Clicking With Intent

January 25, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

While there are many benefits associated with digital photography, the fact that the number of shots we can take is essentially limitless is not necessarily one of them. If the editing process is bogging you down because you're routinely slogging through thousands of images, one way to streamline things is to shoot fewer photos.

I’m not suggesting abandoning burst photography: it has its place, for example when shooting wildlife or any type of fast action. Nor should you turn your back on bracketing or thoroughly working a location.

You can cut down on the number of captures, though, by being more intentional about when you click.

To achieve that, it might help to borrow from the photographer's mindset back when analog ruled the day. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the process of shooting with film. 

Because most of us have digital gear, I'll speak about film using the past tense even though film cameras are far from dead.

Deliberate Approach

Film was finite; there were just 36 exposures to a roll and obviously you could only carry so many rolls. Film was also expensive. Every time you released the shutter it cost you something in terms of both bandwidth and cash. That doesn't mean every image was great or that you didn't make mistakes, but you certainly weren't going to keep clicking dozens - or hundreds - of times hoping to get lucky. Neither would you make the same mistake over and over.

Each frame counted. You attempted to get everything right before committing to the shot. 

Try applying this purposeful methodology to digital photography. Slow down. Be disciplined about evaluating the scene. Pay attention to details. Think things through and choose your shots carefully. 

Limitations and Problem-Solving

Results weren't instant with film photography. Today most would consider that restrictive, but it fueled the learning process and encouraged careful consideration about how to approach various situations. You had to use your head and figure things out without prompting from your equipment. You'd often take notes of the settings used and review this information once you got the images back from the lab. Understanding the camera's capabilities and how to achieve the desired result was imperative. 

Other limitations, such as the fact that the ISO was a function of the type of film rather than a setting that can be changed from one shot to the next, also encouraged you to plan ahead and think things through.

Fundamentally understanding your gear and knowing how to handle a variety of conditions and situations can exponentially reduce the number of shots you take. If you haven't thoroughly studied your owners' manual I'd urge you to take the time to do so. I realize those manuals are hefty but it's a worthwhile exercise. 

You'll click less often if you're not flying by the seat of your pants. 

Distractions

The only thing on the back of the film camera was the memo holder, where you could insert the tab from the film box as a reminder of what was loaded. The digital camera is, of course, an entirely different animal. 

Immediate feedback can be a double-edged sword. The back of the camera can easily become a distraction. Constantly looking at it interferes with the thought process. It's easy to lose concentration, not to mention the opportunities you might miss while checking the screen.

Over-reliance on the LCD can also keep you from developing confidence, which in turn leads to much more clicking than is necessary. 

Trust yourself and the decisions you're making. You don't need to scrutinize the back of the camera after every shot, and you don't need dozens of captures when one - or just a handful - would do. There's the insurance shot and then there's overkill.

Be mindful of how many photos you're taking. Just because the card has massive capacity doesn't mean you need to fill it. Get into the habit of thinking before you press the shutter. 

Sometimes it makes sense to go for a lot of captures. It's great to have the ability to click freely when the situation warrants, but there's a middle ground and that's the best place to be. Make enough pictures - but not too many.

Release the shutter when and if it makes sense. Be intentional.

Use your head before you engage your finger.

Speaking of film, if you're a regular reader you know my folks gave me my first SLR and two lenses as a college graduation gift. Here it is!

The Minolta XD11, developed in conjunction with Leica, was the top-of-the-line Minolta body of its era and is still regarded by many to be the best manual-focus body the company ever made. It was the first SLR on the market to have both aperture and shutter priority auto exposure.

PASM is ubiquitous on cameras today, but now you know it was developed by Minolta and made its debut on the XD11. Ironically, I didn't use the shutter priority/aperture priority modes much - and still don't - since I most often shoot in full manual. But that technology was a significant development.

Anyway, I was given a great camera but had no idea at the time just how good it was. I wasn't expecting to receive such a gift so hadn't researched equipment, and my dad wasn't up to date regarding gear - though he'd been an experienced photographer when he was younger. It's safe to say we went into the adventure somewhat blindly. (I chose Minolta because one of my brothers bought a Minolta while serving in the Air Force, but his SLR pre-dated this body.)

My father and I walked out of the camera store that day with the superb XD11, which served me well for quite a few years.

I will never part with it.

Maybe I'll pick up a roll of film and take it out for a spin.


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