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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's not about how many mediocre frames per second you take.




Now I'm still in my 30's (by the hair of my chinny chin chin mind you!) but I grew up in the pre-digital era. And while there's a lot of things about the film workflow that have simply gone by the wayside, there's one habit that I've never wanted to shake. And that's placing a value on each individual image I shoot.

I took this photograph on a month-long trek through the Nepalese Himalayas with my wife. We started walking after a short bus ride out of Kathmandu, hiked all the way up to the Gokyo Valley near Mt Everest and back to a little town called Lukla where we caught a plane home.

We went without porters or helpers of any kind - just the two of us with small daypacks on our backs filled with clothes, water purification tablets and film for our cameras. Seeing as neither of us are exactly body builders the amount of film we could physically carry was limited. In my case it was 25 rolls of Fuji Velvia. Think about that for a second. That's a mere 900 pictures for a whole month in the most picturesque place on earth.

But that's the situation I was in and I had to live with it. What it did mean was that I had to be very particular about what I photographed and what I didn't. I didn't shoot willy-nilly in the hope that I would get something good. I stopped, I waited, I anticipated. I valued each and every single time I pushed the shutter.

And I think that thinking has partly been lost in the digital era. Because the individual images themselves are pretty much low cost, and we often have the attitude that we can delete what doesn't work, we tend not to value each individual image as much.

I see it in both the amateur photographic world as much as the professional world. Go to Flickr and you'll see 50 different variations of the same photo. Vertical, horizontal, different focal lengths. There's probably two maybe three wonderful images and the rest is mediocre in comparison.

In the commercial world I see it when photographers offer to supply the client hundreds of pictures from a shoot. But how many of those pictures will ever see the light of day? The reality is not many. If the client has a good eye then they will pick out the best and use those, or they might let their graphic designer do it. Either which way the photographer would be doing their client a much better service by perfecting and presenting only the really fantastic shots and letting the other stuff fall into the virtual trash bin.

At the end of our photographic lives we won't be remembered for how many times we pushed the shutter. We won't be remembered for all the nearly-there pictures we took (at least I hope so!). We want to be remembered for the amazing images we took. Don't be so quick to take as many pictures as you can in as short a space of time as you can. Give situations time to develop and learn to click the shutter when the best of the best appears in front of you.

Just because pushing the shutter thousands of times a day may not be costing you much money it could be costing you a lot more.

Go on through to my Nepal photo gallery to see more images shot slowly and decisively on film.

7 comments:

Neal said...

Absolutely bang on the money!

I am always preaching this, not just because I shoot film but because I believe photography as an art form is being diluted.

How many millions of images get taken every day around the world? and how many of them will never be seen?

I only recently just replied to a comment on an online forum about wedding photography that covers this topic.

My reply 'without going into detail' outlined my thoughts that so many people that are starting out in wedding photography spray and pray in the hopes they'll "cover" a couples special day. Then later they can simply sift through the thousands of photos looking for the best ones.

There is a loss there, there is no investment in the moment. The photographer needs to be connected and involved to feel each shot and know when to press the shutter. without that connection the photos will be lifeless and dull.

This will always be a problem and it was a problem for some even in the film days.

My hope is that many will stop by your post, read this and reflect on their photography. only through an introspective approach will your work improve.

Hope I didn't rant too much
Cheers!

Neal.

Paul Dymond said...

Not at all Neal,

it's always great to have your passionate comments on the blog and I couldn't agree with you more. It's something I'm always having to be conscious about in this age of dispensable imagery and I hope my post wasn't too much of a rant either!

A pity you're not a bit farther north as I'm running a great photo course next month that I know you'd love!

Neal said...

Oh cool.

Can you give me some details?
I have some friends in Cairns that are into photography but need to get past the "gear lust" stage and into the artistic fundamentals stage, (composition, balance, framing, perspective etc)

Also we travel to cairns fairly regularly to catchup with family and friends.

Cheers!

Paul Dymond said...

Would love to Neal. I've sent the details to your gmail account that's on the Thorley Photographics website. Would be great to meet in person if you could come along!

nathanoj said...

Guilty! My 18 month old D90 has already racked up 18000 actuations, much of those through 3-frame brackets for exposure fusion. I'm taking the pledge!

Go said...

wow man..awesome.. literally its awesome...
Go Pro Helmet Hero

Paul Dymond said...

18000 actuations! You definitely don't want to go back to film Nathan. :)