31.10.13

On Overshooting



As I’m writing this I’m actually right in the middle of working on my dissertation (well, I guess I’m kind of taking a break now). I was just reading part of a chapter called ‘on overshooting’ in Howard Chapnick’s book Truth needs no Ally, and just felt like this would make a great blog post topic. The book itself is quite old, it was written in 1994 and talks about photojournalism (the foundations, the basics of a career in photojournalism, ethical issues etc.) Although it has been written when I was just a child, there is a lot of interesting stuff in there. And a lot of truth. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing a blog post about it right now ;)

‘On overshooting’ talks about the fact that a lot of photographers shoot a lot more pictures than they’d really need to. Which (back then) made it really expensive, as people were shooting film, and also leads to feeling overwhelmed when having to edit down pictures. Not to mention the time it takes to go through all those photos.

Now, I’ve actually been meaning to write a blog post on this a while ago, and this chapter just reminded me.
I’m that person who overshoots. I’ve always done it. In the beginning of my photography days it made sense, since I wasn’t so confident yet. I didn’t know whether a picture was going to turn out alright or not. So I just wanted to make sure I got at least one good picture. And this attitude and ‘need for security’ stayed with me until today. I’m trying to shoot less images now, especially because it does take up sooo much time having to edit down a big set of pictures, but I still see the advantage of taking a lot of pictures of one subject.

So, if you’re wondering what my advice would be for you: If you’re just starting out, or aren’t feeling very confident in photography yet, I’d suggest to shoot as many images as you feel comfortable with. Don’t worry about overshooting so much for now. It should help you to get more good pictures out of your shoot.
On the other hand, if you want to practice taking less photos, and instead really train your eye (and intuition) to ‘see’ what would make a good photo, try shooting film for a while.
Firstly, you’ll be more aware of what pictures you take, as film can become expensive over time. Secondly, you don’t want to waste exposures, so you’ll start to really think about what you’re taking a photo of, the composition, your settings, etc. You just want everything to be right.

I think even if we don’t shoot film all the time, we should try and at least imagine what we would do differently if our digital camera was an analogue one. Be more mindful of what we shoot and how we shoot it.

Howard Chapnick has some very interesting last thoughts on this: “I have a theory. I can’t prove it, but I think that pictures get better when the photographer shoots less and thinks more. The trigger finger should release the shutter only when the chances for success are the greatest - when the light, composition, and the spontaneity of the moment approach perfection.”

P.S. Happy Halloween! :)

13 comments:

  1. I'm definitely an 'overshooter'. It give me a sense of security, because there has to be a good photo if you shoot so many. But I do think that Howard Chapnick might be right. I will definitely keep that in mind next time I'm shooting =)

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    1. Know what you mean! As I said, I think it's ok to overshoot sometimes, so hopefully you will increase your chances of a good photo :)

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  2. An interesting perspective! I know I've missed more photographable moments sometimes that occur while I'm taking a series of less aesthetically-minded shots. Would you say it's also possible, though, to "overthink" your captures? Has there ever been a time where you felt your compositions were too studied, and not intuitive enough? I'm an amateur and feel prone to erring in EITHER direction. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!

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    1. Hi Kari, I can see what you mean - so when I talk about taking less pictures and instead focusing on taking just a few really good ones, I don't necessarily mean 'overthinking it'. That might happen of course, but I always try to shoot in a way that comes natural to me.
      For example, I usually know instinctively what the best angle/composition etc. is for a specific shot - then I take that picture. Here's where overshooting comes in: I already took one good picture (that I felt like works well), but just to make sure I didn't miss anything I keep taking photos, from all sorts of angles, in different positions etc. And that's when I end up with a bunch of pictures I don't really need, because that first shot would have done perfectly fine. So it's almost like the 'overthinking' takes place when you take too many pictures, 'just in case'.
      I hope this helps! :)

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    2. Helena, thank you so much for your response. That makes so much sense to me and is so helpful. I definitely overshoot sometimes, especially if I'm not pressed for time. Appreciate your advice! :) Cheers.

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  3. I feel like I overshoot all the time, and it's very frustrating when it comes to edit! I especially do it when shooting photos for my jewelry shop. I like your advice (and the author's). Eventually, as I become a better photographer, I will definitely try to scale down and only take the photos I'm sure about. It makes sense--with any art, it's important to do your best work, and that includes taking time and consideration in every shot :) Thanks for this!

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    1. That is so true, Kristyn! Didn't really think about it that way yet, but you're right - you want to put time, effort and consideration into any kind of artwork. And I guess into any kind of work you do in general.

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  4. this post applies to me so very much. when i was taking a photography class at school, i started with film first. since i had to supply everything (from the film to spending time developing the film) myself, i tried really hard to limit how many exposures i spent on a specific shot. it was usually three. when i transitioned to digital, i had that trigger finger. i just keep shooting. i didn't limit myself because my logic was similar to what you had mentioned. ironically, my film images came out significantly better than my digitals! great post helena (:

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    1. Sharon, thank you so much for stopping by and telling your story! :) This is great to hear - seriously, I really enjoyed reading about your experience, it's the perfect example and so interesting to see that it's actually true.

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  5. I've to say I agree fully with Howard Chapnick's quote. I used to be an overshooter and I was terribly scared to 'throw away' photographs that where shite. It was really hard to drop the whole overshooting thing and start to actually think about your shots I think. It took some time, but I'm glad that I stopped overshooting. I got to understand my camera, light and composition way better than I did before.

    I was (still am) scared to miss a moment. But I've learned that I feel better to either miss the moment or get the perfect shot in one click, then having a ton of photo's that did capture the moment, but are so-so, because I didn't truly find thát moment of perfection Howard Chapnick mentioned. It's hard at first, but I got used to it.

    And yes, of course I still let myself overshoot every now and then. I'm not immune for that. (;

    Oh and I wanted to let you know that I love your blog. Glad I discovered it. (:

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and your journey, Janneke! It's really inspiring, and I couldn't agree more. Sounds like you're so much more satisfied with your photos than before - I can really empathize :)

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  6. Thanks for this! I always feel like I need to take lots a pictures, but tomorrow I am going to go out and try really thinking through a photo.

    By the what book would you say has been the most helpful with your photography?

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    1. Good luck with it!
      I'll have a think about the book, and will get back to you.

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