I was idly looking through my Lightroom library and I noticed that I am on track to have taken about 6,500 photographs by the end of the year.
That’s a lot, but if I look at 2014, I took 12,000. In 2013 I took 16,000 – and much the same in the year before that.
Why the drop off?
One answer is obvious, shooting film. I began in May of 2014. Inevitably this slows you down. From the points of view of capacity and cost, you are going to hold back compared to the freedom of shooting multiple digital images. Indeed, the opportunity to shoot dozens or hundreds of alternate views of the same scene is one of the irrefutable attractions of going digital. It’s often touted as a learning tool or aid to perfection – shoot as many as you can to get that ‘just right’ take, playing with all the options that a camera offers you.
I’m not going to argue with that. It’s pointless, and it’s one reason why digital has so many adherents, most of whom will never see any point in shooting film.
Nonetheless, despite this lack of opportunity to ‘get things right’, I’m finding that I’m getting far higher proportion of satisfying photographs these days than I did in the past. Simply put, the value of my photography has increased – not in monetary terms, that is, but in terms of artistic achievement.
I wondered if this was simply a product of making do. If I take just one or two film images compared to tens of digital alternatives, would I not be prone to accept the result simply because that’s all I had?
There may be something to this. Nonetheless, when I look back at scenes photographed in the past with hundreds of alternate digital images, it’s clear that all I’m really accumulating is redundancy. There are often dozens of fine images, each a little different from the other, any one of which I could print and put on my wall with equally satisfying results. True, I am guaranteeing to some extent the capture of a really good image by taking dozens, but I can also capture an equally fine photograph with a single well-considered click, and no number of alternates will rescue a dull or poorly considered original.
But there’s something more going on. For alongside my film photography, I continue to shoot digitally, and I might have thought that I would be just as ready to rapidfire a series of alternates to compensate for any irrecoverable problem with my film efforts. But I don’t. On the contrary, my digital photographing frequency has dropped to close to that of my film shooting. And in no case do I find myself feeling any resulting sense of loss. No, I find myself valuing my digital results more highly and getting a much higher percentage of true keepers.
So can I consider myself a better photographer? Yes, I can. But beyond that, I have become a better appreciator of a particular moment in time and place and much more cognisant of its uniqueness. In other words, not only the resulting photograph but also the scene itself have increased in importance. So much so that I can now put the camera aside to revel in whatever I am looking at. To embrace the moment and the reality of that moment.
The result is that I am moving into the shadows and out of the spotlight. I find it’s much easier to see into the light than out of it.