Three Reasons to Take FEWER Photos

This might sound like a heresy. Scratch that, it is a heresy, but hear me out. I think we should all think carefully for a moment about taking fewer pictures.

Let me add up front that I’m not fully convinced of my own argument. As someone whose photographic skills still leave plenty to be desired, I really rely on the ability to shoot way more photos than I need (if only to mask my incompetence). Still, I sometimes think that when it comes to photography, less really could be more.

So, think of this more as food for thought and debate than hard-and-fast rules to live by. Here are three reasons why you should take fewer photos.

1. You’ll Make Your Life Easier

To paraphrase a not-so-wise man, “mo photos, mo problems.” The larger your photographic collection grows, the more time and effort it takes to find the ones you want (especially if you’ve been lax in organizing them). When it’s time to back-up your photos, migrate a collection from an old computer to a new one or archive those images to the cloud, a huge collection makes the process that much longer.

2. You’ll Take Better Photos

I’ve spoken to a fair number of professional photographers in my life and I’ve been surprised by the number that have said something to the effect that “digital photography can make you lazy.” What they’ve meant is that, between rapid burst modes, auto-corrects and huge memory cards, the craft of actually composing a worthwhile photograph was being sidelined. Technology is liberating, but it can also be a crutch.

We can debate that ’till the cows come home but it does have a ring of truth to it. Being more deliberate before you take a photo won’t guarantee you a brilliant image, but it certainly increases the odds you’ll snag one.  You’ll take greater care to pick your moments, think carefully about camera settings and composition. Just try, for a day, to pretend you’re back in the film era when you had to pay to see every photo you took (or process them yourself) and see what that does to the kinds of photos you take. You may find your photography thrives under that kind of self-imposed discipline.

3. You’ll Do More With the Ones You Do Take

The abundance we do enjoy in digital photography often manifests itself in a hard drive full of images that almost never see the light of day. If we’re taking fewer-but-better pictures, chances are we’ll be more likely to bring those pictures out of our hard drives and into the real world — either as photo books, wall art or something even more exotic. It’s commonly understood that digital photography has taken a huge bite out of the photo printing business, but what’s less understood is that it’s also unleashed an entirely new market of high-end photo goods.

What do you think — is less really more in this case?

(Image: Wiki Commons)

Last updated 22. May 2014

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Author: Greg Scoblete

Comments

  • Paul Youngman

    Greg’s comments have made me really think.
    Before I owned a digital camera, I took great care before taking a photograph, because each failed shot would cost me money due to the prints that I would tear up and bin. The cost of the film stock to take these (failed) pictures was also huge and another waste of money.
    However, at the moment, I am still at the point of taking shots as I have always done (carefully), but I am slipping into this phrase of mind that I can take dozens of them, and it doesn’t matter – it really doesn’t!
    BUT – Self discipline comes into play here in the form of, take hundreds of shots but delete dozens of the bad ones, because that is the beauty of digital photography. What is the point of keeping all the bad shots?
    I have had instances of putting the camera on to X number of shots per second to find that only one of them is the picture that I was looking for, so I simply delete the rest – why keep them? They have cost nothing, but who want’s to see them? Certainly not me (or my subject in the case of portraits)!
    After the cost of the camera and lens(es), data cards and any filters required – the rest is virtually free.

    Paul Youngman

  • Mike Bickerton

    When I trained as a photographer in the late 50’s, we used 5×4 sheet film extensively and 35mm only became the norm when the faster but fine grain film was produced together with developer to take advantage.
    Each sheet was held in a double sided slide (cassette) made of wood. I’ve no idea what they weighed but as a small fella I struggled with two leather cases that held 20 slides each. Hence, we covered most jobs, including large weddings, with rarely much more than 80 sheets of film. The cost of each exposure was an important factor so making sure that the shot was right was paramount. Some architectural jobs at night involved using dozens of flashbulbs for just one shot – I get headaches now thinking about it.
    The weight problem was also made worse by the electronic flash equipment and the ‘hand camera’. We used a Courtney flash which had an accumulator (ask your grandfather), a large capacitor and a beautiful mahogany case which all weighed at least 5 pounds and occasionally sloshed acid on your hands. Thankfully the wide leather strap helped to ease the pain on your shoulders.
    My boss had a library of 10×8 glass negatives, mostly of pictures of the London theatre shows from before the war. You can imagine how much lugging about that took what with the wooden stand cameras and tripods.
    Perhaps as an illustration of just how spoiled we are with digital equipment. I was commissioned to take pictures of some electronic equipment being loaded onto lorries on its way to Calder Hall – now Sellafield – for a particular reason I had to use an old sheet film stand camera. When I had finished, the lorries drove away. Sadly, I didn’t know that the camera had both a between lens shutter and a focal plane shutter. The focal plane shutter was closed and when I opened the fixer tank all the films were transparent and clear of any image.
    So my point is, when I’m banging away with my digital Nikon, seeing the results immediately, making huge adjustments to the image with Zoner if necessary and sometimes if it isn’t necessary, producing sepia prints without the use of smelly and dangerous chemicals, not spending most of my day working in the dark and being stressed out of my mind in case something is wrong with the developer/camera/exposure/the bride et al not smiling/the camera shaking etc, I thank my lucky stars that I have lived this long to enjoy the wonderful fun and freedom that digital photography and programs like Zoner software gives us. And its in colour!
    Lazy? That is nonsense. Its now possible to combine two images to make one. How many times when taking a shot of two people does one blink? A group will be worse. With film you won’t know until its developed and it is not your fault that they blinked but on film the shot is lost. You now have the means to correct it.
    Animals? Children? Sports? All that ‘transient phenomena’ can only be recorded reliably by taking advantage of the technology. Use it to ensure you get the result you want. Good luck.
    By the way, my camera bag weighs 4 kilos with all its lenses and other stuff. Talk about a relief.

  • Rex

    Been there and done that with 4×5 cameras, then twin-lens, then 35mm. My first of hundred weddings was 26 negs on 4×5 Graphic. Later on with 35mm, I shot 400 or so. Author did great on his camera story.

  • With my slow SIGMA DP camera, I am back into the past and have to carefully consider when and what I shoot. The battery lasts 70 raw shots. My 16GB card can keep 272 shots max. Each shot is written in only 30 sec or so (thankfully the shutter is released in just few seconds, but not post-view). Forget about shooting in the dark, above 400 ISO. But the image quality is often worth the effort. Choice is still there, in today’s digital world. Pity Zoner won’t support X3F.