too many pictures?

by julie posted January 6, 2009

I’ve been in that new-year-lack-of-inspiration type rut since, well, since christmas I suppose.

I’m thinking about what I’ve done, and what I want to do, and where I want to take my photography this year. I thought I may get some inspiration from a browse of my archives, and I took a wander through using the Cooliris plugin for Flickr in Firefox. It’s a nice way to skip quickly and intuitively through a large amount of shots, and allow single click enlarging. Anyway, enough about that.

I started looking at one of my shots and thought “that would look quite nice printed, why haven’t I picked it out before?”. Then I realised that it had simply got lost in a sea of images. I consider the stuff I upload to flickr to be my keepers – quite often what gets to flickr has survived two or three rounds of editing from the selection I actually process after a shoot – so it’s by no means a dumping ground. But even so, I’ve got over 1000 pictures up there from last year, albeit including a few weddings.

That little warning bell went off in my head when I realised that. I know there are plenty people who still shoot film because it actually does, through expense or process, limit the amount you shoot and therefore make you slow down and think about it more. Some people who shoot digital even limit themselves to a certain amount of shots for the same reason. But any time people have been talking about that, it seems to have been more about the process side of things.

What I’m thinking about here is the mountain of images we end up with, and how much we actually learn when we’re not spending a whole lot of time looking at each individual one for very much time at all. It’s all very well taking advantage of the tight feedback loop you can get with digital photography, but when you’ve shot enough to master the technicalities, should you be looking a bit harder at what you’ve done, rather than just shooting more and more?

What do you do with the majority of your images? Do you print any? How do you choose which to print? What do you do with them once they are on paper? How does that affect what you then shoot afterwards? Is paper the ultimate destination for an image, or is that mostly just a belief carried over from darkroom based photography? That’s a whole other post, so I won’t head down that road just yet…

I don’t think I’m done digging here.

8 Responses to too many pictures?

  1. All very good questions, Julie. I have thousands upon thousands of pictures. Some of them have a final destination of the disk and never see the light of day again. Others I will print and hang on the wall. Others only make it to the blog and sometimes SmugMug. Having said that, I don’t worry about their final destination nor do I have any particular attachment to them. They are, for the most part, windows on the world. They are practices in seeing.

    I like to browse them after a time and think about the fun time that I had taking them. It’s a way to get me outside, experience the world, and see if I can convey that experience photographically. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t, but the fun is in trying.

    As for affecting what I shoot next, I don’t think that the feedback loop factors into that. I just shoot what I want to shoot. Sometimes I’ll skip over a subject because I feel that I’m getting stale with it, not it with me. So, I’ll switch it up, like I did this morning. I’d shot X number of sunsets, so this morning, I did a sunrise. Change of pace. Of the 50 shots that I took, probably only 10%, if that many will be seen. An even smaller percentage, if any, will be printed. Yet, I cannot wait to get back outside and have at it again!

    No particular destination, just the journey!

  2. Happy New Year Julie. Hope to meet up before too long. Love your shots too just too lazy to comment ;-(

  3. Paul, you set me off on another thinking session! Two posts in one day, that’s just crazy talk! Thanks for the provocation…

    Danny, thanks for dropping in – noticed you were shooting again, very happy to see you up and about. Hopefully will be round your way sometime in the next couple of months for a wee visit too… :)

  4. Thanks for a really nice posting about the amount of photos taken.

    I used to take only a few photos, but after buying a new camera in September 2008 (a LX3), I have been shooting over 200 photos per day. I’m not too worried about the rate and amount of photos, though – I’m sure it will find a convenient level in the long run.

    Being a novice, I just need a lot of practice, and that means shooting a lot. I learn also from the rejects, although I save only about 5 percent of the photos taken.

  5. A lot of great questions Julie, and I suppose answers would be different for practically everyone. Each of us probably has a personal threshold for what is enough.

    It is all a very strange process in how we “warm up” in the field – some do it by simply contemplating beforehand, others just start shooting to get in the groove. And therein lies questions about what do you do with all these images that are “warm ups.”

    Personally I know I have found some gems that were looked over on the initial edit, but after sitting for awhile, and often forgotten and rediscovered – I found some that had a stronger appeal to me than the initial edit. I think it is a bit of conscious vs. subconscious coming through.

    It can also be fun to go through a lot of old images to create associations that may have never existed before. When images are grouped into a project, sometimes they take upon a completely new meaning. With that respect, sometimes I hate to delete some that I feel are not strong enough on their own.

    I also think that printing an image establishes a completely new connection with it. Not only does it become more tactile, but you are certainly spending more time with it than a rapid browse through on your computer.

  6. I’ve gone through some evolution myself in that regard. When I first got started in learning photography rather than just snapshooting with my first dSLR, I took a LOT of pictures… almost all of them dreadful :)

    I actually started using film after a couple of years, and although I shot a LOT less, I kept a lot more. About a year after that, I started using large format (4×5), and the number of pictures I took dropped drastically; nowadays, I can go on a day-long photo safari in some of the most beautiful places in the world (the North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, Olympics… the list is as long as my leg) and end up taking just one photograph.

    Even though I shoot a lot less, the number of images that I share hasn’t changed significantly, although shooting on 4×5 does slow down the sharing process quite a bit ;)

    I think part of it is really a matter of methodology; some photographers, usually newbies and those who haven’t learned to see, just shoot up a storm wherever they go and hope for the best. Some, like a few of my friends here, take the time to experiment with every potential image that they find, just because they can. Since I don’t have that luxury, I spend my time looking while they’re shooting, and pick my one shot for the moment.

    The good side is that I don’t end up with that many images to sort through afterward. The bad side is that I only have the one chance, so if I pick the wrong shot, I miss the right one.

    That used to bug me quite a bit, but now I just regard it as a challenge, and no longer even worry too much about whether or not I get the shot, and if I don’t then I have an extra incentive to return :)

    With my best images, I am getting them printed… I will have six on display at a local cafe this weekend… and I hope that this will be something I can do regularly, though not necessarily at the same place :)

  7. […] post on another blog got me thinking about some of my images.  Some that are on the web site and others […]

  8. Hmm … good questions. I need at least one image a day for my blog and I insist on it being shot that day, thus my requirements are probably not very common.

    I’ve been doing that for more than two years now, and overall my shooting rate has gone down. I make less images, but that does not mean that I see less, seeing in the sense of actively scanning my environment for potential images. It’s only that experience makes you more certain about what has potential and what not.

    For almost all my images, the blog is the final destination. I rarely print. Lack of wall space.

    But of course there is another use, sort of, and that’s how over time series of images accumulate. They may end up as POD books or whatever, a good candidate being my series of images of bicycles. After all, by photographing, that’s how over time a substantial body of work can come to be. It’s probably not the only way, but for most of us, practice is a good way. Does not hurt that it feels good to do so as well :)

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