Photographic Contradictions

If you were to pay close attention to every photographer you meet and keep track of all their advice, you'll quickly reach a point where you run into contradictions.  One photographer says "this is what you should do;" another says "you should not do this."  If you're trying to learn, this gets confusing real fast.  To make matters worse, there are many contradictions in photography "rules."  How do you know which ones to follow? First, any time someone claims you have to make a photographic decision between this or that, walk away, and choose the other thing.  Most photographic choices really aren't rules, and, though each bit of information may be valid, they don't fit every situation.  I'll go through several of these contradictions in upcoming blogs to better explain what I mean.

Let's start off with the many photographs versus single/few argument.  "You should shoot many photographs to ensure you catch the decisive moment."  "No, a good photographer waits and watches, only taking the photo when the conditions are right."  I say you should do both.

When I shot the horse races a few weeks ago, I shot many photos to capture them going over the jumps right at the peak of their leaps.  When I shoot people, especially children, I shoot lots of photos.  Expressions can change in a fraction of a second, and you probably aren't fast enough to catch most of them in a single shot.  Here is a spread of 12 photos of a father and son contemplating the bay.

Snippet from Lightroom

They were involved in constant conversation, pointing at the birds, and throwing rocks, so I kept shooting.  But notice there are gaps between the motions in the series.  There were pauses between my shots; I didn't just put the camera in continuous high speed and blaze away.  When I was sure I had my shot, I stopped, but I needed many shots to get there.

father and son discussing life

With a practically unlimited supply of media in new cameras, I could have gone to continuous high speed and committed a move, derisively, called a "spray and pray," shooting fast and hoping to get something usable.   This is not the way to learn to properly photograph a subject.  Your shoot-to-keep ratio is going to be awful.

On the other hand, many times you need to sit and wait for the elements in your photograph to come together, and take your shot.  These swans didn't see me in the weeds by the pond, and firing off a noisy burst would have kept them away from me.  I needed to wait until they got into this position, and they were only there long enough for this shot.

two swans on a pond

Both methods are appropriate in the right situation, but neither is right all the time.  That is usually the problem when you hear someone say there is only one way to become a "real" photographer.  Avoid those absolutes and go have some fun shooting the way that makes the most sense for the scene.