Machine gun or sniper rifle?
How do you use your camera? Are you a spray and pray, fill up the memory card, and hope for a few good photographs photographer? Or are you methodical and contemplative about your photography, planning the shot knowing exactly what you want before you even think of “pulling the trigger?” I confess, I am a reformed machine gunner myself. When I purchased my first DSLR in the spring of 2008, I went nuts. If my memory card held 300 raw files, by gosh I was going to fill it! If I hadn’t decided early on I was only going to shoot raw, I could have come home with almost 1,000 jpegs, woo-hoo! I had studied long and hard on the mechanics of photography before I even had my first camera in hand. I could recite f-stop this, shutter speed that till the cows came home. I knew my Canon 40D and 100-400L inside and out before the big brown truck even dropped off the packages. But when it came to artistic side of it, the actual making of a photograph, I fully embraced the “digital is cheap, lets fill that 32 gig memory card” way of shooting. I put little thought into composition, lighting, etc., and relied heavily on “if I take enough shots I’m bound to get a few good ones.” You know what? It worked, to a degree. I could count on the camera to be pointed in the right direction, at the right time, in the right light, often enough that I did manage a few good images. But this created a workflow nightmare. Having to go through ten almost identical images to pick the “best” one, over and over again was brutal. Not to mention the plain crap that was there as well.
Now I push the shutter button less, a lot less. The more I fell in love with making images, and not just taking snap-shots, the more I thought about the images I was making. The more I took my time to creating my photographs, the more I realized I was actually pretty good at it. And good on purpose, not good by luck. I no longer hope for the best when I press the shutter button, I have a plan. That plan doesn’t always lead to a great photograph, sometimes not even a mediocre one, but I do have something in mind when the shutter clicks besides the hope that I’ll get lucky. I am a bit of a mad scientist at times, and experiment a lot with my camera, which leads to more than a little “what the hell was I thinking?” when I get home and download the images into Lightroom. But I no longer rely on luck, hope, and sheer numbers to increase the odds I got a keeper.
The funny this is, the less often I press the shutter, the more good photographs I make. The more serious I become about my photography, the more I know exactly what I want to come out of my camera, and how to go about getting it. I’m also putting more time and effort into being in great locations during great light. I’m also not afraid to not press the shutter at all. Many times I’ve been out with my camera and just didn’t see a photograph waiting to be made. I no longer feel that just because I’m out with my camera, having gotten up long before sunrise, that I need to take a picture. When this happens, I just enjoy the time outside, knowing there is always the next time.