Less is more: January 2022

One of those things we do as a new photographer with a camera we like and which we’re exploring is to take hundreds or even thousands of photos during a session. We head out on each photographic mission, see a scene or composition that we like, and keep shooting the exact same scene or similar scene, repeatedly. Putting aside the fact that this is adding a huge shutter count to your SLR camera and reducing its life in your hands, this is madness.

As an analogue camera user, back in the day, I was far more mindful of every shot I took. Obviously, this was because it involved film, and film costs an extra amount of money to process if you’re sending it off to a lab. With this in mind, and the fact that you usually have a limited supply of film, you chose your shot carefully and clicked the shutter button when you were truly happy you’d (probably) captured a nicely exposed, nicely lit and well-framed image. That image would be your final image. With digital photography, the motivation to be mindful has gone. We can shoot the same scene multiple times and pick the best of a bunch in post, then crop, flip, whatever, and process to our heart’s content.

Another reason we might shoot the same subject repeatedly is a lack of confidence in our ability to produce the image we’re trying to achieve. If we feel like we’re not sure of our ability or technical knowledge, or skill, or even creative abilities, we may keep shooting in the bizarre hope something magical will happen inside the camera with at least one of the shots in a series of images! I’ve done it myself and it’s a sure sign of lack of confidence. Of course, light changes at a scene, but we should shoot for that, waiting for the right moment to press the shutter.

Having had a major fall out with photography – having completely lost my motivations for doing any kind of photography, and developing a real resentment of and disillusionment with the photography world at large – I have distanced myself from the process and from my images for over a year. Now, coming back to it in small steps purely for my own enjoyment and development of my skills, I’ve taken a wholly different look at my own photography and at the process, including the approach others take.

I’m much more able to be critical of my own work from a very different perspective – I can see where my images haven’t necessarily engaged an audience in the past, or may have looked over-processed or over-worked at times. I can see where composition hasn’t been ideal, colours too insipid, or simply the subject matter isn’t engaging to someone who wasn’t at the scene. I can see where even sharing the images wasn’t an engaging process. I am able to be much more subjective with my own work, which of course then equally applies to my perspective of other people’s photography.

Of course, now I see the same process in other amateur photographers’ approach to photography. Taking hundreds of shots, processing whole series of the same or similar image, then posting a whole slew of images on socials, waiting for the likes and confirmation. It is ridiculous; and I did it myself for a long time.

No one needs to see fifty versions of the same or similar image, over-processed, over-contrasty, over-saturated and over worked. Yes, you love the images. Of course you do, and good for you. But the adage that less is more absolutely applies in photography. Choose only the best, choose them carefully (often this means not looking at your processed images for a few days and then going back to them), and only share one or two images. Share them sparingly, share them only when you really want to, share them for yourself and maybe for a specific audience, and then walk away from it onto the next interesting project.

Photography is an art. Art is subjective. Art is personal. When you share it, you’re putting a piece of yourself out there. Share it carefully and sparingly. Share it when you’re truly happy to do so and not for likes or a confidence boost or for confirmation of your skills.

I have found that shooting mindfully – one or two shots of the same subject, maximum, and shooting only what I love in front of me – is the perfect way to improve my abilities, and not find the whole process a chore and hard work. I think hard about the image I want, and if I don’t think I’ll achieve it with the light levels (this is the big one for me, as I’m mostly outdoors and not using strobes) and the subject I have, I simply don’t bother.

It’s kind of liberating, and can only mean more development and more fun. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks anymore, and I’m not trying to be a great photographer. I’ll keep exploring photography regardless, as I have done for over twenty years.

Images of rhododendron and an early snowdrop added here for tax.

Published by Clare Lusher

Photographer. Londoner. BSc. MSc. RHS trained Horticulturist gone rogue.

One thought on “Less is more: January 2022

  1. You put your thoughts on photography very well, Clare. I think because of my age I’m doing something similar. I am alone with family members deceased, and yet continue to love photography and search for my camera, an iPhone now, when I want to capture something I see around me. I am in the stage of decluttering things or trying to, and I have yet to face the thousands of photos I have and those I’ve inherited or purchased. When I kick the bucket there will be no one person that would be that interested in my photos. So, decluttering of photos is in order, and yet I find other things to declutter instead! Keep at it.

    Liked by 1 person

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