Shooting film, where you have a finite (and small) number of exposures on a roll, greatly helped me become more effective as a photographer. It encouraged me to take my time more, and make each shot count, as far as possible.
Now I’m predominantly shooting digital again, I’ve tried to retain some of the best aspects of shooting film.
One major one is the vintage lenses I use.
I can’t see myself using a modern AF lens on my DSLRs anytime soon, I’m so attached to the experience and the resultant images gained when using vintage glass, from Takumars to Pentax-A.
Arguably the second most significant shooting trait I try to carry over from film to digital can be phrased simply.
At the moment I’m about to take a photograph, I ask myself, “Picture the most incredible photograph you can make, with this subject, with this equipment, in these lighting conditions. Would that ultimate realisation of the scene before you be worth capturing?”
If the answer is no – and it often is – then I either try to adjust some aspect (focus, aperture thus depth of field, my position) to make it better, or just walk away.
Because if the very best possible outcome isn’t going to be that good, then why waste a photograph on it?
Yes, I know with digital you can potentially have hundreds or thousands of images on your camera at once, so you could take seven or 77 variations of the same scene and then decide later which to keep.
The technology is there for continuous shooting and exposure bracketing and so on, that mean it’s far more likely that one shot out of a rapid-fire blast of them is going to be ok.
But that’s really not my style. Again this was honed by shooting film.
I’m all for frugality and efficiency and would rather get it right with one shot in camera than be sifting through dozens afterwards. (My post processing with digital is very simple and virtually non-existent.)
And by asking this simple question – Would the most incredible photograph you can make in these conditions be worth taking? – it significantly reduces the likelihood of sifting through seven or 77 versions of the same scene, where none of them are any good because the lighting or the composition or the focal length was all wrong anyway.
Or the scene was just too dull to be worth capturing (yep, I’m still getting of this one pretty often!)
How do you decide in the moment which photographs are worth taking? Does this process and thinking change between shooting film and digital?
Let us know in the comments below.
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