Whilst film photography has a tangible cost to every frame – and one that ultimately became too high for me to justify a couple of years back – digital photography can seem like it’s virtually free.
But with the financial freedom digital brings, it’s all too easy to to get carried away and shoot hundreds of photos every time you head out, just because you can.
The danger then is we get lazy and sloppy, and the overall quality of our photography diminishes.
Maybe we even long for those simpler days when we didn’t have such dizzying freedom to photograph anything and everything, and the shots made per outing were in double figures rather than triple or quadruple.
One way to limit this of course is simply through self-discipline, and controlling how frugally you shoot.
But as most of us have less self-discipline than we’d like (plus maybe years of trigger happy digital habits aren’t so easy to undo), there’s an easier way to restrict your shooting.
Simply get yourself a small capacity memory card.
If you use say a 1GB card (which in my 10MP Lumix LX3 allows around 200 images), then you are obviously far more limited in how many shots you can make before the card is full, compared with an 8 or 16 or 32GB card.
If you need to be even more disciplined, try a 512MB or 256MB card. In my LX3 these would give me around 100 and 50 shots respectively. I have an old 128MB card which says it’s good for 24 shots once in the LX3, just like a roll of film.
So then you have the kind of enforced sparsity that a film photographer enjoys each time they head out with just one or two rolls of film.
The advantages of restricting how much you can shoot before your card is maxed out are multiple –
– Better compositions
A capacity for fewer images means you become more considered about when to release the shutter. Instead of machine gunning off 13 minutely different versions of the same scene, then picking the best afterwards, you take your time, and shoot one, perhaps two.
Those you do make will almost inevitably be more pleasing because of the additional thought and care that’s gone into them.
– Less time editing
Fewer images made per photo shoot means fewer to edit afterwards. Leaving you more time to enjoy the images you made and start planning and enjoying your next photography excursion.
– More attentive, focused editing
With fewer images to go through, your editing head stays fresh and keen, allowing you to get down to the very best of your latest batch of images whilst your enthusiasm is still high.
Trying to sort through hundreds of new images and maintain the same level of editing objectivity is very challenging.
A batch of 40 or 50 photos is far more approachable than 400 or 500, where you’ll likely become numb with boredom before you’re even half way through, then delete or keep everything before you get to enjoy the few gems that might be waiting.
Or become so jaded that every image starts to look the same.
– You become a better photographer in the eyes of your audience
I’ve talked in the past of blogs where the photographer feels the need to dump every image from their latest photo shoot.
The problem is that even if there are a couple of stunning photographs among them, most people will likely have clicked away, tired of wading waist deep through the mediocrity of the rest of them.
Our audience shouldn’t be given the heavy lifting work of curating the best of our images, it’s our job as the photographer to also edit down to the cream of the crop before we present them publicly.
When you make fewer images in the first place, then edit them with a fresher, sharper eye, the images you share at the end will be a much smaller and higher quality sample of your work (perhaps 3-6 images, rather than 36), so those following will automatically consider you a better photographer, and be more likely to continue to follow.
– Less storage space
I know storage is cheap these days, but you still have to keep the images you want somewhere, plus back them up. If you’re rattling of hundreds of images every time and keeping most (or all!) of them, that storage will soon fill up.
If you’re sharing online too, whether on a dedicated photo site like Flickr, or via a blog, then again the fewer images you share, the less your storage space, and the cheaper the cost.
– Better appreciation of your own archives
More importantly than the cost of storage space though, even if you’re very organised with filing your photo archive, the larger it becomes, the less likely you’re going to want to go back and sift through it.
It becomes the equivalent of a dusty attic space where you only open the door occasionally to ram more stuff in that you know you won’t look at for years, if ever again.
Rather than a small, easy to navigate and enjoyable archive of your very finest photography, that you return to periodically.
There are other, more minor benefits, of using small memory cards.
They’re cheaper in the first place (most of mine came free with old digital cameras I was buying for pocket money anyway), and you have fewer images to lose if one fails (perhaps a hundred images rather than thousands). Though I can’t ever recall having any memory card of any kind let me down, perhaps I’ve been lucky.
But the main points are above.
Using smaller capacity memory cards helps you be more discerning with what you decided to capture, keeps you fresher and more attentive when editing, means you have far fewer images to store and organise at the end of it, and increases your talent in the eyes of your audience.
Whilst I have a couple of 16GB SD cards I bought new years ago, the vast majority of the time I have only a 1 or 2GB card in the cameras I use, for these reasons.
I’m tempted to dig out some of the even smaller cards I have and see how a photo walk limited to the equivalent of just one roll of 35mm film would feel. That old 128MB card I have would do that, with around 24 shots.
I even have an ancient 32MB Canon SD card that’s good for a mere five shots in the Lumix LX3, and only nine in my 6MP Lumix FX10, if I wanted to get even more restrictive!
How about you? Does the size of your memory card influence how disciplined (or not) you are with your trigger finger?
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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