Regular readers will know that not so long ago, I had well over 50 cameras and predominantly shot film over digital.
Times have evolved, and I’m moving ever closer to concepts like invisible cameras, zero processing and irreversible photography.
All of these seek to simplify photography down to its essentials.
The underlying philosophy can be summed in one word. Enough.
Let’s expand with some examples.
Using one camera at a time, is enough.
I don’t need the confusion of which camera to take out of my bag for which shot, and trying to remember the unique characteristics and quirks of using each one in quick succession.
Taking one lens out with you at a time is enough (if the camera even has interchangeable lenses).
Again, if you have three lenses of different focal lengths with you, you’re likely trying to visualise compositions that will work at all three focal lengths at the same time. And, paralysed with indecision and a scattered focus, end up capturing none of them very well.
Having half a dozen lenses in total is enough.
After following the classic rookie path of thinking I needed at least one lens in every focal length from 20mm to 200mm, ultimately I found I only really need a wide, normal and tele. Even if I had just one 35mm, or one 50mm, or one 135mm, I’d still be able to make plenty of shots I was pleased with.
What helped me hugely with getting to this point was focusing on a couple of mounts – M42 and Pentax K. I really didn’t need a 50mm lens in six different mounts that all perform 95% the same.
10MP is enough.
In fact that just happens to be the spec of my Pentax Q, the highest MP of any of my digitals, using my favoured 3:2 aspect ratio (it’s 12MP at 4:3). The Ricohs I use are less than that (9MP at 3:2), and I have a 6MP Samsung DSLR that is very capable of amazing photographs too. I don’t need the initial expense, huge files and unnecessary (to me) capabilities of even 16MP, let alone anything above.
Shooting JPEGs is enough.
Again this is part of my evolution towards zero processing. The cameras I use most now produce JPEG files I’m very happy with, and that need very little (if any) post processing. Because I’m able to make good enough (for me) images this way, I don’t need the extra workflow, file size or terrifyingly infinite processing options of RAW.
One colour choice is enough.
This might change depending on where you’re going and what you’re planning to photographs, but when we stick to one colour choice (which might be black and white, or a colour profile you’ve set up in camera, or of course a certain b/w or colour film), it makes it so much easier to find the compositions that are going to work best with that colour choice.
Our vision – and our thinking – then becomes naturally optimised towards that selection, and you escape situations where you can’t decide whether to shoot the scene before you in b/w, muted colour, natural colour, vibrant colour, or via one of 50 available settings. Just pick one at a time and get to know it inside out. It’s enough.
Once we realise how much is enough, we save ourselves the anguish of forever chasing more.
This measure of enough is different for each of us.
For you, enough might mean one 6MP compact digital camera with a fixed lens. It might mean a 60 year old rangefinder with two lenses, one choice of colour film and one choice of b/w. It might mean having both, for different occasions.
Whatever works for you.
The point is finding what’s enough, and putting an end to that infinite quest for more cameras, lens, features, presets and whatever else, that gets in the way of the essentials – getting out there with a camera you enjoy using, making picture you’re proud of.
What does enough look like for you and your photography?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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12 thoughts on “The Photographic Freedom Of Enough”
I reset my Canon S95 to factory defaults yesterday and, after several years of shooting RAW+JPEG in P mode, I’m going to experiment with JPEG in Auto mode. Because I’m weary, man. Weary of all the Photoshoppery.
It’s a different kind of enough, as in, “Enough already!”
Jim, it’s really the same thing. When we said “enough already” (or more commonly in England, just “I’ve had enough”), it really means I’ve had too much, I’ve gone way past “enough”.
Even with the minimal processing I’ve got down to with my Ricoh GRD III and Hipstamatic, it’s still been a further step of liberation using the Pentax Q and being able to set the camera up to produce JPEGs I’m really happy with. Once I upload them to my Mac, all that’s left is choosing which to delete, which to keep and which to share.
There’s so much you can adjust with the Q, I think anyone would struggle to NOT find a combo they liked.
Look forward to seeing your JPEG experiments with your trusty Canon…
Man after my own heart!
I sold off the vast majority of my digital gear, and just use a Nikon D200, an 18-70 mm (the only zoom I now own) for family and fishkeeping photography. everything else I shoot using my lovely old Nikon FE with a 50mm f/1.8 which most of the time is all I carry. I do have a 28 and 135 Nikkors at home with a few old timers residing in a display cabinet.
Just using the FE plus the 50mm and I think my photography has been better for the minimalist change the last two years.
Thanks for your comments Martin. Glad to find a kindred spirit on the minimalist front!
I know if I had just one film camera it’d be my Spotmatic F with Super Takumar 55/1.8. That focal length can be adapted to virtually any kind of photography.
Great to hear using your FE has improved your photography. Do you mostly use the same film too?
Mainly Fomapan, either 100 or 400 and developed at home. I try to take the FE everywhere I go if I can.
So another layer of consistency that must have helped you get to know your kit and photography better…
I started to realise that I preferred to carry one camera one lens. That I didn’t like digital, I’d grow up with film photography (1960’s child) and began to read and study the work on American street photographer John Free, Joel Meyerowitz, Elliott Erwitt and of course Henri Cartier-Bresson. Compositions where never a problem for me from a young age, being able to draw and paint but I was blind to what was in front me and I found John Free’s and Joel Meyerowitz video’s very helpful with opening my photographic eye up on the world around me.
It’s interesting what you say about composition and drawing and painting. I’m reading an older blog at the moment and the author and a few of the commenters are saying (or, were saying, the post is about three years old) how they’re fed up with sifting the swathes of mediocre photographs online and have returned to looking at the masters (like some you mention), but also painters from centuries ago to learn how they composed their paintings, how they saw and captured light, and so on… Other people’s photography is only the tip of the iceberg of our influences…
I came across your blog following a google search for best photography blogs!
As I now have more time to fulfil a wish to publish a new photography blog based on the coastline local to me, I have recently purchased a Nikon D3400, & very soon it will accompany me in all weathers to record what I find as I walk the Kent coastline. As part of my new project, my current blog will soon perhaps be decommissioned, as its purpose was being a test bed for practicing by I.T. skills.
A major part of my project before its launch, is finding a blog theme which satisfies my; clean, functional & minimalist agenda. As such, please could you let me know the WordPress theme that you use.
Hi Jonathan, yes of course, I fairly recently changed actually, to libre 2. Like you I wanted something clean, minimal and low maintenance. It fits the bill! Good luck with your new blog, please come back here with a link once it’s up and running.
Apologies for the late reply, a house move took longer than planned!
Thank you for the answer to the theme you use on your blog, much appreciated.
On reading your thoughtful post: ‘Trading pixels for paper’, I have added a comment.
Again, I appreciate your help & inspiration to a rookie photographer.
Hi Jonathan, you’re welcome, thanks for stopping by and joining in.