When 35mm film was my main format for photography, a busy month for me was perhaps 12 rolls of film, or three per week.
The most I ever remember having processed in a single month was 15, and an average was more like eight rolls – a major photowalk per week where I shot a couple of rolls each time.
So why in the last fortnight or so have I shot the equivalent of 27 rolls of film, close to 1000 photographs, my most intensive bout of photography for years?
Well, a few reasons.
First, because I’ve not been using film, but digital.
Buying film, then having it developed and scanned in batches at a supermarket lab, I got the cost down to around £4 a roll. So 27 rolls in two weeks would have set me back £108.
Which is about five months of my usual photography budget, for just half a month’s shooting. I simply couldn’t have justified (or afforded!) shooting this much film in months, let alone 14 days.
Second, because I’ve been getting familiar with a new (used) camera, a Pentax K30 DSLR, which has meant plenty of experimental shots to find my feet.
My current photo folder for this month, which is awaiting further editing, has around 160 images.
So you can see, of 1000 or so shots taken, I’ve kept around 15%.
By the end of the month once it’s all archived, I expect this to be nearer 10%. In other words, nine out of every 10 photos made get deleted.
Shooting film taught me plenty.
Not least of all about slowing down, being more discerning about composition, and asking whether there really was a photograph worth making there in front of me, before I fired the shutter.
So no, I haven’t thrown this learning all out the window, stuck my K30 on rapid fire continuous shooting mode, then just plucked the one out of every 10 photos perhaps worth keeping from this reckless machine gun style carnage afterwards.
The high shot rate is because so many have been simply to gauge what the camera produces with certain settings, in certain conditions.
Which then accelerates my learning about how to use it to create the kind of photographs I value most.
And therein lies perhaps the biggest appeal of digital photography.
With its instant feedback and next to zero cost per shot, it lets us go from complete novice to actually knowing and understanding what impact adjusting the aperture or shutter speed or ISO or white balance or focal length or anything else has, in a shorter space of time than if we were using film.
And, I would argue, with digital we’re more connected with the learning too.
It makes a deeper imprint in our memories, because we can see almost instantly what the changes we’re making to our set up are doing to the final images.
The cause and effect of our experiments fuses in our minds almost instantly, making a more robust bond that we’re unlikely to forget.
There’s not that disjoint, that few weeks delay, then a scrabbled comparison between the highly detailed notes we had to make at the time, and what we’re seeing on the images we just got back from the lab, akin to trying to remember the fine details of a dream we had three Thursdays ago.
Plus with digital there’s the opportunity to try again if we don’t like what we see, because again we can make that judgement almost immediately, adjust and incremently improve.
Of course I don’t plan for this high shot rate to continue.
I’m all for less is more, and edit ruthlessly those shot I do take.
So once I’ve got my head around the K30 more, I anticipate my rate will resume to a more typical 50-75 shots per 90-120 minute photowalk, so back to my old film shooting rate of approximately two per photowalk.
But for now – and any time in the future when I have a different lens, or want to try a different colour aesthetic, or want to experiment with anything else with the K30 – I have this abundant shooting, immediate feedback, accelerated photography learning experience at my disposal.
And best of all, for a cheapskate like me, I won’t have to spend a single additional penny in ongoing costs.
What kind of rate do you shoot, with film and/or digital photography? When and why does this increase and decrease?
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).
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