How many takes does a good picture make?
This is a question I have been frequently pondering as my head seems to be continuously stuck under the hood of the Macbook pro, tethered to the photographer, like some caped, Getty Images crusader, fighting the fight to sort out the good images from the bad.
Recently I worked on a shoot in Fraser, Colorado with Thomas Northcut (photographer), Matt Wright (producer) and Emilie McKittrick (artist data quality specialist and connection to the locations we shot at – she traveled along and helped us with duties too numerous to mention), Seattle-based freelance stylist Heather Simchuk and rounding out the rest of the group was Mike Forster (first assistant), Ted Coster (second assistant), Pamela Chavez (props) and Beth Ryan (hair and make-up) all from Denver.
Looking at image after image rolling into the computer, gives one much opportunity to think. You think about how easily some images happen and how a lot of collaboration takes place on others. So I thought “hey, let’s do a little experiment, or a bit of an un-scientific survey, and take a look at a handful of images from the
Shot 1: 4 takes/a couple of minutes
*We were working on other variations within this scene and Heather (stylist) saw this shot and suggested that Thomas pull back to get the entire scene. I think Heather had ulterior motives and wanted to get a full body shot of her styling.
Shot 2: 29 takes/approx 1/2 hour
*We probably had the shot around frame 20 and worked on variations of gloves on/gloves off, several body position changes and many attempts at fussing with hair while attempting to make the 12-year-old model look more serene than seductive while her father was on set.
Shot 3: 4 takes/approx 1 minute
*This shot was from a breakfast scene that Thomas and crew lit so that we could set up the scene and Thomas could move around the table and capture various moments as they happened. This was a real moment and I thought Thomas captured it really well.
Shot 4: 10 takes/approx 1/2 hour
*We tried variations of sitting up on the edge of the bed, laying down, messed with her hand position, played around with how her hand was positioned under her head to make her posture look more natural, fill, no fill…Since this shot was all about only using the available light source, we shot very slowly.
Shot 5: 14 takes – approx 40 minutes
*Variations of vertical, horizontal, changed composition a few times, had model use various expletives to enhance the frustrated look on his face…Some downtime occurred while laughing at the second assistant who had fallen in the snow, managing to bury himself while still maintaining a tight grip of the light.
And the survey says…
-5 shots/61 total takes/12 takes roughly on average/rounding up time-wise to about 1/2 hour per shot
I don’t know what that means exactly, other than completing this unofficial survey and me feeling somewhat relieved that the average number of takes wasn’t 150 or something like that. It did get me thinking that since this shoot was for LifeSize, I’d be interested in knowing how many shots on average it takes for say a Stone+ frame. Or even better, who is willing to document all of those shots that we sometimes spend way too much time on and way too many frames on, only to scratch them in the end?
I am thinking that may be better to blog about anonymously…