The Length Of Time It Takes…


I set out on a small wedding shoot the other day – an afternoon one that occupied about 4 hours, all told. That was the ceremony, a little time in the civic gardens, and a dinner. If the pace seems hurried, I assure you that it was not – it was just about perfect as an entertainment. Wedding photographers who have done days that start at sunrise and end at 3:00 AM the next day will know what I mean – even the most absorbing and beautiful event can become a chore if it goes on too long.

How about other photo-occasions? Is there an optimal length of time for different jobs? I think there is…and see if you do not agree:

a. The wedding. Well, the 4 hours is nice for a small affair, but 6 or 7 may be more realistic for conventional days. If the wedding ceremony involves gunfire…particularly if it involves emplaced artillery…you have to allow for reloading time.

b. The portrait shoot. In a studio, with constant lighting, the average adult portrait sitter will wish to run after 20 minutes. If you are using strobe extend that to 30. Sometimes you will get much less time to actually score the images – thus it is well to be prepared with your lighting setup when they arrive.

Children and families will be good for a maximum of 15-20 minutes. The limiting factors are the children’s attention span and the mother’s temper.

c. The animal shoot. No idea, as I do not do this class of work, but I should say it is about the same as the children. It might be possible to extend it with food treats.

d. The real estate shoot. Outside, you are limited to the amount of time the selected light is on the building. Of course you are cursed with the fact that you have to work at dawn and dusk most times, and dawn in summer is at an omigod hour. Dusk in some latitudes can also be inconveniently late.

Inside, you have whatever window of time the client will give you, though if you want to fiddle with balancing the exterior light you are back on the outdoor schedule. Part of your time will be spent getting the householder to remove things.

e. The landscape shoot. The real limiting factor here, like that for external real estate, is the dawn and dusk times. That, and the travelling time to get out to the landscape. Most of your time will be spent moving something – your car, you, your tripod and cameras, etc. The most accurate cut-off time will be when you just can’t stand it any more.

f. The commercial art shoot. Here the concept of time expands. If there is an art director or designer sitting on your shoulder whistling and demanding a cracker, it expands dramatically, and if there is a client lurking somewhere behind the strobes, that expansion becomes exponential. Just keep shooting until the strobe tubes break. Then bill ’em.

g. The personal art shoot. Time is of no consequence. You are not getting paid for this so you can just work for as long as you like. Work until you run out of good ideas. Then shoot the bad ideas.

h. The catalogue shoot. Every image is another dollar in your pocket, every minute not shooting is a dollar out. Every change of lighting is $ 10 out. Do your preliminaries so that the goods flow past you like the motor cars on a Ford assembly line. Henry knew time and money.

i. The selfie shoot. Please just get it over with and onto Facebook as soon as possible and leave the rest of us the hell alone. And don’t make with  the lips again…


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