Finding Photography Happiness – It’s Not About The Numbers

A book I’m reading about parenting talks about TV ads, and how we might approach them with children.

Essentially the author suggests we gently show our kids how the ad is designed to sell us a product, and we should not take it too seriously.

In fact he suggests we turn ad watching into various fun games, trying to guess what they’re for and the message they’re trying to sell us.

The argument being this sets up our children with a healthy outlook on advertising generally so they don’t get sucked in to buying items they don’t need.

I’ve long been cynical about advertising, planned obsolescence , and the whole consumerist factory in general. 

This is of course rife in photography gear, where camera manufacturers churn out new models multiple times a year and try to convince us we can’t possibly make a photograph without their latest and greatest kit.

Here then are some crucial examples of why photography happiness is not about the numbers.

MegaPixels

Visit the websites of the major brands (or photography review sites/forums) and you’ll be persuaded that any digital sensor less than 20MP is next to useless. Some might cite this figure at 40MP or even higher.

I’ve found in the last couple of years that the sweet spot for me is 8-10MP.

I had a 6MP DSLR that gave gorgeous results.

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The FujiFilm FinePix S7000 I recently wrote about can sprinkle plenty of magic, also with a mere 6MP CCD sensor.

And I’ve used a number of digital compacts with only 4MP sensors that have also left me grinning.

You could explore the bargain end as I’ve done, and pick up a 4 or 6MP compact for under £20, like a Canon IXUS, Sony Cyber-shot or Panasonic Lumix.

Or spend a little more and get something a little more capable.

My Ricoh GX100 comes to mind, with a stunning lens and 10MP CCD sensor. That set me back about £50.

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Or you could go and spend thousands on something new, then mere weeks later wonder why it hasn’t radically transformed your photography like the advertising promised, and  it’s already been discontinued for the next new model.

Maximum aperture

Some might try to tell you that a vintage 50mm lens for example is worthless unless the maximum aperture is f/1.4 or even f/1.2.

I’ve owned a number of 50/1.7 and 50/1.8 lenses that have delivered fantastic results, and a handful of 50 or 55mm f/2 also.

For example the M42 mount Asahi Takumar 55/2 is one of my favourite lenses ever, and near identical to the 55/1.8. (Rather than design a new lens from scratch, Asahi basically took the already excellent and popular 55/1.8 and mechanically limited it fractionally, then sold it as the entry level 55/2).

I preferred it to the 50/1.4 that cost me about four times the price too.

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Even if you have a fast lens, trying to shoot it wide open will often result in far too shallow a depth of field, and make focusing very difficult.

Plus, in my experience, virtually no lens gives anything like its best performance wide open, so you need to stop down two or three stops anyway, losing that maximum aperture gain.

If you plan a high amount of low light photography, in theory a faster aperture is more useful. But perhaps think about other approaches (higher ISO, slower shutter speed) that will give you far more useful results.

Do you really need f/1.2 or f/1.4 when an f/1.8 or f/2 will give you fabulous results at a fraction of the cost?

Quantity of photos

Of course there’s a perfectly logical argument that you can only improve your photography by taking plenty of pictures.

But this has to be quantified.

Is it better to spray off a dozen shots in a couple of seconds and hope that one of them might be good? Or actually take a few minutes to think about how your camera’s set up, and the best angle and framing for your composition, and end up with an image you’re really happy with?

I know which I prefer.

Plus there are huge editing benefits to taking fewer, more considered photographs.

In short, you might make 30 photos in an hour long photowalk, then only have to delete a third of them. As opposed to shooting 700 and then spending hours of your life you’ll never get back scrolling through mediocre photos and deleting 695 of them!

Or keeping the lot, cluttering up your hard drive and never revisiting them.

Shooting thousands of images a month is pointless if you don’t like any of them.

Let go of the numbers, reign it in, shoot less, and shoot better.

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Blog visitors 

Many of us here have photography blogs and enjoy the interaction between us.

But measuring the popularity or success of your blog by mere visits or visitors only gives a tiny glimpse of the true story.

If you blog because, like me, you like sharing and discussing photography related ideas and experiences with others, then having 500 views per post, but only one or two comments is likely to be disappointing.

I know I’d rather have 50 views and 10 comments than 5000 views and two comments.

Focus on why you have a blog, and what you hope to achieve with it, before you even look at the stats.

If you just want high views to then hopefully convert to clicks on the ads you host, and couldn’t care less about comments, then your approach is likely to be very different to someone focused on engagement, community and thoughtful writing.

Again, the numbers don’t bring happiness, think about what you really want.

Hopefully you can see a pattern here.

The message in all of these areas is consistent –

Forget about the numbers everyone else is telling you you need, and think carefully about what your underlying motivation and needs are. 

With that more clear, you can all but ignore those irrelevant figures and get on with enjoying your photography life.

Which numbers do you focus on in your photography, and how well is that serving you? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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6 thoughts on “Finding Photography Happiness – It’s Not About The Numbers”

  1. In a curious coincidence just yesterday I compared two DSLRs as to which better suited my needs. The actual models aren’t relevant, but the result is: the older, cheaper version of the same camera was, for me, better. Too often the “latest and greatest” is simply the “newest and priciest”.
    BTW the thing about lens apertures is a hold-over from film days. Film was slow, and photographers were always looking to get that little bit of extra light when needed. Manually controlled apertures sit at what you want, not some number picked by the camera. In this age of digital sensors capable of mimicking film speeds in excess of 1000 ISO something like the Canon f 0.95 (yes) would be quite absurd. I resent that the lenses today don’t stop down enough! 🙂

    1. Yes, I agree Marc, so it’s even more ironic that people selling fast old lenses to photographers using modern digital cameras give so much emphasis to a difference of only half or a third stop of a lens’s aperture!

      I think with many areas of technology today, the wisest and most economical choice is something two or three models ago, where those two or three “upgrades” produced since have made the value of the outdated gear plummet. But it’s still excellent gear.

  2. I have all my photos from the last 16 or 17 years in lightroom and on my hard drive. They randomly cycle through when the computer goes to sleep.
    I am often blown away by the photos I took with a Nikkon d70s that I had fifteen years ago. I shot in JPG. The colors are fantastic.
    At the time it was a major investment for me. I think the camera was $700 or so. Then I later added a 70mm VR lens that was several hundred dollars.
    Traded the who kit in a few years ago for a Cannon AE-1.
    I mostly shoot with my fuji x100f now. I also use a Rollei 35 S. I like film.
    But your right, many of the old cameras are great.
    My iphone 10 is pretty good too!
    What is working for me is the x100f set to acros for black and white. It I want a color shot I use my iphone.
    I’d like to add a small digital camera. An order one. What would you recommend?

    1. I think many of the early DSLRs gave lovely colours with their CCD sensors. I had a Pentax K10D that was right in that category. I’d quite like to try an early Nikon DSLR.

      Re the small digital camera, did you want to shoot colour or b/w? I use some that can shoot pleasing b/w (for me!) straight out of camera, but I’m still trying to find one that gives consistently pleasing colour.

      What are your main requirements, and budget?

      Take a look at my Digital Classics page (the link is also at the top of every page on 35hunter) –

      https://35hunter.blog/digital-classics/

      You can’t go far wrong with a Canon IXUS or Sony Cyber-shot if you want cheap, compact, easy to use, and reliable results.

      See my “reviews” of some of these on the page above.

      Let me know if you have any specific needs or questions and I can try to help further.

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