This is a common question I get asked on a regular basis. I shoot on a Canon 5D Mk iii Professional DSLR camera which means I can take as MANY images as I want, without having to shell out money for film and developing. I can tell you that I certainly take advantage of this during your session.
It isn't unusual for me to have 400+ images to upload to my computer after a full session. Of course when you get your gallery it will have around 40 images total (less for mini sessions). The process by which I narrow down which images to include in your gallery is called CULLING!
Here is an example of a recent full newborn session where I took 484 images!
I know you can't actually see these tiny images but I'm going to show you this example as I go through explaining how I shrink your gallery down.
Remember "Culling" means to select the desired items I want, from a group. I have spent years honing my culling abilities and I have gotten quite quick at selecting the very BEST images from your session. Let me walk you through my considerations as I look through your RAW (straight out of camera) images following your session...
On my first look through I filter the images by STAR rating. I go through each, one at a time and if it is a "good image" I make it 5 stars (this helps me use the filter options in Adobe Bridge).
Well then, what is a "good image", you ask?
In a 'good image' the:
Subject(s) look flattering
They are looking at the camera, or expression is showing emotion or connection with others in the frame
Eyes are open (or for newborns closed all the way or open all the way)
Blinks = Bad
Subject isn't talking or making a weird facial expression (most of the time it's this for family sessions)
Hair isn't way out of place
Photograph is technically great
I make sure Focus is bang on - because I shoot with a really wide open focal point to get those dreamy, blurry backgrounds, the focus is OFTEN not perfect (this is why I click my shutter 3 times for every single pose and angle to guarantee I get the shot in focus).
Lighting is right where I want it - When I change sets my first photographs are always tests to make sure my lighting is beautiful!
Position in the frame - This can often be fixed in post processing but if I have 2 options that are almost identical and 1 is in a better position in my frame I will keep that one.
All of these things I am considering as I flip through every photo taken from your session. Especially considering I take triple the images (during newborn sessions) it really brings my total image number down quite quickly.
This image gives you a good example of just how many duplicate images there are from a newborn session in particular. This wasn't even all the photos in that set lol.
After this first round of culling I am usually at under 100 images.
The second time I go through I show only the 5 STAR images I had previously selected. The biggest reduction at this level comes from removing additional duplicates. I select images that are very similar (same set, same pose, same expression) and I pick the best ONE out of that small set. It now just becomes a comparison game. Remember within each set up there are multiple angles so you still see a good variety of images for each background/location.
This usually brings me down to around 60 images (my digital packages include only 15 images so I usually show 30-35). I don't have an example of the original 80+ I had starred as I remove the stars as I filter down.
The final culling compares the subjects expressions within different sets. An example of this would be if your baby came for a milestone session and was mostly serious with the same facial expression. I would keep that same look on one background but perhaps not another if there are already similar ones... remember I'm always looking for the BEST images to show you.
Now don't think this means that I don't include many of the hilarious and silly faces and expressions I get. Those are at the top of the list. If it makes me smile or laugh in the first round, it stays. Even if I know you won't choose that image to keep, I know it will make you a laugh as you look through them.
This whole process usually takes me around 40 minutes, depending how many images I take and how many interruptions I get from my children.
I have learned over the years that the more images you see, just makes the decisions harder. Instead of showing you 100 images that are very similar and having you go back and forth trying to decide which one is best, I do it for you.
Getting my client proof (unedited) galleries down to around 40 images is the perfect amount of options for you to choose from. It gives you great variety and not to mention, GREAT results. They are the best of the BEST and I want you to know that there wasn't a single image better than what you are being shown!