to what you’re shooting for, I think. At a wedding, for example, I find that it’s best to shoot as much as possible since the clients are paying an awful lot of money. Maybe it’s my own insurmountable insecurity, but I’d rather be safe than sorry in those situations. It doesn’t hurt anything but hard drive space to keep shooting, if that’s what you’re most comfortable with.

    Thanks again! I’m excited to help.

    January 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm

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