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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.