Quantity vs Quality in Photography
As a photographer, more often than not, I've found myself getting the question, "how did you know to pull out your camera at that moment?" The answer is simple: I didn't. I've expressed my stance in previous posts that nature and wildlife is innately unpredictable, so that's all the more reason to stay ready! Whether you're out doing landscape photography or simply staring at an animal waiting for it to do something interesting, you don't know what's to come in the next ten seconds. The lighting might change, a new subject might enter the frame, or a cheetah might decide it's time to start hunting.
Over the years of being a wildlife photographer I've shared many photos that I love. However, my public profiles are only examples of the successes. The shinny, glossy, and crisp pics you see on Instagram are hardly ever a holistic example of someone's work. For everything I put out into the world there are easily more than 20 failures that are blurry, grainy, or just out of focus; although I don't see this as a negative. To me it's better to try for the right shot and fail, rather than retrospectively realize the right shot was missed right in front of you. Of course I don't recommend a "controlled chaos" approach of taking photos, where you just photograph everything you come across. While this may not be the worst way to learn, there are certainly ways to optimize your experience.
The first is to consider framing. Where are you trying to shoot, what are you trying to shoot, and how much are you trying to shoot, are things I always consider. While on certain islands in the Galapagos, my main concern was one thing: birds. Getting clean photos of birds is totally different than a slower and more stationary target such as African lions. To state the obvious they move quicker and can fly. Because of this, you have to be ready for much more dynamic and fast-paced movement with a camera. The way I approach this problem is to be proactive. Nature might be seemingly unpredictable but there is some reason to what's happening. Birds probably won't crash land at full speed into a thorny bush. For this reason I try to pay attention to areas that don't have the preverbal thorny bush. Then I can identify areas that have good lighting, which makes my task much simpler. If anything of interest happens, or looks like it's going to happen, I start taking pictures.
While I may be oversimplifying things, there is more preparation involved. Simply pointing a camera and shooting will always produce some results. However, before planting and waiting there are a few steps I alway take. I've mentioned lighting and framing more than once, and that's not just to make this blog post longer. I think most photographers would agree that both of these are just as important as the subject. When considering lighting and framing, I make sure my shutter speed allows for adequately bright photos. Taking multiple "test shots" at different shutter speeds helps me find the right balance. In my experience, aperture then almost becomes an afterthought. If I've deemed lighting and subject area are appropriate for whatever my goal is, I've greatly reduced the number of variables that might lead to a less than great photo. At this point I will typically transition to a more quantity based approach.
While advocating for the merits of quantity in photography this isn't to say I recommend staying on a continuous burst; that's dangerously close to videography. I think it's important to stay grounded and always remember what you're trying to accomplish. Controlled bursts with varying levels of zoom and aperture have produced surprisingly positive results for me. At the end of the day this approach has provided me with more dynamic results that vary in quality and framing. Of course this does come with one major and distinct disadvantage. I spend a lot of time sorting through photos; but I love that part.
I hope you've found some of this information helpful, or at least enjoyable. If you want to see more vivid examples of my work check me out on Instagram at @WeeklyWildlife. As always if you have questions, comments, or just want to get in touch shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and check back next week for more content!