December 3, 2008

When Not To Photograph

We’ve all been through it. You head out on the family vacation, very excited about the chance to make some striking new images of a new place. But then you find out all the tours leave at Noon and the venues are all crowded.

Or you head off to photograph that nice field of flowers only to realize that today is very windy.

Sometimes, as hard as it might be, the best photograph to make is no photograph.

Bad light is always going to be bad light. And as we used to say, “The slides won’t get any better sitting in the drawer.” The same rule applies to memory cards.
You won’t have much chance of shooting an award winning landscape at Noon during the summer in bright light, nor will your flower photos look good when the high winds cause so much movement you couldn’t get any subject sharp.

So don’t shoot. Chalk up the experience as valuable in some other way. Don’t measure your success on that outing by how many photos you made. Instead, use the time to simply enjoy your surroundings without regard for photography, and try again another day.

It can actually be counterproductive to shoot in terrible conditions. It can leave you frustrated and demoralized and I’ve seen it actually zap people’s passion for photography.

Better to wait for the right conditions and improve your chances for success than to force something that just won’t work no matter what you do.

So avoid high contrast situations, poor lighting, or opportunities where weather harms (rather than enhances) your shot. Wait for the best light, look for the best background, find the willing subject and then shoot. Otherwise, just scout or enjoy the day. Your keepers will go up and your frustration will go down.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store