Pure Distilled Photography – The One Decision You Need To Make

Inevitably in photography – as with most pursuits we explore consistently with commitment and passion – I find myself going around in circles.

Not in a bad way, and each time I go around I have more learning and experience under my belt.

You never step in the same water twice, so the circles are more like upward spirals.

But in recent years I’ve been drawn increasingly to finding a photography set up that’s as direct, and as pure, as possible. 


What this means to me is removing all unnecessary decisions and options, from my choice of camera and lens for any particular photo walk, how it’s set up for each shot, and how to process the image the camera outputs (ie, as little as possible, preferably not at all!).

And now I have perhaps four or five cameras set up in specific ways that I can make images with in this direct approach, and use those images straight out of camera.

You could argue that with the most pure and distilled form(s) of photography, there is really only one decision the photographer needs to make.

Does the scene and composition in front of me present a photograph worth making?

Or, put another way, is it worth releasing the shutter?

Everything else is already decided.

What do you think? What does the purest form of photography look like for 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).

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6 thoughts on “Pure Distilled Photography – The One Decision You Need To Make”

  1. I haven’t gotten there yet with digital, I’m working forwards settling down with one system. With film cameras, this is what I appreciate about the twin lens reflexes. I leave the house with just one camera, some film, maybe a filter or two. I love the simplicity.

    1. I think simplicity is harder with digital, as there are so many cameras, as so many options within each. I think we need to be honest with ourselves about which functions we actually can’t live without, and which are superfluous, most likely added to try to sell more cameras and encourage people to upgrade from last year’s model.

      At least with most digital cameras, we have Program mode(s) to fall back on, to make things pretty simple again.

  2. To some extent I can never answer that question: what my eyes see and what the camera sees are often vastly different, and I never know if the camera captured my vision until I have it on the big screen. So if I think it will be worthwhile I push the button. But sometimes the results are disappointing, n’est ce pas?

    1. Oh yes, of course, I still probably keep less than 10% of photos I capture. But I think by being discerning and disciplined we can keep this hit rate from being only 1 or 2%!

      Interesting angle Marc, because I’m usually more interested in capturing what the camera sees, and to some extent what I’ve forced it to see by the decisions I’ve made about ISO, aperture, shutter speed, focus, composition, colour choice and so on. Most of the images I’ve made in the last couple of years I never saw with my naked eyes, because my eyes can’t see b/w, with shallow depth of field, for example.

      1. Perhaps your eyes can’t see that way, Dan, but in the broader sense your mind can. That’s what we’re really after.
        If my pictures looked like my eyesight they’d all be out of focus! *LOL*

      2. Yes, definitely, from having taking pictures before that look a certain way, I can then overlay that kind of look on the scene before me, and imagine how it might look. Then try to set up the camera to recreate it.

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