the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Keep Shooting ’til it Hurts

Freeze ChurchEarlier I wrote about stepping toward greatness in your photography, concerning a 10-step approach outlined by Steve Simon in his book The Passionate Photographer, Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great. That post also discussed step one: working on personal projects, and I described several personal projects I’ve been working on.

Step two is volume – shooting lots of images to improve your craft. Not just shooting for shooting’s sake, but shooting volume with a purpose. By taking lots of shots, you can learn from your successes and mistakes, such as which compositions work and which don’t, as well as making sure your subject is covered from all angles.

To illustrate these concepts, I give you 24 images I took of the Freeze Community Church outside of Potlatch, Idaho from my trip last week to the Palouse. While at the church, I made a conscious effort to really try to cover it from all angles (at least the angles where I thought the light was good enough). Since leaving the site, I’ve thought of at least five or six additional compositions I’ve should have tried – obviously I need to keep working on this step. On your next photo shoot, try to really cover your subject and let me know how it goes; do you think of any shots you should have taken but didn’t?

In his book, Simon mentions that rarely is your best image of a subject the first one taken. How true this is. In travel photography in particular I’ve noticed this. When I finally reach a particular site I’ve been itching to photograph, I’m excited by the scene, and hop out and start taking pictures immediately. That’s fine, but rarely are those images any good. Further, those images are almost never unique. They typically are the same tired images that every tourist with a point-and-shoot or camera phone takes (no offense to those of you that only shoot with point-and-shoots or camera phones; I’m just trying to illustrate my point).

To get that great shot, that unique shot, I need to investigate the subject and cover it from multiple viewpoints and with multiple compositions. I admit, even though I typically shoot a lot of images (see this earlier post), I get lazy and don’t cover each subject like I should. And I know better; if you are like me, how often do you find your best image of a particular subject is one taken near the end of your session rather than at the beginning? I think this is true of other forms of photography besides travel; I’ve found it true in portrait photography as well (at least until the model gets tired).

Taking lots of shot also opens your mind to angles and compositions you may not have seen earlier – both earlier in the particular session and earlier in your photographic career. Several photo clubs I belong to have an annual scavenger hunt, where each participant is given a list of topics to shoot. Later, at a club meeting, the images taken by all the photographers for each topic are shown. I’m always amazed how other photographers, given the same subject as I, come back with some incredible images that I did not even come close to seeing. I’ve found that when I practice shooting a subject with as many compositions as I can think of, my mind becomes more open to potential shots. In other words, I’m training myself to see more potential images, and all it takes is practice – the practice of shooting, shooting so more, and shooting until it hurts (mentally that is, when I can’t think of one more composition).

It’s really quite easy to do, but something most of us don’t because we are either lazy or just unconsciously trained by today’s fast paced society to get it done fast and get on to the next thing. You need to fight the urge to settle for immediate gratification (common in today’s social media driven world), i.e. hopping out of the car, grabbing a quick shot, and then heading on to the next spot on your list. If you want to improve your photography, take time to cover subjects in detail. You will come home with better images, and you will train yourself to see better images. Give it a shot, well actually, lots of shots.

Freeze Church 2  Freeze Church 3

Freeze Church 4  Freeze Church 5

Freeze Church 6  Freeze Church 7

Freeze Church 8  Freeze Church 10

Freeze Church 11

Freeze Church 12  Freeze Church 13

Freeze Church 14  Freeze Church 15

Freeze Church 16

Freeze Church 17

Freeze Church 18

Freeze Church 19

Freeze Church 20

Freeze Church 21

Freeze Church 24

Freeze Church 22  Freeze Church 23

12 responses

  1. This makes sooooooo much sense!!! Maybe I should try & see if the book is available in SA!! Love all your shots – so many of the same building, yet, none looks the same!! I can see how this will be able to develop your photography!! Thanks for sharing Joe!! 🙂 **

    June 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    • I’m glad you like my shots Xandre, I had more compositions than these. Some I didn’t show because they were too similar, and some were just plan bad. Hope this idea can help you with your photography (which is pretty darn good from what I see!)

      June 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  2. Very true, we live in such a fast pace society it’s click and move on. One needs time to engage the creative side of the brain and give it some exercise.

    June 29, 2012 at 7:41 am

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment (and thereby, taking at least a small step out of that fast paced society).

      June 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm

  3. I totally agree! Like every other art, the photography has an its own path, it takes time and sweat and will of growing. It’s not always possible to dedicate the sufficient time but, once you’ve done it, you can experiment and feel a more authentic and true gratification than that one given by a ten of ‘Likes’ on a social network. Of course, it’s necessary to ask oneself how important is the photography in the own life and how much one wants to develop Own skills. Someone could discover to enjoy enough a point-a-shoot approach. Anyway, spending some hours with the camera, going around the selected subject is an excellent way to find out something about ourselves! Thanks for your post..and what a nice little church!

    June 30, 2012 at 12:48 am

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree with you, it’s up to each person to decide on how much time they want to use to develop their own skills. Doing an exercise like this helps me, but it might be overkill for someone else.

      June 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

  4. I really enjoyed reading this blog and seeing how your put your message into the photographs. I found myself thinking I was looking at different churches because of the changing composition. I especially like the last photograph with the church peaking up put of the rolling hills. Thanks for sharing this message.

    July 3, 2012 at 10:55 am

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