People often ask me how many photos I'm taking while on assignment. Usually it seems to be out of genuine curiosity, but sometimes the inquiry comes off as combative. Maybe the person is annoyed by the number of pictures I'm taking because he or she is trying to keep up appearances while the newspaper guy is there, in which case the excessive snaps are an attempt to wear down the subject until he or she presents a real moment.
Or maybe the person is waxing nostalgic for the film days, when extra frames cost extra funds — a call to efficiency and thoughtfulness that I can appreciate.
When I was just starting out in photography almost four years ago, I definitely overshot most of my assignments. As time went on and I continuously heard comments from veteran photographers thumbing their noses at the whipper snappers who "spray and pray", I worked diligently to shoot less and improve my percentage of keepers.
Sports, however, is one area I have continued to overshoot. While my sense of what plays are worth shooting has improved, a typical take on a football game will be anywhere from 500-800 photos.
Seem excessive? I thought so, and scaled back on my sports shooting. In football, often the action is on the opposite end of the field that you’re standing on, so I stopped shooting plays that were that far, knowing that a tight crop wouldn’t yield a large enough file for print. I also worked hard on timing for peak action instead of machine gunning my way through a play.
The pendulum has swung back a bit these days, however, after being burned a few times by not having a clear shot of the number on a jersey when I’m trying to identify a player for the caption.
Our online photo galleries from each football game have me shooting cross-field action as well, and it sometimes pays off, as it did when the Lions visited Richland at Fran Rish Stadium:
That image was cropped from this full-frame version:
Killer sports photo, it is not, but it was a nice little moment to include in the gallery.
But really, I shouldn't even care if noses are thumbed at me for the number of pictures I make. Technological advances should be embraced, not looked at with disdain and nostalgia for the good ol’ days when it really took skill. Photographers who spent their careers lugging expensive and heavy glass plates around probably scoffed at the ragamuffins running around shooting on film. Numerous other innovations such as autofocus, auto exposure, fast lenses, fast film, electric strobes and in-camera meters have all made creating pictures easier and more accessible.
A common lamentation is that the ease of digital photography has flooded the market with unskilled button-pushers, but to those of us who have chosen photography as our profession, that just means we’ll have to be that much better.
At least until the next big breakthrough comes along.