the photoshooter's journey from taking to making


A decent start..and yet..

A decent start..and yet..


ONE OF THE GREATEST PERKS IN DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY is making it easy and affordable to squeeze off as many shots on a given occasion as was only possible, in films days, for well-financed pros. The history of photojournalism is rife with stories of shooters who shot four, five, even six rolls of film to produce four magazine illustrations….a yield ratio that made put those same shots insanely beyond the budget of John Q. Viewfinder. Simply put, many of us just could not afford to shoot enough bad frames to get to the good ones.

That’s all in the past now. if we update our thinking.

We still have a tendency, when shooting a subject, to stop too soon, that is, as soon as an acceptable image emerges. Give many of us 60% of what we were going for, and we tend to stand down, move on, and live with a result that we may later see as a compromise. That’s old thinking based on our years of “I only have ten shots left”, and the idea of budgeting a finite commodity, like film frames. It’s important now, however, to actually develop the habit of over-shooting, of covering our targets from as many conceptual approaches as possible. Close shot. Medium shot. Reverse angle. Looking down from above. A few tries shooting at the “wrong” shutter speed or aperture. In other words, don’t settle too soon.

Closer to the mark..and yet..

Closer to the mark..and yet..

I had a great subject in a recent walk across a small footbridge as a kayaker began a slow trek that would eventually take him toward me, underneath my stance atop the bridge, and then back into brilliant sunlight. He was taking his time, so that I could take mine, and I began by thinking that the shot I wanted was the easiest one, as he approached me head on. However, something told me that his relationship to the light would change dramatically as he crossed under the bridge, and it did.

As he emerged from beneath the span, I shot him in a straight overhead, and then came the money shot, as the kayak seemed to divide the water into rich, detailed ripples on the right side of the boat, and shining sparkles on the other side. Hardly a world-beating shot, but far more dramatic than the one I originally thought I wanted. Had I decided to accept the first frame, the third one would never have been captured. It certainly was no great technical struggle to take the final picture, nor were the extra few seconds a major strain. Simply, the deciding factor was to want the picture,  and to wait long enough for it to come to me. It was worth it:

The keeper.

The keeper.

If you must err, err on the side of taking too many shots of something. It’s a lot easier to trim away the excess than to mourn over the miracles that never got born.


3 responses

  1. I’m glad to hear you say that’s it’s ok to over shoot…then I don’t feel so guilty. Great information.

    October 23, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    • One of the earliest revelations I got about pro photographers was when, as a child, I got my first glimpse at a contact sheet, the hard-copy printout of all the frames taken on a shooting assignment done for LIFE magazine. I was astounded to see the raw number of images shot to meet the photo editor’s need for three or four photos that would actually make it into print. In some cases sixty or more frames were shot. This was astounding to me, since I guess I thought that great photographers just visualized a perfect picture in their heads, stepped up, and snapped a masterpiece at will. Meanwhile, back on earth, kids like me had to plan like mad to budget 12 or 24 exposures on the only roll of film I could afford at the time. Quite a contrast to today. We really have been given an amazing new freedom. THANK YOU for visiting and please come see us often.

      October 23, 2015 at 10:48 AM

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