Sometimes I think that if I could spend every day making creative portraits that I’d be a happy and content photographer. Never having to shoot events, never having to photograph boring products, never shooting cookie-cutter headshots — it’d be Nirvana on Earth.

But then I realize that photographing things like events actually make me a much better creative portraitist. Take this event, for instance: I had never before had hundreds of tea lights on hand to light large groups of people and I came away with millions of ideas for lighting creatively with tiny lights.

I also came away glad that I overshot this event.

You only kept 56 of 1800 shots?!?

Yeah, I only turned in 56 pictures for my client to use, but I pressed the shutter exactly 1800 times during the event. These are the frames that were in-focus-enough and not-blurry-enough for publishing. Now, there were more than 56 which met those criteria, but they were mostly repeats of other images.

Why in the world did you shoot so much?

Many of the pictures I made were candid, and all of them were in the dark of night with slow shutter speeds and difficult focus situations.

Making candid pictures look good requires lots of mistake shots. Not only do you need to figure out when the crowd will have good expressions (bored expressions are a great way to not get hired again), but you also need to figure out which individuals will make the whole crowd look engaged and interested. Then, you still have photograph those people several times to get both their eyes open and their tongues in their mouths, and the water bottle on the table in a not-horrible position. That takes a lot of garbage shots.

Shooting in the dark presents its own difficulties. Autofocus has trouble and the exposure is tricky. I have a bad habit of not using manual focus which I learned a long time ago on my DSLRs. Now, with focus peaking on my Lumix cameras, it’s super easy to nail manual focus and I should just be using that a lot more often.

Since it’s so dark, you’ll probably end up using a slow shutter speed and if you’re not moving and making the picture blurry, then your subject is moving and making the picture blurry. Plus the whole expression thing! Getting the right picture relies on making a whole lot of pictures.

So much to edit! (Hint: Cull backward)

Yes, I had to search through 1800 pictures to get the gems. But, the chances are that your best shot of each scene happened last. Don’t work hard to get a great shot and then keep shooting the same thing repeatedly. That means that your best pictures are probably last, so cull your photos backward.

In Lightroom, you could switch the sort order so that the latest photos show first, or you can just go to the end. This method will save you hours of time culling.

Don’t be shy

Don’t be shy of photographing things that aren’t your favorite subjects. Like eating broccoli, they will energize your vision for other endeavors. And don’t be shy of pressing that shutter button — you’ve got a lot of pictures to make before you get the one you need.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.