Rule 32: Don’t Take Unnecessary Photos

Was That Really Necessary?

So you’re finally on your way to figuring out this whole photography thing. You already know you should have your camera with you; you’ve shot photos by the hundreds, if not the thousands, always working to hone your craft; and you’ve trained your eye to look for a photo opportunity in nearly everything you see. All well and good, right?

Maybe not.

Here’s the thing: there is such a thing as trying too hard. Mind you, I’m not talking about the effort that goes into getting the composition you want, or making sure your settings are the optimal ones for whatever you’re shooting — that’s time well spent. What I’m referring to instead is… well, trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Sometimes, whether it’s because of the lighting, the weather, or even just the subject itself, there’s something in front of you, but there’s just no photograph there.

I understand that itch we all get, and the need to scratch it. You know the one I’m talking about; you’ve been walking through a location for what seems like hours, and you’ve yet to see a single thing worth photographing. Everything looks flat and dull, and before you know it, you start to feel a bit flat and dull yourself. Your shutter finger gets itchy, maybe your eye starts to twitch a little because it’s been away from the viewfinder for too long. You’d hate to spend a perfectly good day out with a perfectly good camera only to come home with an empty memory card. So you compromise. You settle on shots that, on a better day, you wouldn’t bother with, or you start trying to compose interesting shots of topsoil.

If you’re really struggling with the shot, to a point where it’s not simply a matter of getting the basics right (composition, lighting, settings, et cetera) as much as it is a nagging feeling that maybe you’ve got your subject wrong, listen to what your instinct is telling you. Let it go. Trying to find the right photo at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, is like trying to find an Eames chair at Wal-Mart. It probably isn’t going to happen, and if it does, it’s probably going to be a pale imitation of the real thing. There’s no shame in leaving the camera at your side, or putting it in its bag. Nor, for that matter, is there anything wrong with waiting ’til something comes along that’s really worthy of your, your camera’s, and your audience’s attention.

3 Replies to “Rule 32: Don’t Take Unnecessary Photos”

  1. I had a quiet chuckle in reading this post as it was filled with “me too!” reactions. I think there’s a variant of this behaviour relating to uploading your work though.

    It’s where you have that all day shoot where you’d done pretty well in stopping excessive chimping and then you get home, settle in with Lightoom and find – not much – or maybe less.

    In the face of that “not much” the voice at the back of your brain keeps saying “all those shots and nothing?!?” so you pick the least worst and upload away.

    That uploaded shot is *never* an overlooked treasure. It was rubbish before you lost the plot and it remains rubbish post. The silence of commentary is confirmation of this fact.

    1. Yes! Thank you! And I’ve been there, too, as regards uploading work. There’s a whole ‘nother post in what you’ve written, because I hardly think that the two of us are the only ones doing that. And I completely understand where it comes from, too; nobody wants to spend a day shooting only to realize that what you’ve got really doesn’t amount to much, so you spend time that you could be spending getting more (and hopefully better) shots trying to improve on something that’s not really worth it in the first place.

      Thanks for stopping by, and thanks especially for commenting.

      PS: The shot of the blast furnace on your home page is absolutely gorgeous, by the way. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a day’s drive from here…

      1. Thanks for the kind comment re the photo. In a great instance of irony (given the underlying theme of impulsive action) leaving the comment made me realise I had made a typo in the domain of my blog and portfolio! Slick.

        Re the other post – I look forward to reading that as I agree, it’s surely a common behaviour.

        And yes, definitely not a short drive!! 😉


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