Interviewing a number of photographers this year has made me realize that one of the best ways to actually become a better photographer isn’t to necessarily shoot more like many photographers will tell you to, but to instead shoot less and think more critically and carefully about every single photo that you take. Indeed, a photographer who thinks carefully about each photo that they shoot (in terms of exposure, composition, elements, and overall look) will overall shoot less than someone simply just spraying and praying machine gun style, hoping that each image will yield something better than the last one.
A model that we often shoot for the site recently told me that I’m unlike many other photographers. I know exactly what I want, I shoot it, and I’m done. Others tend to just shoot and shoot and shoot. Folks that have joined me me during my photo walks also say the same thing.
The photographer that sprays and prays will overall come away with more work, but chances are highly against them that they will want to display every single image in their portfolio. To be specific, I’m talking about a photographer presenting their portfolio in an attempt to actually gain better photography work–not someone simply just uploading to their Flickr or 500px.
At first though, it is important that the photographer shoots as much as possible. This photographer will need to shoot over and over and over again to realize this. Like many things in life, the mistakes that you make are often the best teacher.
But you’ll need to consistently make these mistakes over and over again to realize that you’re making them. Once you’ve learned from all of your mistakes, you’ll begin to incorporate what you’ve learned into each image that you shoot.
This is when you’ll not only start to think more carefully about each photo, but you’ll also become much more adept at developing ideas and your own creative vision. Your creative vision will become second nature as you start to develop a new creative process.
These concepts and ideas need to be very well thought out–perhaps even story boarded. And you’ll need to spend much more time developing your scene than shooting a million images to get the one right one.
Film photographers knew this from the start. It has to do with having a more discerning eye and careful attention to details.
Now, I’m nowhere near being amongst the greatest photographers in history. But I’ve also learned that the key to shooting less has to do with being inspired by many things around you and also looking at the work of others. Overall, it’s not necessarily about creating the image, but feeling the image and finding a way to translate that feeling into something in a RAW file or on film. And again, you can only do this by shooting a lot when you start out and by making loads and loads of mistakes.
But with time, you’ll begin to shoot less and make fewer mistakes. These fewer mistakes will still happen, and they will make you look even more critically at your work. Eventually, you’ll get everything that you want in a single frame.