Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

With today’s cameras, capable of 12, 13 even 15 frames per second, it’s easy to rack up memory card after memory card full of images. And there’s evidence that is what’s happening. The memory makers are building bigger and bigger cards for a reason – people want more storage. How much do you shoot at each location? Digital is nearly free, so today, we’re not as conscious of how many frames we capture at any one event.

But back in the day, when it cost a quarter to make a slide, we used to be more cautious. We had to buy film, pay to process it, store it, etc.

Now you can shoot thousands of frames per hour with only the cost of a hard drive to store them on, or for less a CD ROM or DVD.

So, we’ve gotten lazy. We shoot lots hoping “one of them will turn out.” Do you think that’s how the masters do it? If you do, you’re wrong. Ansel Adams often went into the field with just 10 glass plates. That meant a maximum of 10 photos per outing.

Paul Strand typically made two or three exposures as a test. Then went back and made the one he liked.

I could go on, but you get the point. Today, we just machine gun everything that walks by, convince ourselves that we’ll find the “gems” in post, and that memory card sits on the desk for weeks and months and we never get to it.

So I have a radical idea. Try to find the shot you want to make, concentrate your full effort on that one image, and once you have it, stop.

The fact that I may make two or three exposures at a location used to really bother the people who came with me on field workshops. They were making hundreds of exposures to every one I made. But when we did our classroom presentations, they all agreed that my shots worked.

It’s not because I am a great photographer. Far from it. It’s because I pour my heart and soul into each image. Each press of the shutter button must have meaning for me. I understand there are exceptions. Shooting action, sports, etc. You have to fire off 10-shot bursts. But a very small percentage of you are doing that sort of work. Most of you are shooting landscapes, travel, portraits, etc. These are all opportunities to slow down, think about what you want to accomplish, and make the one or two exposures that really sing.

Seth Godin talks about the “sweet smell of success.” If you have a successful photograph, you know what he means. But he goes on to drive home a point that might be useful to the careful, contemplative craftspeople among us. Seth reminds us, that “More chocolate chip cookies don’t smell that much better than just a few.”

Once you have the shot. Stop. Move on. Start your next project. You’ll end up with better photos, you’ll spend less money on hard drives, and you’ll have more free time to explore your creative side.


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