Why “Less is More” Works

Less is only more where more is no good.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Less is More |Silhouettes | Jay Terry Photography

Recently, I had a client looking for far more images out of their session than I chose to show them. As had been explained prior to the session, there are very good reasons for that. Some of the images weren’t worth showing them: blinks, an ‘off’ hand position, a light might have misfired. Having those images to choose from would have been detrimental to the process. Through my communications with said client, it got me thinking about how “less is more” is important in photography.

Everyone’s heard that saying and, generally, most people agree with it in principle. Of course, as with every ‘rule of thumb’, there are exceptions (I know I’d certainly like my surgeon to have achieved more in medical school than less). When it comes to the business of photography, though, it’s as true as the day is long.

The matter of choice is often a complicated one for a lot of people, starting long before the need to make a choice presents itself. Having options to choose from can give you the means to choose what’s exactly right for your given need at that moment. “I’m in the mood for fruit – do I choose the apple, the orange or the banana?” Easy choice as the options aren’t overwhelming. Having some options makes the decision easier.

But, what happens when the options are overwhelming? Have you ever been at that restaurant with the 10-page menu when you don’t know what you’re in the mood to eat? You sit there staring at the pages, going back and forth, back and forth, debating “am I really in the mood for that?” or “I could have that but this looks good, too.” With luck, you’ll make a good choice for that moment. How about trying to sort through any given Google search? You can literally pull up so many ‘choices’ that you don’t know where to start or which sources are legitimate.

Photography can be like that, too. As a client viewing the images from your session, regardless of what that session is, too many choices can impact your decisions in a negative way. If I were to shoot 100 frames in an hour-long portrait session (which would be a lot more than I do shoot – it’s a matter of professional pride that I don’t need to use my camera like a machine gun, spraying and praying for a good shot here or there. Don’t even get me started on the photographers that shoot 200, 300 or more images in an hour …), what benefit is it to my client to show them all of those images? With wedding clients, the concept of showing them 1000+ images is nothing short of overkill.

If a light doesn’t fire, for whatever reason, that shot’s out. If my client blinks, that shot’s out. If they sneeze (or if I do!), a limb is at the wrong angle, a pose just didn’t work – none of these are worth the client seeing. They’re also not images that meet my professional standards as an image creator and artist. My client paid me to take great images of them, making them look their best or fit the concept they had in mind. Showing them the ‘disposable’ shots only detracts from all of the good ones that meet their expectations and my standards as their photographer.

Besides, does anyone outside of advertising agencies really need to see 50 images of the exact same pose, each only marginally different from the rest? No. It would be a waste of time. They’ll see the very best images from the session, the ones that they paid me to create for them. The other images would just be so many rotten apples in the bin, distracting them from choosing the half-dozen good apples they’re really looking for. Personally, I would prefer my grocer pulled those rotten apples long before I were presented the choice on which apples I were to buy. Part of our job as photographers is to do that sorting so our clients don’t have to. Forcing clients to do the work themselves should be considered client abuse, not to mention what it says of your business.

With less bad to sort through, there’s more good to focus on.

The perfect portrait begins with a single phone call, as does the wedding photography you’ve always wanted. Call me at 519-619-3237 or tell me what you’re looking for.
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4 Comments

  1. Lor March 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    You put that super well! I am sharing it, I try to tell people this all the time. I like how you worded it all.

  2. Jay Terry March 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Thanks, Lor. Educating clients and opening other photographers’ eyes to the reality of their craft is the best way to improve the industry, imo.

  3. Peter December 30, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Have you read, “The Paradox of Choice, Why Less is More” by Barry Schwartz? Recommend it to those clients who want more.

    • Jay Terry December 31, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      The overview I read looks interesting – I’ll have to pick this up and give it a thorough read. Cheers!

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