Less is More / by Kenneth Kao

With the many photoshoot requests I've been receiving (Thank you for the support!), I thought I'd write a blog on my emphasis of Quality versus Quantity.

 Sean Michael Rau being amazing

Sean Michael Rau being amazing

Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, especially with modern technology filling our heads with constant, amazing stimulus. There are several studies discussing consequences in brain development and shorter attention spans--but that's a separate topic.

What does this mean for photography?

Less is more. If people see several pictures in the same setting, costume, model, or pose, they stop paying attention. If you, model/photographer/artist, really want others to appreciate your art, your time and effort and vulnerability...

Purposefully slow people down.

I know; it hurts. It's torture, choosing one photo over another. But the pickier you are, the stronger the effect.

 When every image is awesome, the choice is tough.

When every image is awesome, the choice is tough.

People will study one picture, and then want more. People will scan ten pictures, and they will be bored.

I struggle constantly with this--in fact, I'm the worst offender. I also would love it if more is MORE. But the modern truth of this age of information is that less is better.

My photography rates echo this belief.

We spend hours in preparation and shooting--hundreds of dollars on location and costume. And while we may walk away with only a handful, if that, of photos...

...these photos have MEANING.

 Marlo Fisken in Nevada

Marlo Fisken in Nevada

Commercial businesses know this. They will spend, easily, ten thousand dollars for license to use a single image to sell their product. Quality images are the BEST predictor of success in sales. Look up the statistics. It's shocking how powerful an image can be.

So here's how it works:

I spend quite some time narrowing down and doing basic edits: cropping, mainly, and global edits. Then they chose a small, pre-agreed number of images.

 Narrowed-down selection I send the client

Narrowed-down selection I send the client

After they choose, I spend at least half an hour, up to two to three hours finishing each image.

Why so long?

Because I stare and wait to feel what each image is saying. I've spent half an hour on just the cropping. I hunch over, nudging values a single point brighter or darker, a little more yellow or green or red or blue. I walk into the sunlight and stare; I walk into a dark room and stare there; I look on my mobile, and also in full screen. Often I will take breaks to refresh my eyes, because I've lost the pure first impression of an image.

 The power of cropping

The power of cropping

When they are finally perfect, I offer them back to the client.

They tell me anything they would like to change or anything that bothers them, and I get back to work.

Sometimes this only takes one round. Sometimes it takes five.

But when we are all satisfied, I hand over the images, and I wait impatiently for the reactions of friends and family and often, strangers.

I am as invested in the photos as they are. Their praise becomes my praise.

Time and time again, we see that less is really more.

 472 shots

472 shots

 One winner

One winner

That said, if we really can't narrow it down to the included photos, I charge an extra fee per additional finished photo. I want them to be sure these additional photos are 100% worth the extra cost, and this way:

The price of the photoshoot is ultimately up to the customer AFTER they've seen what they are purchasing.

Here's the real advantage of my pricing structure, though:

On site, I'm extra motivated. My job as the photographer is to make the final choice as difficult as possible with the best photos possible.

I want the client to agonize cutting away all the fantastic photos barely not the best. It becomes a choice between love and really love.

I love it when my clients tell me how hard the choice is, because that means I did a good job.

And, finally, if I fail to convince them that they don't need 15-20 photos, because the images feel so good to them and they are all worth the price--

Then I've done above and beyond, right?

Ultimately what I'm saying is:

Quality is everything.

 Amanda Rose in what might be a pile of limestone dust

Amanda Rose in what might be a pile of limestone dust

Oh, Since this will come up--even if you want the images only for yourself, and you really do want 20 or 30 images of yourself...you will, ultimately, have favorites. You'll go to these favorites when you want to remember that awesome time you jumped off a tree stump throwing glitter everywhere and holding an umbrella--while trying to hold perfect face. Or when you splashed water at the camera while naked, feeling like a complete buffoon and wondering how swinging parts could be attractive.

 Sean Freeman kicking up an amazing water display

Sean Freeman kicking up an amazing water display

And you'll realize you've ignore the rest of the less-favorite, just like everyone else.

 Some of my favorite

Some of my favorite