Success through multiple shots

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by cliveh, May 16, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I have sometimes heard it said that some famous film photographers only achieve their status by taking many shots and then selecting the best. I don’t believe this, as If this is true, then surely digital photography would have thrown up a plethora of brilliant photographers, which to-date it has not.
     
  2. donkee

    donkee Member

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    Getting out the lawnchair for this one

    :munch:
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hi clive ...

    someone with talent is able to do as you said ...
    but without talent ...
    there is still the million monkeys though ...
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    Make that "many good shots..."

    Now be a good donkee and move over some so I can sit down, too!
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I think looking at a little tiny TV set on the back of your camera disrupts your flow.

    When I used to shoot things that had a journalistic component I used to like to work up to an approach. By that I mean that I would shoot, adjust my position, shoot again and continue until I felt I had a variety to choose from, and a feeling that at least some of the results would have their own particular strength. Having, in my minds eye, a memory of a progression of results seemed to help.

    In addition, having a variety of choices allowed for the varying needs of editors in respect to placement on a page and cropping.

    Somehow the "screen" in my mind tended to be larger and clearer than the screen on the back of most digital cameras.
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Matt, I think you have hit the nail on the head here, as adjusting your position is a world away to taking multiples in the same position. Add to this timing for your position of choice and you have some of the key ingredients.
     
  7. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I'll bite at this one:

    No photographer has a 100% success rate where every picture is exactly what they want it to be or every picture is a masterpiece - Ansel Adams has between 30-40 shots which I personally think are spectacular and he had about 45,000 negative when he died. If I am really on my game, I hope to get one picture for every 200-300 shots I take, usually 1 per 400-500 shots. This does not mean that the rest are garbage but ones I am looking for are shots to hang on a wall or place in my portfolio.

    It is not that there are no good digital photographers - rather, to be a great photographer takes thousands of pictures to refine your craft. I remember a fellow telling me he took 2000 shots one weekend - however, he simply held down the shutter button and walked around which is not really taking a picture but pushing a shutter. Taking a picture is generally much more complicated than that as you need to have artistic intent from the beginning to the end, not just random button pushing. Digital is a very young medium (~10 years) and the a lot (but not all) of the photographers who use digital and make really good pictures are older film photographers who switched mediums. Show me young photographers who are exclusively digital and have always been digital and usually they are not great photographers - just like young photographers in the 1960's were not great because they have not had the opportunity to develop their craft as they needed.

    The medium one uses (whether digital or analogue) is a choice to express artistic vision and what the artist feels is best for that vision; I use film, not because I believe it is inherently superior, but because it best allows me to express my vision. Photojournalists can and do take some wonderful shots but often it is based on the volume of shots they take (an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters will eventually write Hamlet) - good photojournalists get better photos in fewer shots. Good digital photographers are out there but even my 9-year old, given a digital SLR over a year, will produce at least one great picture based on the sheer volume of shots; good photographers repeatedly take good pictures and do it in less shots than bad photographers.
     
  8. Maris

    Maris Member

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    It is true, fortunately or unfortunately. I have personally eye-witnessed this way of working, take thousands of shots and pick the gems off the contact sheets, too often to dismiss it. I have done it myself when photographing out of control situations like street demonstrations.

    The key ingredients are unlimited no-cost film, unlimited and expedited no-cost lab processing, a fast acting camera, a paying audience hungry for "candid" pictures, and most importantly the devouring obsession to keep doing it and doing it. The decisive moment, if there is one, doesn't happen at the camera-work stage but rather when the yellow wax-pencil marks the key frame on the contact sheet.

    A classic example of the genre is, of course, Henri Cartier-Bresson whose savage compulsion to expose film yielded a rare (for the times) bunch of pictures that delighted the public and the editors of the first generation of mass circulation picture magazines. Now digital picture-making can generate avalanches of images attended by no thought, no effort, and no cost and poor Henri would be swamped by today's overwhelming visual clutter. And the mass circulation picture magazines that showcased Henri's obsession are long gone too. Sure, there are brillant digital picture-makers working today but you won't see them in print. They are on your computer monitor if you can find them among the millions clamouring for your attention.
     
  9. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I call it bracketing. I've done it for decades and consider it normal practice in conditions that are marginal, doubtful or less than appealing. Others may call it learn-by-rote: nailing the image through relentless repetition. The key to getting the best shot is to edit ruthlessly, being your own cruel judge and executioner. On my lightbox at the moment I have a series of 6 images, brackets +/- 0.6 from standard metering, and cannot settle on just one for printing/matting and framing. Ultimately, it will be a blind selection, the others mothballed, only to be brought out years forward, with me thinking in hindsight, "this would have been better!" In essence, scenes should be photographed as much as possible and select the best scene.
     
  10. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I bracket my shots and choose the best. But I'm still not famous.
     
  11. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    The best photographers get lucky far more often than other, less skilled, photographers. It's a matters of ratio!! AA was not a "one-hit-wonder". :D
     
  12. batwister

    batwister Member

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    If we're going by the 10,000 hour rule, mathematically speaking, I suppose the snapper would end up with the most filing cabinets of duds, but just as many successful images as a slow and methodical photographer. That's if we're ignoring subjectivity and only go by what the curators tell us are the great images. But I think how many photographs we need to make is entirely dependent on the temperament of the photographer and type of photography they pursue... then add luck and being there!

    I think the 'shoot and hope' approach is definitely more true of photojournalists and if you look at the Magnum Contact Sheets book, it becomes clear how integral trial and error and editing are to this process. A landscape photographer may come away from a shoot with a couple of 5x4 negatives, having spent an hour composing each. His approach then depends more on clear visualisation at the shooting stage than spending hours editing post-shoot. In my mind the negative count:successes ratio is much closer with landscape photography, if your temperament and working method is suited (which means you would work more efficiently). Regardless of ability and success, I think any photojournalist would have more negatives than even the most prolific landscape photographer.

    If success in photography was totally dependent on how many images we made however, surely we could all be rich stock photographers with a bit of simple hard work?
     
  13. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    This concept has been at the front of my mind for a while. I have always been a spontaneous photographer, reacting to what I find when exploring the world that I am privileged to witness...

    As I explore, I'll see something and take one or two shots of it. Each idea gets only a few shots before I feel that I've got something in the can, and I move on...

    However... I too have heard that professionals will take many rolls of film in the span of time when I might take one. It is a professional way to assure success...

    Taking fewer shots, you risk coming away from the scene with nothing...

    And here is the thought that has been hitting me in the forehead:

    Because I didn't take a lot of pictures at the Russian River, I was forced to lower my standards when I printed the set. I selected several negatives that I would normally reject as unacceptably unsharp or with dust specks. I am genuinely pleased with the prints. But the flaws are clear and could have been avoided... if I had taken more pictures.

    I had never lowered my technical standards before... But I felt in this case by taking some of the emphasis off technical quality and focusing on idea quality for a brief time was necessary as a step towards improving the overall quality of my work.

    I am not one to go back after a scouting adventure to re-take shots. But many successful landscape photographers do that. And photographers who build sets and carefully light them, or bring in models or celebrities, or travel to far-away places... These photographers must shoot lots of film because the film is the least of the expenses...

    But me, no. I'll still restrict my usage and work carefully.
     
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  15. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Some of the most notable 35mm photographers burned through rolls, you can see it in their contact sheets. Rarely do you see more than two or more amazing pictures on a roll. I dont think you can judge someone on how good they are by the number of shots they take, it should be the end result that should be judged, be it a high or low ratio of keepers. And then even that, the act of judging an image is so subjective, one generation may hate it, another may love it, depending on societal perceptions at that point in time.

    Personally, I don't take more than 1-3 shots of a subject most of the time. You do get wrapped up sometimes and I'd just rattle off a bunch, but mostly just 1-3. I trust in myself that I would have captured what I wanted in those.
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Soon they'll just shoot video on their DSLRs, go through it frame by frame and pick out the best shots as stills.
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Adams thought he was doing well if he had a dozen a year. He was certainly exposing many more sheets of film than that.

    I think the idea is that you've got to shoot a lot to get some good ones, whether you're a great photographer or not, and a great photographer will not only have a few great ones in the pile of proof sheets, but will see their potential to be a great images from the straight proofs. Editing is part of the process, and so is the post-production, whatever the method.
     
  18. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

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    (Emphasis mine).

    I think there is some truth on the statement, if we take that "only" out of it. Taking many shots is not sufficient for good results. On the other hand, there are circumstances where it is necessary to take many shots and only after choose the winner image. Sport photography, photojournalism, fashion photography, or any kind of work involving models, rented apparati, children. Whenever humans are involved there's a degree of randomness in the final result. A good portrait can depend from a subtle change in expression of which neither the model nor the photographer were aware at the moment the picture was taken.

    This reminds me the scene in "Blow up" by Michelangelo Antonioni, when the photographer takes many pictures of the model in a fast sequence, it's obvious he's not bothered with "choosing" while taking pictures, selection will come later.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNPVjNwzTCg

    Personally, for my kind of work, I prefer doing all the editing "in camera". Post production takes a lot of time. Productivity matters. It's rare that I take two shots and then I choose one. Choosing in itself takes a lot of time. Better no alternatives than too many alternatives :wink:. Besides, careful and meditated composition, patient waiting for the pedestrian to go off-frame, or to get in-frame, is part of the image hunting pleasure.

    Fabrizio
     
  19. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I spoke with a local "photographer" who worked this way. She would take as many as 500 frames in a day (of nature scenes) with her DSLR.

    Then she would select 2 to 5 "good" frames. The trouble was, even the "good" frames were terrible, because she didn't know what a good photograph was.

    As others have pointed out, there are situations when exposing as many frames as possible is the only way to work.
     
  20. Alexis M

    Alexis M Member

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    Depends on what your shooting I guess…if it’s still you should not need to shoot several shots because you should try to visualize it first, try different angles and feel it, think about it, wait for the light etc..and even with moving subjects personally I try to anticipate…sometimes I take another shot just to have a back up neg with a really good shot. But if some think that the machine gun method serves them well, I really couldn’t care less…personally I think it’s silly but it’s their business really. When you try to make everybody feel like you do you usually get frustrated.
     
  21. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Where to begin:

    There are many avenues of photography. Product, fashion, black and white scenic, color scenic, street, sports, portrait, wedding, photojournalism.....and every one has a different technique. You may set up a food shot for days and take a couple of pictures. Fashion photography usually involves a model in motion to give the clothes movement, so they use a motor drive to be able to get a great planned/accidental shot.

    Next time you shoot a wedding party with 10 people just take one shot and see how long your career lasts. Or a football game, or a war zone. Or a 3 year old's portrait.

    So the original premise of the thread is so myopic and self centered that it makes no sense.

    The other factors are that photographers are not like surgeons where they are (supposedly) trained and when they start operating in hospitals they are already good at it. Photography takes years of practice for someone to be able to park at a scene, set up and then only need a couple of shots to nail a masterpiece. While he/she is learning they need to blast off a lot of shots to reach a point of expertise.

    So since this was intended as a film vs digital thread and large format vs 35mm sensor digital camera comparison it fails in it's simplemindedness.

    Also on that topic, a person shooting a large format camera will generally behave differently that when he's shooting a 35mm.

    Why? because he can.

    One other thing to add: if you are driving a car that can only go 50 miles an hour, it's pretty easy to drive at 50. If you have a car that can go 100 miles an hour, driving at 50 is much much harder. Takes a lot of discipline.
     
  22. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Nah..almost any car can go 100 miles an hour. But a car that can just go 100 isn't much fun at that speed. Now a car (or in my case a motorcycle) that can go say, 150...
     
  23. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    One of my fellow faculty offers an alternative assignment in his advanced class. Instead of working on a project of some sort over the course of a 16 week semester, a student may choose to shoot (develop and contact) an entire roll of 135-36 film every day. 7x16= 112 rolls, 4032 exposures in four months. This forces the student to carry the camera with them everywhere they go and look through it constantly, thus teaching them how to really see through the camera. By the end of the 16 weeks, their photographic vision through the lens is far more refined than before. The great photographers don't take one shot and leave, they shoot and shoot and shoot, then edit. The more they shoot the better they get.
     
  24. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Returning to my OP, if this is true, then surely digital photography would have thrown up a plethora of brilliant photographers, which to-date it has not. I would suggest the above exercise forces the student to shoot a film a day rather than how to see through a camera. In fact I would advocate the opposite exercise of perhaps shooting less and observing more.
     
  25. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    David Hurn says you don't just wander around shooting everything in sight. You make a list and shoot until you get everything on the list.

    On Being a Photographer by David Hurn/Magnum & Bill Jay

    http://lenswork.com/obp.htm

    The sample chapter will hook you in.
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Freeman Patterson says shoot a roll of film before you get out of bed in the morning. Shoot everything you can and learn how to "see".

    Look at common objects in a different manner.

    Battling gurus mean nothing.

    Shoot what you want, when you want. Make your own decisions.

    Being a photographer is an evolution. What you do today you may or may not have 5 years ago.

    Different camera formats equal different shooting styles. You don't shoot an 8x10 the way you shoot 35mm.
     
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