Taking fewer pictures.

As 2008 winds down and we begin another year, we get to do the whole “new years resolution” thing. One of my resolutions for the upcoming year is to take fewer pictures

[wait, what?]

Yup, that’s right – *fewer* pictures. I’ll explain – Digital cameras make us lazy. When I pick up my camera, I have (for all practical purposes) an unlimited number of shots available to me. It becomes far to easy to simply point the camera at something vaguely interesting and “spray-and-pray” hoping an image turns out. Now while I don’t think there’s inherently anything *wrong* with doing this, I feel that it definitely makes it easier to adopt a lazy attitude – thinking less about composition, form, nailing the shot, and just relying on sheer number of images to produce the end product.

Consider the following account of Drew Gardner, a photojournalist covering a firefight in Kosovo with a single roll of film. (I guess when getting a second roll means potentially getting shot, you make do with what you have!)

Talk about making every shot count! The point is that back in the days of film we were limited by the amount of film we could carry. How many rolls did you carry around with you on a daily basis? 4 or 5? Maybe 10 if you were going heavy? That’s 360 frames at the most (less if you shot 120/220). Heck, I know photographers now who shoot 360 frames in 10 minutes! Imagine if you knew you were limited to 50 or 100 frames for an entire day of shooting. Would you consider each shot more carefully? Of course you would. And in the end that makes us better photographers. Refining our eye, *really looking* at each composition, considering each subject carefully and critically. These are skills that may be in danger of going extinct as machine-gun-gazillion-frame-per-second SLRs take over. Sure it may be useful for somethings (sports, and well… sports) but when I see photographers on the forums with galleries full of cat and baby pictures arguing how they absolutely cannot use camera X because it is *only* 3fps and they *need* 10fps, I just have to laugh.

Further there seems to be an attitude that if you *aren’t* taking gobs of pictures you are somehow “shortchanging” the client or yourself. My attitude is that if I get “the shot” on the first frame, why am I going to waste 100 more on images that I know will simply sit in a dusty corner of my image library, never seeing the light of day.

Anyway, the point is that my resolution is to make *more* images, but take *fewer* pictures – I want to make sure that every frame that comes out of my camera is deliberate and considered. Each image should be thoughtfully arranged, deliberately composed and have a considered subject.

Why not try it? Go out for a day of shooting with an old memory card only big enough to hold a few images (128/256mb or so). Or even an old 35mm or 120 film camera (holgas or lomos are cheap!) and 1 or two rolls of film. After doing this a few times I gaurantee you will notice yourself composing more carefully and considering each shot – making it count. Much like my old post about why I love prime lenses, the principle is the same – imposing a creative restriction on your photography forces you to adapt to the situation, stretching yourself creatively and improving your skill. And in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Anyway, happy new year to you all from all of us here at Ed Z Studios (meaning, well… me) and wishing you all many great images in the year to come!

6 thoughts on “Taking fewer pictures.”

  1. I agree totally with imposing limits to your shooting. Like you mention with your prime lens post, stopping to think about the image you are creating – rather than a simple “pray and spray” not only helps the creative process – it helps weed through a ton of garbage in post!

  2. I’m with you on this 100%. Ever since I started shooting film, my digital habits have changed too. And shooting 120 film certainly changes your habits. I usually bring 3 or 4 rolls of film out with me, but I almost always come back with 1 or 2 unused.

    The thing I’ve noticed about shooting fewer photos (both digital and film) is that my “keeper” percentage rate has gone way up. I used to pick out maybe 5-10% of the photos to put up on Flickr and whatnot. Now I’m almost always over 50% (still a bit less with the digital).

  3. I am totally guilty of overshooting and also trying to get out of the habit. It gets tiring explaining to clients why they only get x number of images when your camera was constantly firing during the shoot!

    There is a lot to be learned from the Sears Portrait Studios when they used film… you could only take a maximum of 20 shots in the session, and would be reprimanded for getting close to that number. It felt good at first going from that to 100 shots, but I think I need to backtrack a bit to what I learned there!

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