I think I shoot too few photos

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by jakeblues, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. jakeblues

    jakeblues Member

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    Hi all,

    Recently, I've found myself getting back a lot of disappointing rolls of film. I don't think it's dissatisfaction, or that I'm getting better and just can't see my own progress. I think I'm shooting too few photos.

    Over the last year, I've had a strong desire to get back rolls of film that are dense with great photos. I shoot fairly sparely (often only shooting 2 to 5 well thought-out photos of a location, event, or subject). As you can guess, it takes me a long time to finish rolls of film, often a week to a month. I have 2 main camera systems (and 2 bodies for each system), so a particular film will often sit in a camera, half finished, until another appropriate event for that film will come along.

    Part of this obsessively spare shooting is that I don't want to throw money away. I might compose a photo, and then not shoot it because I suspect it might not turn out to be a good or great photo. But I've been noticing some weird habits with my shooting, too. The other day, I finished a roll of film, and as I was walking back to my car, I dry-fired my camera a bunch, at different things (I didn't have another roll with me to load up). I remember thinking, "actually some of these photos I'm NOT taking are more interesting than the ones I just took!"

    Needless to say, the results have been disappointing. While I'll occasionally get a roll back that's pretty saturated with good stuff, I feel the overall effect of all of this thought and care has been a decline in the quality of each roll, not an increase.

    What's wrong with me? Am I letting fear control my photography? Or simply going through a dry spell?
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    We all have different ways of working. If shooting more works better for you so be it, you are far from the only one.

    As to the cost, I regularly spend more getting to and from a shoot than I spend on the film.

    Yes film and developing has a real cost but it is a really small part of my cost in the grand scheme of things.
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Photography like driving a car cannot be learned by reading a book or posts; it is learned hands on by making mistakes. Take more than one photograph of each subject, but vary the position, composition and if necessary the exposure.

    A common mistake that is made is not moving close enough to the subject to isolate it from distractions.

    If the photographs are consistently flat in contrast, then you may want to open up one-half or one f/stops.
     
  4. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG!
     
  5. jakeblues

    jakeblues Member

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    I should clarify and say that the cost plays a merely psychological role. I'm lucky enough to have a good day job.

    The real desire that I think might be getting in the way is the desire to create a "magic" roll of film where every shot is great.
     
  6. j-dogg

    j-dogg Subscriber

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    I drove 210 miles the other day to take 3 pictures.

    Less is more.
     
  7. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    If you're new at this, you definitely should shoot more. You can't make much progress shooting a roll, or two, a month.

    Give up on the "magic roll of film". It ain't happenin' (but, if it did, you'd be the first)...
     
  8. Felinik

    Felinik Member

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    Get a bulk loader and buy bulk rolls + cartridges from freestylephoto, will take your film costs down so you can afford to shoot more.

    Enjoy!
     
  9. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Give yourself at least one roll of film for an event, place, or length of time...hopefully short. Short so you can get it processed and you can look at your work before the memory of exposing the film becomes too dim. And an 'excess' of film will help perhaps to find a few interesting images that you take to just finish the roll.

    Or just walk around with an empty camera and 'take' pictures. Fine practice!
     
  10. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Hi,

    Welcome to APUG.

    I believe film is the least expensive part of photography. You can get Arista Premium 400 (which is really a Tri-X) for less than 3 dollars a roll. Processing is cheap if you are doing it yourself. If color, you could take it to a warehouse club and have it done inexpensively also.

    I agree, one may not want to randomly shoot frames after frames but if you don't shoot what you think it *might* be interesting, you will never know what you have missed or more importantly, how you can do it better next time. I plan to shoot at least a complete roll per trip/event/visit - and hopefully a few rolls.

    I don't know your financial situation but you've probably spent enough money for your equipment. You got to put some rolls through and make full use of it/them. We often have folks (myself included) dumping excess/older/expired film in classified section. I've also seen local stores simply dumping exiting inventory. You just got to watch for them and grab them.

    In another word, SHOOT!
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    +1
     
  13. garysamson

    garysamson Subscriber

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    Are you photographing with a theme or project in mind? Identify something you are passionate about and establish a point of view and then photograph it extensively. I can easily expose 20 rolls of 120 film in a day when I am photographing something that I am truly interested in and working the idea through. Robert Frank shot about 27,000 images to come up with the final edit of the Americans!
     
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  15. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Try using only one camera, lens and a single film such as Tri-X. It's hard to take good pictures if there are too many variables. Previsualize your photos -- not everything you see is worth photographing. Some people find it helpful to give themrselves a theme before starting out. Such as today I'm going to photograph old buildings, trains, etc. Then stick to your theme.
     
  16. Matthew Wagg

    Matthew Wagg Member

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    I feel your pain. I too often end up with shots left over from a roll of film and worry about wasting them on trivial shots. It's at this point that I've found that 24 shot rolls are better for me. Obviously the best way around it is like has already been said, shoot bulk film. But have you considered that medium or large format might be better suited to your style of working? Mf gives between 10 and 15 shots per roll and Lf is single shots for each exposure. Might be worth checking out.
     
  17. jakeblues

    jakeblues Member

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    That's pretty interesting. All of the photography I've done up to this point has been incidental. I know from my experience in other art forms that a theme or idea to work through is where all the progress is made. Thanks for this.
     
  18. jakeblues

    jakeblues Member

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    I do have a Mamiya 645 that I have run a few rolls through. Same problem up to this point. But the idea of shooting for a project might open up the creative possibilities. Up till now the goal has been "photos I like" which is way too broad. And also, sometimes I just get bored shooting my life and friends.
     
  19. jakeblues

    jakeblues Member

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    Another good suggestion. I've been shooting about 10 cameras and 5-6 favorite films. I also like the suggestion of previsualizing... I've never done that, and I could see how it would get my creative juices flowing.

    By the way, this forum rocks. Very refreshing advice. I was on another forum the other day, and someone started a thread to say what lens he (she) was saving up for next. I think that thread was more art than it intended to be.
     
  20. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    In 30+ years of taking pictures I've never had a roll dense with great photos.

    I never know whether or when good pictures will come. It's not something I can make happen through force of will. The only way I have to get to them is to go with the flow, and keep making more pictures.

    What keeps me going as I wait for the good ones is that I enjoy the process. I like playing with cameras. I still get a little thrill every time I pull a freshly-developed roll off the reel or sheet from the drum, and hold the negatives up to the light to see what I have. I love the look of silver prints - even when I end up deciding that none of a given darkroom session's results is worth anything, and I toss everything. That happens a lot.

    Find the tools and materials you enjoy using, and have fun!
     
  21. jcoldslabs

    jcoldslabs Member

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    I shoot large format now, but back when I shot roll film I considered it a success if I had one image that I thought was quite good per roll of 36, if that. To each his own, but you might be expecting too much of yourself....or you're just THAT good and having an off couple of months. ;]

    Jonathan
     
  22. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    I don't take that many photos aswell, usually 1-2 of a subject/scene before I move on. Until you get more comfortable with knowing when you got the shot, just carry an extra roll or two and shoot more. Try carrying two bodies, one with low speed and one with high speed film to help you take advantage of situations you are around since you shoot your rolls at a slower pace.

    Set a goal, or checklist of things you want to capture that day and try hitting it when you go out. but the most important thing is to just have fun with it, do not be disappointed with outcomes from your first few rolls, it is ultimately a tool for learning and no one gets a full roll of keepers.
     
  23. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    When some one is unhappy with their photographs it may be a problem with composition. There is a set of rules that artists have developed over the centuries. The one rule of composition most often quoted is the Rule of Thirds, but there are others that are very useful.

    Another concept that is helpful is to reduce an image to its essentials. Anyone can take a picture of a horse but it is important to represent the essential horse. Such a photograph should convey the idea of what it means to BE a horse. What a horse feels, how he reacts to his surroundings, etc. I use a horse as an example but I think that everyone will grasp the concept.
     
  24. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I never have more than two cameras ready to go at a time. I don't want too much film sitting around. Sitting in the darkroom waiting for processing is OK, but sitting in the camera unused isn't what it's for. If you have lots of film to use, that's helpful too. I've got half a freezer full. I don't mind pulling out a pro-pack and breaking into it. I stocked up incase the kodak bankruptcy went bad for us. If I only had a couple rolls, I'd be hesitant to use it as well.

    I mostly use one film too; tmax 400, as it's fine enough grain to be a replacement for slower film in normal conditions, and sensitive enough for lower light conditions. Sticking with one film will help you get the look you want as you learn how it handles scenes and colors. Other people might be fine with a traditionally grained 400 film; plenty of choices, but you should settle on a choice at some point if you want more quality shots per roll.

    I'd support the suggestions to shoot at least a roll per event / outing. I shot 1 roll of 120 during a 1/3 mile walk the other day... I expect at least two quality photos worth printing per roll. Sometimes I have 5-6, sometimes 1.

    Blasphemous suggestion; shoot digital for a little while to get over the hesitation to press the shutter. You can get lots of nicely made expiremental photos of excellent composition, but lacking the style/aesthetic/range of analog. Still a good learning experience. When I use digital, I shoot more than analog, but less than the people brought up on digital who will spend the whole night "editing" because they shot too much.
     
  25. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It is very good advice. If you look at most photographers who get recognized, it's because they have a clear vision of what they are trying to accomplish, and then go accomplish it. Just taking 'nice pictures' might satisfy your own tastes, but if you'd like to challenge yourself and really accomplish something that tells a story, it's great to work with a theme.
    It takes real discipline to do this, but in a way it rewards you too, because when you shoot with a theme in mind, you eliminate a lot of noise, such as trying to capture everything that looks cool. You also will see the world you're photographing in a different way, interpreted through the theme you have in mind. This makes your effort more focused.

    But still, it's probably false expectation to hope for a perfect roll of film. In my years as a photographer I feel that a 'hit rate' of 10-20% on each roll of film is pretty good success, and fairly normal.

    Finally, it's good to practice; practice makes perfect. There's nothing wrong with being selective in what you shoot; in fact I think it's sometimes good to be contemplative. But at the same time lots of good photographs are happenstance, magical moments that float by, never to reappear or to be recreated. You don't have time to be contemplative in those moments, but you have to be prepared to react and do something worthwhile with it. So it also makes sense to work with your emotions, inclinations, and trying to recognize those special moments, while doing something worthwhile with them, and that will likely require a bit more than two rolls a month, possibly more like two rolls per hour or more... :smile:

    Good luck in your endeavor! Have fun, focus your efforts, and don't be afraid to explore the lessons learned with the frames that did not turn out great.
     
  26. jglass

    jglass Subscriber

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    I feel your pain, esp. the cost of color film/processing. BUT:

    "If I knew how to take a good photograph, I'd do it every time" - Robert Doisneau

    Ansel Adams was said to have been happy if he had 12 or 1 (?) good photo a year (something like that). Although he was a large format dude, Doisneau I believe was a 35mm shooter.

    I think your expectations may be too high! A single roll of film "dense w/ good photos" happens to me about . . . once. Period. Ever. And there were a lot of "good" ones on that roll bcs. most of them were my kids . . . so "good" only subjectively. And I'm no Doisneau. If I get one image per 36 shots I'm REAL happy.

    Lower your expectations a bit and burn that film, man. It's the only way to learn.