Shoot Less, Think More: 4 Ways to Take Fewer But Better Images

By Jason Row / June 28, 2014

While digital photography has revolutionized the way we take photos by leveling the field for everyone to get decent images, that very revolution has brought with it some frustrating and indeed disturbing new trends. Perhaps the worst of all, is the desire by some people to photograph everything, all of the time. Ever been to a concert, these days? More often than not you cannot see the show for the sea of iPads filming and photographing it. Take a trip anywhere touristic these days and you are likely to be jostled constantly by over zealous snap shooters trying to take a shot of that entirely engrossing piece of Roman wall or Greek coins. Now we as photographers are not so guilty of this, however many of us do take too many photographs. Today we are going to have a look at why you should shoot less, and how that might improve your photography.

Use the Smallest Memory Card

The primary reason that shooting less can improve your abilities is simple, it slows you down and makes you think. With a digital camera, it is far too easy to fire away at a subject, our minds wandering to the next image before we have even taken the last. Now, you might think that to reduce the number of images we take we are going to need a lot of willpower. However, there is one or two very simple tips that will aid this.

The first is to take the smallest memory card you own, you can even purchase a smaller card if you need. In itself, this size limitation will force you to think carefully about the composition and technical aspects of each shot, making every press of the shutter count. It will, of course, still require a lot of will power not to delete images to make space, and that brings us to the second option – use film.

Take only your smallest memory card. Image by James Bowe

Try Film – 36 Attempts Only

There are a multitude of wonderful film cameras on the market these days for stupidly low prices. Nikonistas can buy superb pro level film cameras and still use their current lenses on the old bodies for less than a couple of hundred dollars. Putting a film in a camera and going out to shoot will change the entire way you perceive photography, when you understand every shot you take will cost you money, and that the film in your camera is only going to give you 36 attempts and no deletions, you truly start to put a value on a photograph.

This is something that I believe is truly missing from photography these days. Whilst we will not be able to instill that value to the greater, non photographic public, by instilling it in yourself through taking less shots, you will find yourself taking more thoughtful, better composed and technically improved images.

Film is Captured Forever
Shoot film. Image by Leland Francisco

Switch to Manual Modes

A further aid to reducing you image taking quantities is to switch off all your auto modes. Flip that lens switch from A to M, move from Shutter or Aperture Priority to Manual, put your camera in single shot mode rather than continuous. Now, for some, when you hit the streets or the studio every shot you take is going to seem difficult and this is a good thing.

You will need to think about the light, its type and direction, about the subject and composition, about what shutter speed you are going to need and how the depth of field is going to look depending on your aperture. All of this takes time, slows you down, stimulates the grey matter and greatly increases your ability to understand the true art of photography, the perpetual balancing act between all of these elements to get the perfect shot.

Go manual. Image by m.toyama

Use a Tripod

There is one final addition to help you reduce an excessive image output is to use a tripod. They are cumbersome, awkward things to use at the best of times but not only will they slow you down and reduce the number of images you take but they will eliminate the possibilities of camera shake, improving your image quality further.

Use a tripod. Image by darkophoto

By combining all or some of these techniques, you will find your photography improves noticeably, with the added bonus that you will consume less hardrive space on your computer and have less post production to do.

Lastly, think of the satisfaction that you will feel when one of your peers on a photo shoot boasts about how he or she took 850 shots today and asks how many you took. You can look them in the eye and say, “I took only 24, but each one of them is a keeper”.


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About the author

Jason Row

Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. His images have been licensed to companies such as Cunard, Ethiad and Virgin Atlantic as well as multiple newspapers and magazines. As well as shooting stills he is now creating travel stock video in 4K. He maintains a travel stock photography site at Jason Row Photography You can also catch up with him on Instagram at Jason Row Photography

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