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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hippie Pinko Sparse Shooter

Maybe it's just me, but I shoot far less with digital than I ever did with film. You?

I don't know why. I don't mean to. Maybe it's because it's easier to get what I want, or maybe I just know when I've gotten what I want. Maybe I enjoy using the camera less. Maybe I dislike dealing with large volumes of files on the computer, having never really worked out a competent workflow (I still treat digital casually, as though it were somehow less serious. I don't do that on purpose either—it's just the way I feel). Maybe it's that I only own one card. Maybe I have less visceral attraction to creating pictures in color than exposing yummy Tri-X. Whatever the reason, I would estimate my shooting volume with digital is 1/10th to 1/5th what it used to be with film.

Of course, I'm also a left-handed freethinking introverted artistic socialist, so maybe I'm just in the minority on everything.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

24 Comments:

Blogger paul said...

Naah, you're just a (relatively) mature photographer who doesn't equate shot count with "seriousness" or "professionalism." You get the shot you want and you're done. I've seen the same thing myself, an initial wild increase in frames shot (because they're free), followed by a gradual decline to less than film shot counts.

What I also find is that I do take many more shots of extremely marginal subjects that I ever did with film...and end up throwing all of them away. Net change: zero, except that I pay for a few less failures.

12:50 PM  
Blogger dave51c said...

Hey Mike,

Don't be too hard on yourself. We left-handed freethinking introverted artistic socialists need to stick together! Beware the tyrany of the masses :-)

Best,

Dave.

1:03 PM  
Blogger William said...

I'm semiretired and the only time I use digital is when someone pays me, aerial, presentations and paintings for friends. My own art is 100% film, about 85% B&W. Oh, and I'm a member of the "vast right wing conspiracy - San Francisco branch, top that for being an outsider.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Thomas D. said...

I think it depends on where you are in your life and photo 'career'. When I shot film, the #1 pro tip was "shoot more frames". I was a student back then, and never felt I could afford that. I never got a big learning experience from it when I did, either, as I never remembered what settings I'd used for what images. I never was very good at being structured and writing things down.

With digital, all that changed. I could experiment and learn. I could expose lots of frames for the same subject, altering the angles, composition, exposure etc. And the EXIF would show me the settings later. I learned a lot from all those frames exposed.

Now, I shoot less. I've learned more about what works and doesn't. I still shoot more than I did with film, but maybe not more much than I would've shot with film if that was still my medium...

1:45 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

What I notice specifically is that I shoot far fewer captures than the number of frames I shot using 35mm color transparency film, and the reason is no mystery--no need to bracket exposures.

But for the gernal walkabout type of work that I'm doing with digital capture, I think I do shoot about the same quantity as I used to with b&w small format work.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Lars K. Christensen said...

Of course, I'm also a left-handed freethinking introverted artistic socialist, so maybe I'm just in the minority on everything.

I don't think this is the reason. I fit more or less that profile - and I'm shooting much more in digital than I did with film.

I grew up with film in the 70's, and was very active with my trusty all manual SLR. But then I was carried away by job, family and other trivialities ;-)
Loosing darkroom access sometimes along the way didn't make things better. Photography became limited to travel snapshots.
Some years ago, when dSLR's were very costly, I bought a digital P&S. Never got friendly with that.
Then at last I got a dSLR. That was like a rebirth: a "real" camera like the good old days, but with all the new possibilities of digital, of which shooting as much as I like for free is only one.

However, I firmly believe that becoming a better photographer is a matter of three "easy" steps:
1: Take some photos
2: Take a very critical look at the results - or even better: get some competent critiscism.
3: Repeat step 1 and 2 ad infinitum
Digital makes this process both cheaper and easier.

Yours
Lars
www.christianehoej.dk

2:07 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I'm still shooting a lot more with digital than I did with film. Haven't gotten over the "free" aspect yet I guess. I am also experimenting with stitched photos and that makes the frame count climb.

I also shoot things I would never shoot with film; marginal stuff that I don't throw away; I just never look at it. But it's nice to know it's there.

2:51 PM  
Blogger erlik said...

Me, I dabbled with film way back in high school and decided it wasn't for me. Too much work with no immediately visible control over it.

But yes, since I started with digital, I also noticed the tendency towards less shots. Maybe it's just me overcoming my insecurity about the outcome. Still, I usually shoot several shots of a subject. And later discover I like the shot I took almost accidentally...

BTW, Mike, I'd like to point you towards BW Styler, a plugin for Photoshop. It gives great BW photos and one of the "looks" it can give is Tri-X. Of course, I cannot say how faithful it is, but it looks great.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Impasse Lebouis said...

"Of course, I'm also a left-handed freethinking introverted artistic socialist, so maybe I'm just in the minority on everything."

In some countries, these traits are valued and people don't apologized for having them.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Martin Storz said...

In former days my daily "ration" under normal conditions was something around 6 films.
As transportation box I used those boxes in which transparencys where returned from the lab.
You could put in 6 films ;-).

Now the situation is not comparable.
Walking around an afternoon, I take photos without thinking in quantities.
Looking over the pictures, nearly every photo is useful - in technical aspects.
As Carl said: "the reason is no mystery--"

4:43 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Don't underestimate the importance of a smooth, comfortable workflow.

Before I got my first workflow app (iPhoto), I rarely shot anything at all. Faced with opening Photoshop and working for hours to get each shot within a stone's throw of not embarassing me, I only pulled out the camera for family events and vacations. I never went out to just SHOOT unless I was really bored.

When I upgraded to Aperture and discovered new flexibility of RAW, I shot quite a bit more. Now that Aperture and my skill with it have both improved to the point that I am satisfied and even proud with the results, I'm shooting a LOT. I've shot more in the past 3 months than in the past three years. Not just brackets, either, I'm actually planning my weekends -- and vacations -- around photography.

On the other hand, I've got a pub associate who develops his own T-max in his kitchen, and he is unseasy with digital. He doesn't even like scanned film because he doesn't know quite what to do with it once it's scanned. As a result, he's shooting less and reminiscing more.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"In some countries, these traits are valued and people don't apologize for having them."

Which countries? I'd like to go there.

--Mike

5:01 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Do you want to take more pictures? Or does the prospect of that "workflow" just make it seem like too much monkey business.... to quote a great American poet.

Workflow, software, auto-nonfocus and shutter lag, Whilhelm data and the cost of ink, the rocket science of setting up to print, it'll all wear you down. Maybe this is a good place to tell this story - last week I was cruising our local Calumet outlet on my lunch hour.... wondering at all that had changed on the shelves. A guy my age (boomer) was testing a radio flash with - a Rolleiflex TLR with a grip on the bottom and a finder hood on top.

"Nice camera" I said, and he acknowledged the compliment. He nodded to a backpack open a few feeet away. There was a 4x5 Speed Graphic folded up with some loaders ready. He said he was a full time pro.... used digital in all of his commercial work... but caressing the Rollei he said "I'm gong back to film... be a photographer for a while..." True story....

5:06 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

And us righties would be happy to see you go, Pinko! ;-)

I've noticed that strangely, I've shot enough digital to get the point where I'm more comfortable shooting film. I think what limited me before was the wallet, I couldn't afford to get x-amount of film developed at one time.

But now - I'm shooting less because I'm not trying the shotgun approach to a good image. I know what I have to do.

I have to admit the film cameras feel so much better and there's something else that I can't quite put my finger on, plus I can afford the developing!

5:32 PM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

Hmmm. …. It is an interesting observation (or is it an admission?) especially coming from one who has championed the merits of digital so well.

Maybe you shoot less because the process is-and this may sound odd as digital is supposed to have freed us from so many constraints e.g. fluorescent filters- more onerous.

Now (even with well designed cameras) we have to deal with menus. Before digital came along, photography was complex but not made unnecessarily so.

I also find the cameras that are produced nowadays somewhat unarresting, - with all the plastic and electronics- they are useful little computers but they do not inspire.

And as much as I do not miss setting up or cleaning a dark room, I am nostalgic for spooling film into a tank-mixing the D-76-timing the whole operation- setting the paper in an easel- making a print with a tack sharp nikkor enlarging lens- -doing some test exposures - developing the print in the plastic trays- and then watching the magic happen.

Time consuming, but It was all quite simple.

The prints just looked different too. It seems to me that one could more clearly see the distinctive qualities of various lenses in black and white prints. The same applied to chromes.

I believe also that for whatever reason, my work was better shooting film. Perhaps because I was aware of the costs so I tended to be more careful. (or selective) Perhaps it was because working with film cameras (I am talking mechanical manual focus here) tended to slow me down. (The large viewfinders were a bonus too.)

Maybe Mike you are shooting less because-as the marketers keep insisting - digital photography has freed you to concentrate on the image! And with that" freedom" has come a boredom with the whole electronic process. Who knows?

I sure don’t …maybe you are simply weary of instant gratification- and with digital -we get that in spades.

5:36 PM  
Blogger carpeicthus said...

In short, no. In film days I went on a 10-day trip to Greece and took 7 pictures. I traveled through the most beautiful places in the South China Sea and didn't even bring a camera.

9:01 PM  
Blogger carpeicthus said...

I'm amazed we haven't seen more digital photo labs out there -- "FTP us the files and we'll make them look great." They do it at the very low end, but professionals who used labs for film and hate mucking about on a computer could really use that. Lots of curmudgeons about.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Carsten Bockermann said...

I shoot pretty much the same number of pictures with digital equipment as I did with film. In situations with a lot of action I think I shoot somewhat more with digital; on the other hand I bracket a lot less. Also, with difficult lighting I now know when I've nailed the shot, whereas with film I shot many frames 'just to make sure'.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

Can anybody match this, The Strange Case Of Garry Winogrand, shooting either film or digital!

7:44 AM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

I shoot about the same in terms of personal, artsy-fartsy pictures. It's very few (maybe an average 30 photos a month). In terms of paid photos, I take a lot more (I went semi-pro when I went digital).

11:16 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Good point and something i never realised about myself.

Before i bought my D70 i had a few rolls of pictures i cared about. After i bought it i'm finding it hard to keep track of all my slides, negative strips, contact sheets and hundreds of silver prints.

Mike, you've worried me.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Monza76 said...

I do take more pictures since I have gone digital however, like you, I have not developed a workflow. My collection is a disorganized mess.

3:39 PM  
Blogger m. said...

I shoot more, but I was never much of a film photographer. My wife found a long-forgotten Nikon SLR in the closet the other week. I think it was a Nikon EM, with a 50mm lens. I'd have to get up again to verify it, and we can't have that. I'm not even sure I knew that you could take the lens off. I've been searching half-assedly for a battery to see if it still works.

But with digital, I can shoot all the frames I want just to see what happens without a financial penalty. In focus, out of focus. Good subject, bad subject. I can walk in the woods atfter dusk holding the camera in front of me for a 5-second exposure.

My files are disorganized as hell, too. I'm hoping to fix that in the next couple of months.

At the same time, I've become intrigued by film and have begun to dabble a bit. We'll see how far this takes me.

5:40 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

carpeicthus -- there are a TON of players who will make you great prints, regardless of your level of expertise. My friend's father is entralled with mpix.com; he gets these huge prints made up cheap on this metallic paper that makes sunsets and landscapes look breathtaking.

I like to make my own prints (cost be damned; it is still cheaper and easier to print a great color 8x10 at home than it was to develop one). But I can't deny they're nothing compared to what my local (Albany, NY) pro lab can do for me. They accept files on disc, memory card, FTP, email, etc and they're more than willing to either make your photos look awesome or allow you to manage your own colors via profiles, they even give you a discount for doing so. They use Frontier lightjet printers with a resolution and gamut unmatched by any inkjet, and a self-profiled 10x15 starts at $5 (16x20s start at $23).

11:30 AM  

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