Expectation Is Everything (5 Killer Questions To Shake Up Your Photography)

Disappointment can be tough to take.

In my personal experience, the times I’ve felt most disappointed and frustrated have been when the gap between my expectation of something, and the cold harsh truthful reality of it, has been at its widest.


With this in mind, I wondered about a way to keep my expectations more realistic, and therefore reduce disappointment.

So after a bit of brainstorming, I came up with these five questions.

I invite you to ask them of yourself, and fill in the blanks, without giving it too much thought or analysis.

1. I expect to spend (blank) hours a week on photography activities.

2. On a good photowalk, I expect to take (blank) photographs.

3. Of every 100 photographs I make, I expect (blank) of them to be great, and certainly good enough to share publicly.

4. When I buy a new (to me) camera, I expect it to (blank) my photography.

5. If I used just one camera and lens for a month, I would expect it to (blank) my photography.

Once you have your blanks, I further invite you to share them in the comments section below.

I’ll add mine too.


Also, you might like to ask yourself, how realistic are these expectations?

If you were reading the answers objectively as if another photographer had shared them, what would you think about that photographer and their expectations?

Thank you in advance for taking part, I look forward to hearing your thoughts (and expectations).

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

21 thoughts on “Expectation Is Everything (5 Killer Questions To Shake Up Your Photography)”

  1. So here are my blanks –

    1. I expect to spend eight hours a week on photography activities.

    2. On a good photowalk, I expect to take 50 photographs.

    3. Of every 100 photographs I make, I expect five of them to be great, and certainly good enough to share publicly.

    4. When I buy a new (to me) camera, I expect it to add variety and fun to my photography, at least initially.

    5. If I used just one camera and lens for a month, I would expect it to improve my photography, and help me concentrate more on the photographs than the equipment, and also to make it a more calm and relaxing experience as I’m making far fewer decisions.

  2. Great set of questions and theme mate…
    here I goes then

    1. I expect to spend (3-4) hours a week on photography activities

    2. On a good photo-walk, I expect to take (4-6 with the 5×4) photographs. (35 and 120mm, around a single roll)

    3. Of every 100 photographs I make, I expect (2-3) of them to be great, and certainly good enough to share publicly. (good is certainly, well, good enough for me at this time)

    4. When I buy a new (to me) camera, I expect it to (refine, enhance and hopefully teach me something about) my photography (or vision at that time) I will try anything if I see a possibility to enhance my vision

    5. If I used just one camera and lens for a month, I would expect it to (…..) my photography
    Really blank here mate. As I’ve really moved toward refining my vision through The IMAGE, and wet printing, the camera setup really takes a back seat at the moment. I’ve been using this setup for nearly a year (35, 120 and 5×4) now

    Really loved this explore Dan
    Great question
    Keep up the good work

    1. Anton, great to hear from you! Thanks for your thoughts, always interesting…

      Very intriguing to hear about your experiments with 5×4, when for a long while a few years back you were mostly using very compact 35mm film cameras like the Ricohs.

      Can you expand on “enhance my vision”? How do you know when a camera is doing that?

  3. When interesting questions are asked, one can hopefully find interesting answers…

    I think when one starts out on a photographic journey your starting point is usually the one that got you into the medium in the first place. Hence, my starting point was the fluid nature of making candid images on the street. It was easy to find a ‘hero’, and then acquire his/her weapon of choice. Using a compact 35mm camera was (and is) amazing. It is still one of the easiest cameras to use, and I very easily got the ‘feel and look’ I was after.

    I find too many starting out in photography limit their ‘explore’ to solely photographers, gear and technique. There is broader world of ART to explore. I find one of the most powerful tools to ‘enhance my vision’ is to watch films. Films are really just 24 still images per second! However, the creators have such a huge world to populate with interesting figures, tones and textures. Then there’s how we are moved by the soundtrack. What I am getting at is that, for me, photography is just one way for me to express my thoughts, fears, dream, etc. etc.

    35mm was the first step on that road of creative realisation. Everyone has his/her own path to follow, and must be brave to head along that path in the knowledge that you might just be the only one following that path. I had images in my mind’s eye that was easily extracted, and made visual with the help of myriad of 35 compacts. Then I wanted more control, moving me on to Olympus and Nikon 35mm SLRs. Then on to 120mm roll film. Then pinhole. And ending up at 5×4 (for now) All the while I was exploring other creative routes to unlock what I wanted to see in front of me. I paid less and less attention to the tool… as by now, they (my cameras) were becoming ‘just tools’. I know that’s heresy in some gear orientated circles. But I had to be true to myself, as does everyone else. And if that needs 40, 100, or ONE camera, so be it!

    So for me, what I feel when using a camera… Or, how close I can come to my ‘vision in my mind’s eye’ is much more important that, FPS, ASA sensitivity, lens characteristics, film resolution, developer accutance, etc, etc. But of course if those components enable you to reach your ideas, then so be it. Therefore, if I get ONE image that I want to share, I know it will be close to what I felt and visualised when I pressed the shutter release. And each day after, I strive to make those ideas a reality, with a decent print in my hands

    Okay enough rambling for one day (“,)

    1. Anton, I miss these conversations!

      Some thoughts –

      Hero and weapon of choice – Great way of putting it. But when I started photographing with intention – that is going out with a camera to specifically make photographs – it was a camera phone, and I didn’t know the first thing about photography really. I didn’t follow anyone online, I didn’t have any photo books, I wasn’t on Flickr (this was around the mid 2000s), I didn’t have any photography education or family influence… I just knew what I found beautiful out in nature and wanted to capture it.

      I’d dabbled in painting before, and using a camera was/is way easier. My first creative outlet was and still is the written word, mostly song lyrics and poetry. I remember having a realisation that a photograph and a haiku (what I had evolved into writing most of around that time) were almost identical to me. One you pressed a button to capture a scene in front of you, the other you scribbled a few lines to capture the scene in your mind, equally vividly.

      Certainly since getting into film in 2012 and finding other film photographers, then their work started to influence, as did the cameras they use(d). But before this I didn’t have any photography “heroes” – I didn’t even know any.

      ART – Excellent point, and I’ve started to talk about this already. In fact I was thinking about this and noticing the commonalities between the art I enjoy most and have done for some years. My favourite paintings are by Rothko – large shimmering slabs of colour, sometimes only one or two different colours within one painting. My favourite music for a long time has been minimal – Eno, Labradford, Stars Of The Lid, Eluvium. As I mentioned I love haiku poetry, how stripped down and simple it is, yet so powerful.

      My own photography I think has absorbed these minimal influences with strong features and plenty of breathing space. I rarely shoot a busy street scene for example, it’s more often a stark sky or a close up with one part isolated and the rest blurred out. I can see the lineage of haiku, colour field painting and ambient music in there. Wow, I’m only just fully getting this!

      Also for as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with dreams, and often find it quite difficult defining/remembering the boundary between dreams and real life. I’ve read books on lucid dreaming and trying to control your dreams and had some fleeting success. I remember stuff in dreams that I think was real, and vice versa. This ephemeral, enigmatic essence I think pervades many photographs too, or at least I try to make it!

      Yeh all the dials and knobs and settings matter very little. We have to find that balance between constantly looking for the “ideal” camera that will allow us to best expression our vision, or voice, with photography, and just accepting the camera we have in our hands and through trial and error and experimentation and experience make it work for us in as direct a way as possible, whether it’s a phone camera or large format or anything in between.

      Not rambling my friend, very stimulating conversation!

      1. wow…. talk about joy of words!
        Ephemeral, enigmatic essence…

        That just about perfectly describes a dream-state with your eye wide open. But also describes those fleeting moments of the in-between. Those moments when you ‘feel’ you have lift the camera to your eye. Or, pick up your pen and mark some paper. Like the scent of a blossom drifting on a summer breeze, or picking up shapes in the morning mist, creativity is fleeting and magical. Maybe that is what gets everyone into photography, or art. We all try to make visual that which is invisible, but felt. To me a successful image is one that moves me. It moves me to remember… nothing in particular. But it make me stop and think.

        I adore haiku! Even though I’ve no idea of the mechanics or ‘rules’ of the form, I still find them magical. As you mention, it’s stripped down to it’s essence. It’s also a great analogy for photography. Both activities look out at the big wide world and remove any extraneous elements bringing into focus what the creator ‘felt’ or visualised. Or at least that is what I feel makes a good poem, and a good photograph. That is what motivates me, pushing me toward defining a feeling, an emotion. Others have different, and varied motivations. This is mine. I also find Rotho’s work very easy to get lost in. Somewhere safe! (if that makes sense) Have you seen the collaboration he did with Hiroshi Sugimoto? Sugimoto is just amazing. Not seen any in the flesh, but one day…

        I am currently working on the mechanics, and planning a project to combine photographs, print making, book binding, and poetry, prose, or maybe very short stories. This will just about combine ALL my loves of the visual arts. Everything should be taken to it’s logical conclusion. If it proves difficult, at least recognise that in yoursel.

        btw – never heard of Labradford, but find that type of sounds very soothing. So thanks for that!
        But getting back to expectations. I expect to find myself in photography and art. Simple as that.

      2. Yeh Anton, my inner poet can’t be silenced ha ha!

        It is so obvious this idea that all genres and forms of art influence, but I often forget and think about photography only it’s own little box. You mentioned films too, and I love films that have strong, memorable visuals. The Shining comes to mind, and most of David Lynch’s films. I saw the new Star Wars film this week (I have a long history from the age of about five!) and I was very impressed with it visually. There was a whole section of the film where there on a planet with a surface of snow, and immediately beneath, red salt flats. The imagery of of people and ships moving across the white snow and leaving trails of red behind them was very visual and striking. Very Kubrick, I thought at the time. Again this is an influence on photography – I tend to go for simple, strong, often stark geometry rather than dense multi layered compositions.

        I think the more we photograph (sketch, paint, write etc), the more often we find that magic you talk about. A big thrill of photography for me is capturing tiny beautiful details that most people would pass by without a glance, then accentuating and magnifying them so people can’t ignore them!

        Haiku is such a fantastic writing discipline. A few years back before I got more heavily into photography, I started a project called Ten Thousand Haiku. I got to about 1000, before my interests evolved into other things. But I suspect one day I’ll return to where I left off. Maybe 10,000 haiku over a lifetime is more realistic than the few months I thought I could do it in back then!

        Just exploring Hiroshi Sugimoto and the Rothko connections, thanks for the tip off! I’ve seen a few Rothko’s in the flesh, the detail and texture is very striking (and the size!) compared with view flat images on a screen or in a book. Texture was almost as important as colour.

        Your “multimedia” project sounds ambitious and amazing! I’ve tended to find I’ve gone through different phases in life where one creative form was dominant (poetry, painting, music, dance, now photography) so I don’t think I could ever be focused on a range of media enough at one time to bring it all together. Very intriguing idea though, like Bowie who was best known for his music but always considered himself a painter and an actor just as importantly.

        Labradford’s early stuff is interesting but can be a bit jagged and rambling. Then they came out with a record called Mi Media Naranja, which is probably as close to perfection as I’ve heard in a record. (It always reminded me of a soundtrack to a beautiful David Lynch film he never made.) They’re at the hub of a loose collective of musicians, that all seem to have offshoot projects and collaborations. Dead Texan, Aix Em Klemm, Stars Of The Lid as well as Brian McBride’s wonderful solo record When The Detail Lost Its Freedom, are all well worth exploring. Probably Mi Media, When The Detail, and the two Stars Of The Lid double records (Tired Sounds, and Their Refinement Of The Decline) are probably my favourite four records ever.

        I really need to explore this interconnectivity more, how all art comes together (the art I absorb and the art I (try to) make) in a unified voice…

  4. 1. I expect to spend six or eight hours a week on photography activities. (About half on new work and half on my old negatives and my father’s.)

    2. On a good photowalk, I expect to take ten or twelve photographs.

    3. Of every 100 photographs I make, I expect ten of them to be great, and certainly good enough to share publicly. (Well, maybe not great but certainly good enough to contribute to a couple of long term projects I am working on.)

    4. When I buy a new (to me) camera, I expect it to have little or no effect on my photography. (For a few months now I have limited my equipment to just my LTM Leicas and my iPhone. If/when I buy a new (to me) camera it will be another LTM Leica.)

    5. If I used just one camera and lens for a month, I would expect it to help me put a little more thought into my photography. (I actually started doing something like this in November. All of my film photographs since Thanksgiving Day have been shot with a 50mm lens on an LTM Leica. Unfortunately, I have not been able to limit myself to just one film or developer – but I may be getting close to that too. I am very happy with the last roll of FP4+ developed in Rodinal.)

    1. Doug, great to have your input, thank you.

      You’re far more restrained with me on photowalks. I often wonder if I should shoot (digital) much more like film and limit myself to 24 or 36 shots, or use some of the very small SD cards I have from years ago instead of a 16MB or whatever, so I have to be more choosy.

      Really interesting to hear about your 50mm Leica one camera adventure. How do you feel your photography will be if/when you do just use one camera, one lens, one film and one developer?

      1. Hi Dan,

        Thank you for the kind words. I was careful to say that all of my recent shots were with a 50mm lens on an LTM camera – but I left out saying they were not shot with the _same_ 50mm lens.

        My project of documenting the small old houses in our town before they are torn down to be replaced by much bigger, and usually uglier, houses has been shot on FP4+ and developed in Rodinal. And the best of my lenses for that work has turned out to be the 50/2.8 Elmar. It flares the least of all my 50mm lenses.

        But then for fun I like to photograph friends and family members indoors – and usually at night with available light. For these photos I have been shooting HP5+ at ISO800 and developing it in Ilfotec DD-X. My best lens for this is the 50/1.4 LTM Canon. It it the fastest of my 50mm lenses – but it flares like crazy in bright sunlight.

        While I appreciate the potential value of settling on a single film and developer I think it would compromise at least one of my projects. So what I have in my camera bag right now is two separate one camera-one lens-one film outfits. That’s probably as close as I’m going to get.

      2. Sounds similar to me in that currently I’m using two cameras that are quite similar. The only main difference is one has a 28/1.9 lens and the other 24/2.5 (well, 24-72mm but I use it at 24mm 95% of the time).

        Both I use for b/w or colour but I decide beforehand! I rarely switch between b/w and colour shot to shot. It’s a different mindset and too disruptive to the flow.

        Are your Leicas like the Leica III era, rather than an M? I came close to getting one a couple of years ago but in the end went for a Kiev 2a, clone of a Contax III, which was more affordable.

      3. Yes, all of my Leicas are Leica Thread Mount (LTM). The youngest is a IIIg made in 1958. Limiting myself to cameras incompatible with M mount lenses has been a helpful simplification, keeping me from pixel peeping at my scans and saving me a lot of money.

      4. Yeh I’ve always been curious (like so many) about what all the fuss is about with Leica, but never enough to sell my car or the entire contents of our home to buy one! I’d say going the LTM route is a wise one. They also fit with some of the Russian lenses like Jupiters don’t they? I love the idea of something like the digital Monochrom. If I won the lottery I’d probably buy one, or a comparable full colour M. But not having one certain doesn’t stop us making very satisfying photographs…

      5. Compatibility of various LTM lenses with Leicas and Leica copies can be a real can of worms. There can be issues with the thread form (39mm x 1mm vs 39mm x 26tpi), lens-to-film registration distance and the focusing cams. For example, concerning Russian lenses on Leica cameras, some Russian LTM lenses are made on the same tooling used to make Contax compatible lenses and they don’t always compensate for the different actual focal length of a nominal 50mm or other lens. It’s different on a Leica and a Contax and it can cause focus issues.

  5. Okay Dan, here are my responses;
    1. I expect to spend (5 to 10) hours a week on photography activities.

    2. On a good photowalk, I expect to take (25) photographs.

    3. Of every 100 photographs I make, I expect (10) of them to be great, and certainly good enough to share publicly.

    4. When I buy a new (to me) camera, I expect it to (provide an interesting experience that will increase my enjoyment and improve my knowledge generally and with regard to) my photography.

    5. If I used just one camera and lens for a month, I would expect it to (focus my skills and through simplification and limitation, generally improve) my photography.

    1. SF, sounds pretty similar to me overall.

      So, summarising your replies, if you bought a new camera and used it exclusively for a couple of months, you might expect to improve your knowledge, enjoyment and photography in general? : )

      1. I think that is a fair summary (assuming we are talking about a simpler camera rather than some top notch do everything, work it all out for you DSLR), removing choice and restricting oneself to a single tool that likely has limitations would force one to navigate those limitations and learn to use that tool in ways that may not have been apparent initially. It would hone skills and knowledge about what one really needs to achieve the desired results.

      2. It is ironic that the more complex the camera, and the more options available to you, often the more intimidating it becomes and the less capable you feel in using it.

        Have you seen any of those “Cheap Camera Challenge” episodes of DigitalRev on YouTube? I found some of them fascinating, seeing how a pro photographer used to very sophisticated and expensive get can become very creative with a very basic camera. Like that phrase “necessity is the mother of invention”.

  6. Tough questions! I’ll reply without reading the other comments first. So here we go:

    1. I expect to spend about ten hours a week on photography activities.

    2. On a good photowalk, I expect to take anything between 1 and 36 photographs.

    3. Of every 100 photographs I make, I expect about a dozen of them to be great, and certainly good enough to share publicly.

    4. When I buy a new (to me) camera, I expect it to hinder me more than help my photography.

    There’ll be test rolls, silly test shots, errors….

    5. If I used just one camera and lens for a month, I would expect it to advance my photography.

    I’m a big advocate for ‘less is more’. Limitations make you grow!

    1. Interesting Frank how most of us who’ve responded have fairly similar expectations.

      “Test rolls” was a major reason I stopped buying so many film cameras. Too much expense testing out cameras that I wouldn’t likely keep anyway.

      Limitations I definitely think help us expand our creativity. The challenge is the discipline and how easy it us to buy a new camera for very little cost.

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