(Up To) One Photograph Is Enough

I’m often curious about the different kind of angles companies use to try to sell us stuff.

Especially stuff we don’t need.

A common poster seen in shops here is a number in a huge font taking up most of the available space, with a percentage sign next to it, and “off” written beside.

For example, 75% off.

What you usually don’t see without much closer inspection is the tiny words “up” and “to” in the top left of the poster.

So rather than the sale offering every item with 75% off the full price, it’s only stating the absolute maximum discount.

There may be a few items at 75% off, but most likely there’ll also be far more at only 50 or 25 or 10% off, obviously of progressively decreasing appeal to the discerning bargain hunter.

Usually there’ll also be some other disclaimer in very small print, like “selected lines only”, making the offer less attractive still, and in my view, decidedly more deceitful than it first appears to be.

With photography, we’re better off being far more honest and direct with ourselves than the advertisers are.

Instead of saying something like “up to 100% of the photographs I make today will be amazing”, we’re perhaps advised to go more with “making up to one photograph that I’m proud of today is enough”.

Note that “up to one” states one as the maximum, and also includes zero in its range.

In other words, coming home with just one photograph we love from any single photo walk is an excellent reward.

More important in my eyes, is the experience of seeking out and capturing photographs.

So I’m not talking about machine gun shooting the camera to try to increase our chances of capturing at least one decent image from the resulting hundreds.

This is about carefree photography, not careless photography.

It’s about lowering our expectations of the outcome, slowing down and leaning in to the experience. Optimising the sensory, emotional, even spiritual moments that photography can bring us.

And if we do come home with (up to) one photograph that makes us feel a warm glow inside as well, then what a bonus!

How about you? What are your typical expectations when you head out on a photowalk? And how do you weigh up the value of any photowalk, after it’s over?

As always, 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 “(Up To) One Photograph Is Enough”

  1. Yep; “up to” starts at zero.
    Right now I’m batting about that because I’m testing the old lenses I got in my recent purchase deal, and most of them are seriously disappointing. The kind of “go back and see if you missed the grease all over the lens” disappointing.
    I never set out with expectations. You come away happier that way, especially if you get even one good picture.

    1. Yes it starts at zero and often ends there, especially on shorter photowalks, or those where you know the light is poor and uninspiring but you just want to get out anyway and use a camera.

      What ‘s happening with the new (old) batch of lenses then, are they not as good as you’d hoped or do you meant they’re damaged/dirty in some way?

      1. A couple of the lenses are as disappointing as I expected, a couple are worse, one is really bad. But some are very good. I sort of evaluated them before use and tried them out in order starting with what I thought would be the worst. Couple of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant.

      2. I’ve had similar experiences over the years, and actually it’s nearly always been the most expensive lenses that have been disappointing and the cheap (and even partly broken) ones that have please me most. I think for me there is a strong link between what I spend and what my expectations are, so buying dead cheap I’m much more likely to be impressed!

  2. I’ve come back from a photo walk to find out that I had zero keepers. More than once.
    At other times I had over a couple dozen!
    So I set out to have no expectations other than to enjoy the process itself – of walking and trying to see beautiful light and then capturing it. If I didn’t see anything good – and that might just be me not being in the right mindset – it’s still ok, at least I was outside doing something fun.

    1. Chris, yes sometimes there’s just magic at work, the light is beautiful and it all just falls into place. Other times it feels like you couldn’t make a half decent photo even if your life depended on it.

      Absolutely agree about the walking, it’s the main purpose of all of my walks really, and if I have a camera with me and get some good shots it’s just the icing on the cake.

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