On being more selective

On being more selective

Quality vs. quantity

I used to shoot everything, and I mean everything.  If I was somewhere and found something even mildly interesting, I would shoot it, then move around and shoot it again, then move and shoot, move and shoot, move and shoot.  I would come home with a LOT of photos, and partially judge the success of the outing by how many photos I took.  At the time, I was focused on quantity more than quality (sadly).

However, many of these were not interesting photos and they were all shots of the same thing, with slight variances.  Although I may have taken a lot of photos, I didn’t necessarily accomplish anything, artistically speaking.  I also probably didn’t always know what I was doing.  Often, it was spray and pray.

But over the last year and a half (or something like that - this isn’t exactly on my calendar) I have found that I am becoming much more selective about my shots, and when I take one I have something specific in mind (usually).  I regularly pass up things I would have shot in the past. I just walk by and don’t bother.  It used to bother me if I missed something, but not anymore.

So what happened?

It’s a few things, really.  Although I am a fan of taking a lot of photos and sharing lots of your work (and not just your sure winners, as I discussed here), I am thinking more about the end result when I am out shooting.  I am asking myself “is this a photo I would want to look at?”.  I used to never do that.  I just shot, shot, shot.

My tastes have changed as well.  I have my go-to subjects that I love: street scenes and cityscapes, architecture, sunrise/sunset/blue hour to name a few.  I also love bridges.  Everybody loves landscapes (the trick is finding some you want to shoot, that you can actually get to easily enough, then hopefully showing up when the light is perfect).  

I have really gotten away from some things I used to aim my camera at: flowers is the first one that comes to mind.  I can’t remember the last time I took a photograph of a flower.  It’s been ages.  Another one is small architectural elements.  I used to get shots of little things like that all the time.  I don’t anymore.  For a while I wanted a macro lens, and I really appreciate a great macro when I see it.  I just don’t have any interest in taking them myself anymore.  It’s not my thing.

And perhaps more than anything else, the reason for this change is due to my major addiction to my wide angle lens.  I just love that thing!  And if you have one, you will know that when you look through that thing, it really changes how you look at everything.  Now I view almost everything from the perspective of a wide angle shot.  It totally changed my photography...hopefully for the better. :-)

The quest for blog material

I think my habits in the past came down to this: I had a deep-rooted need to grow my library, because I needed raw material for the blog.  I needed photos to process, so that I had photos to share.  I basically wanted and needed to grow my library.  If you don’t have new photos to work on and share, what are you going to put on your photo blog, Jim?

But since I was shooting sort of aimlessly, I ended up with lots of photos that were only so-so and lacked interest (at least in my opinion).  They were just photos of something, or anything.  There was no purpose, other than documenting something that I saw.  There is nothing wrong with taking and sharing photos that you don’t consider a sure winner - I do that all the time.

But of course you want more and more of your shots to be winners, and that is my aim just as it is everyone else’s.  I guess I am trying to evolve both my approach and my outcome.

Things are changing…or technically, they already have changed. 

My library is plenty large now, and I have a backlog of photos from lots of different cities around the world that I haven’t even looked at in months, and I suspect there are some good ones in there (ok, I know for sure there are some good ones in there).  Now I am not planning to stop shooting or traveling in order to catch up.  In fact, I prefer not to catch up.  It’s more fun for me that way.  I will still take a lot of shots.

But I have definitely slowed down in terms of my shooting.  Now I am thinking about quality, not quantity.  I want a full library, but I want it to be full of something that is beautiful, or interesting, or preferably both.  I want quality photos in there just waiting to see the light of day.  I am not interested in “filler” any more.

Not a lot of “small stuff” for me

So, I seek out the cool, beautiful, interesting stuff and try to photograph that.  I skip what I consider the “small stuff”.  There’s nothing wrong with small stuff – I’ve seen incredible photos of everyday things.  I’m always blown away when I see something common presented in an interesting and original way.  Anything can be beautiful, if photographed right.  It’s just not my thing right now.  I’m in a different phase, I guess.  And I have to admit, I don’t think I was very good at that sort of photography.

And by the way, some of the things that I shoot now would be considered “small stuff” by someone else.  For example, when I am in Europe, I love to shoot their train stations.  I am fascinated by them.  Someone else might just want to shoot a grand landscape or cityscape, and consider a train station too mundane for their tastes.  That’s cool, I get it.  To each his own.

I first noticed this trend with my iPhone, actually.  I have taken thousands of iPhone shots over the last couple of years.  I’m not exaggerating either.  The storage on my iPhone got nearly full, so I pulled a few thousand photos off of it…then filled it up again.  I cleaned it out a few months ago, and while it is growing back up in size, it’s not growing as quick.  I’ve slowed down there, too.  

So what does all this mean?

I’m not sure what it means.  For sure it means I am taking fewer photos, but hopefully the ones I do take are more meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or something like that.  I definitely do not feel the need to just take any photo now.  I’m looking for specific things that catch my attention.  I want to be inspired.

To be clear, I still take a LOT of photos on a trip.  On my recent trip to Germany, I returned with about 2500 shots.  So it’s not like I am cutting it down to a small amount, it’s just that more thought and planning are going into those that I do take.

It also means the library will not grow as quickly, but again that’s ok with me, because I don’t want to fill it up for the sake of filling it up.  I want cool stuff in there.  Plus, that means it won’t take as long to back up my hard drive.  :-)

And lastly, I guess it means I am maturing as a photographer.  I know what I like to shoot, and what I am not as interested in shooting.  I can tell if something is going to look good as a photo, before I take the photo.  I am finding my rhythm.  I am getting in my groove.  I know what I like to blog about.  I know what inspires me.  I know the style of processing that I like to take with a photo, way before it’s time to process the photo.  

In other words, I’m getting better and my focus is improving.  :-)  Thanks for listening.