5 Tips to Take Less Photos of Everything and Take More Photos That Mean Something

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How many photos do you have from a recent holiday, that you just haven’t had time to organize? Or, have you come back from a dream vacation and your photos just don’t seem to match up with your memories? You are not alone, as this is an all too common issue, and both of these questions have their roots in a simple and easy to fix problem.

Take fewer photos, not more!

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I mean this literally, but also figuratively. Yes, overall take fewer photos. But, in reality this is a lesson in becoming more conscious of your photography. What is the point of the photo? Why are you clicking the shutter at that moment?

You may have heard many times, that in the era of digital cameras, you can shoot your heart’s desire (a.k.a. until your SD or CF card is full), unlike with film which needed to be developed and only had a limited number of photos on each roll. While that is true, it is not true that more photos equals better photos. Well, you may have also heard that professional photographers shoot hundreds, or thousands, of photos just to get one or several good ones. That is also true, but they are first and foremost shooting with a purpose. Literally shooting less will allow you to discover your point of view, and thus figuratively you will shoot less of everything, and more of something.

Here are five tips on how to take less quantity of photos but more compelling ones

Tell more stories

The story could be your personal story or could be of something else, but most important is that you communicate with your photos. If you are always shooting, you cannot create; you simply react. Creating a balance between creating and reacting will give you storytelling abilities. Be proactive by finding a place with good leading lines and waiting, not by rushing and hoping that one of your clicks is a keeper. Think about a beginning, middle, and an end. This can be easily depicted with shots at different focal lengths like a wide-angle (image above), a close-up (below), and finally a full-frame scene. The process of storytelling is something we have all grown up with – get back to it. Remember, the more simple the story, the more universal it can be.

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Close-up gives direction.

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Full-frame concludes the events.

Give yourself some time to write (in a travelogue or in a diary)

This gives you an opportunity to reflect, which gives meaning and helps you find purpose. Looking at your own writing helps you realize your patterns day by day, or travel experience by travel experience. Identifying structure will help you select moments and behaviours that lend themselves to your style of photography. You may see yourself getting up late despite your desire to have better golden hour photos, or that you feel more creative in the afternoon so you can set aside time to create your photographic stories when others are resting. You will also love reading what you write in 10 years!

Curb your fleeting feeling

Time is limited and you might just miss the moment. For a photographer, this manifests itself in too many photos, and too little purpose. The reality is you are always going to miss something, you can’t be in two places at the same time, and you definitely can’t turn back the clock. But that doesn’t mean that you must give in to the fleeting feeling. Let the event occur, or the scene develop, and visualize what you want from it. Be selective about your vision and then get it, not all of it. Three meaningful photos outweigh thirty so-so snapshots. You have worked hard for your days off and money saved for leisure; enjoy it and enjoy being productive with your photography.

Create a concept and stick to it. Resist pulling out your camera immediately.

This can be an exercise in patience and restraint. Buildings are not going anywhere, rivers will stay their course, and the coffee shop will always have another interesting customer. Find your concept in a developing scene, whether it is the arches of a building, reflections of the water, or a pair of hearty hands sipping a hot beverage. Know that your vision is attainable. Your concept can be simple or complicated, modern or traditional, but only needs to be defined and pursued by you. Just do it with conviction and don’t measure your concept against others. Go for it!

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Creating a concept.

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Slight variation of shooting through a window and making it B&W.

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Going back to the concept and color to provide continuity.

Philosophically you will never find what you are looking for…

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “If it will happen, it will no matter your actions; if it will not happen, it will not no matter what you do.”. There are many circumstances which seem to be too peculiar to be a coincidence, and as a photographer these are the moments of pure brilliance. Be present for them; don’t chase after them. There is a whole world of events that are unfolding in front of us at each moment. Your awareness of them is subject to your willingness to be aware of them, not the existence of them.

Photography and traveling have always gone hand in hand. Both have ways of opening up new horizons and being in touch with new possibilities. Both are essential. Spend some time with an ethos of travel, a perspective of photography, and a philosophy of life – and watch your photos tell a story that speaks to the hearts and minds of more than just a few close friends. Instead of having photos sitting unedited, unorganized, and undiscovered; take less photos of everything and take more photos of something. Create a convergence between your photos and your ideas. Less really is more, especially when a photo is worth a thousand words.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Branson Quenzer has chased bygone eras in a vastly changing Chinese landscape for over a decade. He has a Master’s Degree in Economics, whereby he uses a paradigm of seeing the world through a system of interlinking processes and changes, to explore photography and the world. Please visit his website to see more or contact him through Facebook.

  • I like the way which have u written and also that’s article sound good! thanks for sharing the great information with us.

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  • Adrienne
  • Branson Quenzer

    Thank you very much Abhinav.

  • Anjie

    You’ve got a point! So difficult to stop and analyze, though.

    I like your point of view and way of communicating, too!

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  • Branson Quenzer

    Anjie, thanks for the feedback. I must admit that sometimes I also pull out my camera quick too, hehe.

  • Mario Dennis

    I’ve never been impressed by photographers who brag about taking 1,000 shots in a day. There can’t be much creative thought going on.

  • Branson Quenzer

    Difficult to create, enjoy and be present in a situation if you are rapid firing your gelato guess if you feel you can do all of it, go for it! I can’t.

  • PrMaine

    The only reasons I can think of for taking so many exposures involve motion – repeatedly taking 100 shots of some rapidly moving subject at high speed, hoping one will capture the perfect instant. The other might be for time-lapse photography.

  • Good article making important points. One of the reasons I have returned to film photography alongside my digital is precisely because it slows you down and makes you think more about what you are actually photographing.

  • Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic

    You have put this into words so beautifully! It goes far beyond photographic craft but I believe you know that 🙂

  • Branson Quenzer

    Absolutely, and that could be said for more than just photography. Thanks! Hope you are getting to hang your film prints somewhere.

  • Branson Quenzer

    Special occasions always deserve alternative approaches. Thanks for adding two ideas about creating meaningful photography with many photos!

  • Branson Quenzer

    Appreciate it! For more on similar ideas but maybe better said please check out… https://digital-photography-school.com/building-cultural-friendships-with-photography/

    Thanks

  • PaulL

    I’m still confused by what you mean when you say “tell a story”

    The narrative structure of a story traditionally has an arc. There is a situation, complication, turning point and resolution.

    How do the images above do that. I get how they can help illustrate a story, but first we need to know the story and that for me seems to be missing

  • One of the profound article on photography iv read recently. Keep it up. Cheers

  • Branson Quenzer

    Maybe illustrate a story would have been a better choice of words, but maybe portray would have been too. The point is to have a point, and if a photographer doesn’t, then it is easy to shoot everything and nothing at the same time.
    Thanks!

  • Branson Quenzer

    Thanks, I appreciate it! What aspect stick you most?

  • Philosophical aspect along with the story telling part. Cheers

  • Branson Quenzer

    Very cool! These ideas are also touched on in another one of my articles. You can get it here https://digital-photography-school.com/building-cultural-friendships-with-photography/

  • I agree 100% with the idea of writing, verbalizing, putting words around your photos to give them some sort of narrative order, be it through a diary or blog. I find this a very useful way to sharpen the culling process and to see the images in a wider, richer way, as stories rather than as isolated captures. Ever since I started my photoblog 2.5 years ago this has helped me grow and be more self conscious about my own work.

  • Branson Quenzer

    Thanks! What is one aspect that you look through to delete (not keep). I agree, it is easy to keep, but difficult to see the meaning. I respect your idea of being self conscious in a positive way about photography… Being self conscious is very different than having lie esteem in photography. Great concept!

  • sachin

    it;s not hundred percent idea is nice but mind behind this idea is great Govt jobs news

  • Sydney

    Thanks for these ideas! I just read a Chatbooks blog post that I think would fit really well with this – it’s a 52 week photo challenge! https://chatbooks.com/52-week-photo-challenge/

  • Sophie Snack

    Branson, can you please explain more about “creating a concept”? This is the only point I am not sure about. The rest are great tips. Thanks. Sophie

  • Sophie Snack

    Sorry Branson, all clear, I think having a temperature didn’t help much that day. Thanks for those tips. I needed those guidelines to get it right on the field. As a newbie it feels you need to shoot all the things that attract your attention, which is only distracting you from you photography goal (storytelling, communicating through your photos). Until now it was hard to prioritise. Now I know what to do and how to behave. Thanks again.

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