Service of Time vs. Result: Is it Worth It?

April 27th, 2015

Categories: Details, Photography, Time, Value

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I wonder if anyone remembers my dinner parties of yore: After a 60 hour week at work I’d spend all Saturday making a complicated main dish from scratch. As I saw my guests swallowing the food which was gone in minutes, I’d wonder whether those hours of prep were the best use of my time. Would anyone know the difference if I’d simply roasted a chicken? Would they have had a better time?

An actor friend immediately related to this. It takes hours and sometimes days to set up what becomes just a few minutes of film. Does the general public get the nuances? Do they add up to an Oscar or a great review?

photog shooting living roomIt’s the same with still editorial photo shoots. You warn homeowners that it could take all day to get three good shots of a single room after a team styles and lights each to perfection. The homeowner is baffled. Do those who see the result in a magazine or online realize the effort that went into what’s on the page? Are the editors trying to impress their readers or other editors?

photog shooting modelA friend who works with models says some will tell her, as they arrive on a job, “I’ll be done in an hour, right? I’m meeting a friend.” She’ll tell them “Cancel your date; you’ll be here for hours.” The results are in catalogs and on Instagram and in fashion magazines. Had the session been shot in a flash would anyone be the wiser?

Too much time spent on a project must be treated like shoes that don’t fit: More than annoying but forget it and move on. Do you always spend the right amount of time for each task? Do you feel that there are some elements of a project you could deep six and nobody would know the difference? Are some projects time sponges and there’s nothing you can do about it?

shoes that hurt


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9 Responses to “Service of Time vs. Result: Is it Worth It?”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna Boyle Schwartz wrote on Facebook: Basically, the deadline always wins. You do the best you can in the time that you have, and then move on. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I could have done more/better/different on any project, be it work or personal.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree and while I believe it is true that to get something done you should ask a busy person, this always puzzled me.

  3. J. McCarthy Said:

    I’d say that this is an incredibly complicated subject. There are too many variables.

    A school and college classmate of mine, first produced semi-erotic best seller pot boilers under an assumed name, which you might just recognize. After several of these became hit films, he used the proceeds to finance a life of scholarship. Since then, he has devoted himself mostly to writing everything from numerous original translations from ancient Latin and Greek, and other languages, to poetry, literary criticism, non-fiction and fiction. His published output, to date, far exceeds a hounded volumes of diverse, serious work.

    In contrast, an acquaintance from the early sixties, the late Harold Brodkey, wrote the highly praised “First Love and other Sorrows” in the fifties. Since then, although some of his unfinished writing was produced posthumously, he completed little of much worth, except for some short stories in “The New Yorker.” He died in 1990s.

    Some people can get more work done than others, but that does not diminish the value of the work that they do do.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    Why spend “millions” of hours crafting a fine meal which vanishes in minutes if it does not involve enjoying the time spent on that project and anticipated results?

    The hours getting the right picture is far more understandable, since the outcome far outlasts those of a meal. Anyone with a camera, from homeowner to professional model knows this. Listen up: We’re not all as baffled or dumb as we look – just impatient to get things over with… move faster already!

  5. Anonymous Said:

    I agree with Donna Boyle Schwartz and Jeanne Byington. I usually think that there are things that could have been better executed or tidier if I had more time to review. Unfortunately I also find myself being sidetracked by attention to detail that is disproportionate to the result of the activity in question. Lastly I also find it awkward and difficult, although less and less so, to refuse to commit myself to situations that I know will be sponges.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    J. McCarthy,

    It boils down to money. The potboiler friend made enough so that he could take his time to study and write up his thoughts slowly and Brodkey clearly didn’t have to worry about supporting himself after his first big book so he counted angels on pinheads forever after.

    Most of us have to shake a leg to make ends meet and don’t have the nest eggs required to lollygag over projects. Who would pay for that? It’s not just accountants and lawyers who charge for their time: In theory that’s what we all sell.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    In the day I enjoyed experimenting and cooking something special–though I’d be exhausted when the doorbell rang–and then one day I didn’t and I stopped doing it. I still make everything from scratch, I just keep it very simple.

    I’m rushing, and dashing…..moving as fast as I can!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    PS Lucrezia, I still LOVE making [and eating] desserts!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I grab at some time sponges as they often teach me something and take less time the second go ’round. What’s frustrating, unproductive and very expensive for my agency is when I get my arms around a product, concept or procedure and am rarin’ to use my newly learned expertise again and the client either drops out of the business or has signed up for one project and thinks that’s enough. Although I’m not in advertising I know that running only one advert, regardless how expensive, rarely is enough to launch a concept or product. Repetition is key. Similarly, one light tap on media’s doors is like no tap–so everyone loses.

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