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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quality over quantity - the bad photo tax


One thing about digital is it has led us to take ALOT more photos. I mean when you think about it we used to put a roll of film in the camera with a finite 36 exposures in it. And each one of those pictures was costing us money. So we took it easy on the shutter finger. Not any more.

Digital isn't costing us as much to take photographs. Yeah we have to add hard drives and update computers and buy a new camera every couple of years or so, but leave that all aside. If you're happy chugging along on your current camera with your current computer then it really is pretty cheap.

Which means that we tend to take a lot of pictures just because we can but what do we do with all the duds? In the film days we used to edit them all ruthlessly and bin any pictures which didn't make the grade. Experiments that went wrong, camera firing while in the bag, lens cap on! We used to hope we didn't bin too much because....well it was costing us money.

But now with digital we have a tendency to keep everything and photograph everything whether it's a good idea or not. After all we made such an effort to get up early to go out and photograph so we have to shoot something right? What if I charged you money every time you pressed the shutter? Think of it as a bad photo tax. Or more to the point a lack of a good photo idea but let's shoot it anway tax. Would that cut down the number of photos you take? Maybe force you to really think about the photo you're about to take before you press the shutter?

I was thinking this the other day when I went out to photograph sunrise with a friend and former student Warwick. We headed up to the rocky point at the end of Four Mile Beach in sunny Port Douglas. Only it wasn't sunny. It was cloudy, grey and spitting rain. But rather than running around blindly photographing everything we mainly spent time talking and enjoying the view without feeling the need to push the shutter button.

And at the end of a couple of hours what did I come away with? Some OK pics and only one that really made the cut, which is the one above. One of the beauties of digital is that it allows us to experiment and really push the limits of our photography for exactly the reasons that film made it difficult. It doesn't cost us anything. But at the same time that isn't an excuse to just photograph willy-nilly without thinking about what we're doing. Getting one shot that you're really happy with and want to show people is always a lot better than 100 mediocre pics that will just live in the bowels of your heard drive. Quality over quantity.

Oh and if you think the bad photo tax is a good idea please fell free to send me your tax payments. :)

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