It has been a while since our last ‘pro tip’. This one may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many pro’s and enthusiasts overlook it.

Quite simply, shoot less, but of a higher technical and artistic quality. For many this is the only practical way to have a workflow that makes a passionate hobby, but certainly a professional business viable, if that picture taking time is to be rewarded with final usable images. A few moments thought and consideration at the onset simplifies your longer term workflow, so we dont spend unneccerssary time ‘saving’ images at the computer stage.

Many have tried with digital doing the tempting thing, hosing a subject down shot after shot after shot. I realised many years ago that the often quoted “digital is ‘cheap,” so a good reason for shooting significant numbers, was simply sending people down a cul-de-sac.

But dont take my word for it. How many shots have you uploaded to hardrives, burned too CD’s and or DVD’s, thinking you will get round one day to sorting them through? Or worse, promising yourself that soon you will ‘rough’ edit them down first, before commencing any post capture magic? Those days hardly if ever happen for many of those images. As time passes it is all to easy to end up with lots of drives and other storage media, uncatalogued or in any sensible retrieval system as well. In part thats because we are giving ourselves too many to deal with for the time we have.

So where did we go wrong? We started by just taking far too many shots in the first place with little consideration of camera settings and exactly what it was we were capturing, often kidding ourselves that while they were not as good as they might be, they could be saved later in computer.

For me, good photography is about the same approach today as it as always been. Start with a good original and apply some ‘craft’ to get it. The resulting images will have differences still, but in angle, composition and other aspects that means that most will be usable, if not down right gems. I often say on my courses that there is little more tedious a task than editing image after image, shot from the same place, with near identical composition, none of which are ready to roll, needing the kinds of correction that could have been achieved in camera. In reality, while it may not seem that way, the time needed to achieve a better series of ‘originals’ is often shorter in getting things right at the taking stage, than it is with time spent on post capture. The latter is best for doing what it uniquely can so well.

There are of course exceptions. Many a sports photographer I watch today ‘hoses’ down the subject and you can argue that may be a logical and valid technique. But the better ones only do it at the ‘right’ moments and for a short period. And in decades past, when film limited your abilities to capture 36 shots before reloading, (unless you were fortunate enough to be using those 250 exposure backs that Nikon, Canon and Olympus for example used to make), did we have sports shots not up to the mark? No, of course not, we had some great and memorable results. And if you shoot for example landscapes or people pictures, how many near identical versions do you need no matter the beauty before you?

I tend to use digital capture as I used to use Polaroid or Fuji instant films, for some initial test shots to enable exposure determination amongst others, deleting those wrong for my needs, then shooting with confidence in my settings the work needed. We often have enough time to do this providing we are familiar enough with our cameras and techniques of photography. As good as automation has become in many ways, no camera can replace those skills in all situations.

One further consideration of why not just jumping in leads to better pictures. Think of those shooting with large format sheet film. Not many shots in a hurry or at a low cost there. So what do those photographers have to do? They contemplate, consider, then walk away with quality shots in relatively few exposures. Maybe this digital thing is dumbing down photography skills a touch too much if we run auto everything and just jump in with too little thought? And the greatest pleasure is gained surely when it is you that has created something, and the equipment just the tool you did it with, rather than the other way around?

End. (02/06/10).