Sunday, May 5, 2013

It’s All About The Good Shots

Above: Strike A Pose. I took several photos of this little Redpoll, I just kept snapping until he finally had enough modeling and flew away. I ended up with several keepers, with this one being my favorite. Who cares about how many bad shots there was? It really is only abut the good shots.

It’s all about the good shots. The keepers. The images that spring to mind when you are thinking of entering a photo contest, posting an image to the web, printing an image to get framed, or any other way you like to present your images to the world. It’s all about those images. Or at least it should be.

It’s so easy to get all caught up in the numbers. Shooting a large number of photographs and having only a small number of them come out can make a photographer feel like a failure. It is this sense of failure that often discourages photographers from experimenting with their photography which can lead to a photographer’s work becoming stagnated. A photographer can only grow by experimentation. Experimentation can lead to larger numbers of failed shots. But it is ultimately through those failed images that a photographer can learn and improve their photography. I discuss learning through the editing process in a future blog post.

 Left: Wide angle landscapes are not a specialty of mine. It took a lot of bad shots to capture this good one. While I am aware that my wide angle skills need to be worked on, evident by all those bad captures, I would rather celebrate the good image. And with enough practice, that bad shot number will shrink. Yes, it's all about the good shots but it's never a bad idea to try to try to turn around the numbers and make the good shot number outweigh the bad shot total. Just don't let that bad shot total get you down while still learning new techniques.

There are actually some types of photography that require a photographer to shoot several frames just to get a few keepers. Sports and wildlife are two genres of photography that often require a photographer to fire off  a bunch of shots, sometimes even while using  rapid fire “spray and pray” sequential techniques. By holding down the shutter button while in burst shooting mode, a series of action images are captured. This technique is frequently called “spray and pray”, as the photographer fires off the sequence and hopes that at least one good image will be captured. But in reality it is not a random technique and involves less praying but rather more good timing learned by experience. Experienced photographers that frequently use their camera’s burst shooting mode know exactly when to start the sequence in order to capture the most keepers. That is only learned by experimenting. And even then, there is likely to be relatively few winners compared to the throw away captures. Don’t worry about the wasted shots, it’s all about the good shots.

Above: Nick Jackson stomping on 1-2-3 Kid at a Chikara wrestling show. Normally I try to capture perfectly sharp, action freezing images. But this night the conditions were right to experiment with long exposures and zooming techniques. I ruined a lot of shots by experimenting. But the shots like this made it all worthwhile. I still also managed to capture enough images in my usual sharp style to fulfil my obligations to my publisher as ringside photographer.

And even if you choose not to use your camera’s burst mode, you may find many missed shots due to misfocus, mistiming, missed exposures, or just plain ol’ bad lucky. If you have a tendency to focus on the numbers of missed shots, sports and wildlife photography are not for you.

Right: Pollinator. I took many captures of this bee enjoying a yellow coneflower. As typical with trying to focus on a small moving target, there were a lot of misfocused and mistimed shots. But this winner makes all those bad images insignificant.

Above: I captured this image of Dennis Dunaway and Joe Bouchard from Blue Coupe a couple of nights ago. I used my compact camera, which meant focusing and timing issues all night. Here, I was attracted to the rim lighting and silhouettes, so I opted for no flash. Long exposures were necessary. Needless to say, there were a lot of blurry shots. It doesn't matter though, it's all about this good shot.

Better also rule out concert, performance, and portrait photography. Performance and concert photography have the same issues as sports and wildlife photography. Portrait photography has the problems of people blinking and moving, and sometimes more shots need to be taken just to get the subject to relax. That all leads to a lot of bad captures that end up meeting the recycle bin.

Well, surely flower photography is a safe bet for success in the numbers game. But wait, now there’s wind to contend with which ends up making your formerly still subject a moving target. Issues with composition, depth of field, sharpness, and background distractions can all ruin a potentially great image. How quickly that recycle bin grows on the quest to a frameable image.


 Left: I photographed these Bleeding Heart flowers in a shady part of my garden. Because I prefer shooting handheld, the low light presented a small problem. I fired off many shots to ensure at least one sharp capture. I achieved my goal and the throw aways make this shot no less fantastic in my eyes.

 How about landscapes, still lives, abstracts….? No, I can’t think of a single subject that can’t be captured at its best without a trail of less than fabulous shots being captured. But I am not encouraging sloppy work habits here. Randomly taking photos and hoping for a keeper is not the way to become a better photographer. But deliberately experimenting is always worth the shutter rotations, even if only for the learning experience. Taking less photos just so you can say most of your photos “come out” accomplishes nothing. It’s not about the bad shots. Well, not in this post anyway. I’ll tell you what those bad shots are good for in my next post.

So the next time you shoot pictures don’t get wrapped up in the numbers. Experiment and take as many photos as necessary to get the to get the memorable captures you desire. Don’t fret over the bad shots. It’s all about the good shots.

Bubbly Marigolds In Summer. Using a wide aperture, the distant background of trees with lighting streaming through the leaves made for a very deliciously bubbly background. It didn't take too many shots for me to capture this one on this day. But there sure was long trail of experimental bad images made over the years before I perfected my "bubble bokeh" technique. Without experimental trial and error, there will be nothing but bad shots with a happy accident every once in awhile. Don't worry about all the bad shots!

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