Oct 10

A Tale of Two Photographers

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief…

I know two photographers. Each is experienced, knowledgeable, and has a wealth of excellent photos attesting to their skill with a camera. But if you send them both out to take pictures for a couple of hours, one will come back with three hundred photos; the other with fifteen. This demonstrates two widely used but disparate approaches to photography.

The one who takes three hundred photos will claim that digital photography is essentially free and so why not take more photos? You never know what might work or when you will luck into that unique photo that everyone loves. He looks with amusement at the photographer who only comes back with fifteen pictures, claiming perhaps that he would do better to experiment more; capture the ephemeral moment; be less rigid.

The other who comes back with fifteen picture says the he is applying his knowledge to a situation and takes the time to properly set up every shot and so avoids a plethora of throw away images to sort through. He looks with disdain at the three hundred picture photographer, citing his lack of focus and knowledge of the craft, claiming perhaps that his successes are more a matter of luck than skill and he should be more disciplined.

Myself, I take the middle ground. Some shots I take great care to set up or create according to some inner vision; other times I try to capture the moment and hence the feel of spontaneity. I don’t do either of these approaches as well as these other fellows. I come back with perhaps 150 photos – some casual, some set up; most not worth keeping.

The thing is: we all end up with around the same number of good shots. We all took about the same amount of time. We all had a good time and felt good about our photography. So who’s right? We all are. There’s no best way to do photography, just as there is no best way to photograph a scene. If it bugs you that someone else takes a different approach then perhaps you shouldn’t shoot photos with them. On the other hand, maybe that’s exactly what you need to do. Maybe what you need is to break your patterns, try something new, and you just might learn something in the process.

So here’s my challenge to you: Try a new methodology. If you normally take the shotgun approach, then spend an afternoon searching for a worthy subject, thinking about the shot and setting it up carefully. If you are the careful, methodical type then try taking an afternoon and shooting from the hip – catch those fleeting moments and try for those lucky happenstances. And if you’re the guy in the middle, then pick a method and stick with it for the afternoon. Maybe you won’t like it. Maybe you’ll come back without a single keeper. But maybe you’ll learn something – about photography; about yourself.

One of the great things about photography is there is so much to see and so many ways of seeing things. If you see someone taking a different approach – especially if you like their results – take the time to learn from them and share your approaches in return. We all have things to share and we will all be the wealthier for it.

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