Shotgun or Single Shot?

The year is 1988 and your camera bag is packed with Kodak Portra 400 VC film. Your camera is a Bronica SQA equipped with two backs that can handle size 220 roll film. Your first stop is at the bride’s house to begin your wedding coverage. The first image you capture is of the bride’s father as he answers the door to let you in.“The girls are upstairs, dressing,” he tells you. He calls up the staircase, “The photographer is here.”

“We are almost ready,” is the response of a female voice from above.

“Let me know when I can come up,” you answer. (Note to self: 23 more frames left on this roll of film.)

“OK, you can come up now,” announces another female voice.

You ascend the staircase and begin to document the prepping and primping of the beautiful young girls in the wedding party with emphasis on the bride and her entourage. Mom is also there and you capture some special moments with her daughter, the bride, and her sisters. Some tears of joy are shed and of course you’ve captured them on film also. (One and one half rolls of 220 are in the “exposed” side of your brain. Twelve frames left on this roll and it’s time to reload the other camera back, you mentally note.)

Jump forward to today. Your camera is a Canon EOS 1D X Mark II 20.2 MP DSLR that captures images at a blazingly fast speed in almost any available light. Your “film” is a SanDisk 32GB Extreme Compact Flash Card that fits neatly in the small slot in the side of your camera. Yes, you have a backup CF card, but you know that you can cover the entire wedding without using the second card. You know that capturing 500 or more images is no problem. You don’t even have to think about what’s “left” on your “film”.

You’ve graduated from counting film frames to the shotgun approach. Just shoot it and you’ll edit your images later in the computer, but this is only one way to skin a rabbit. Ask yourself, “Why am I capturing so many images? Is it because my equipment allows me to do so or is it because I am unsure of my results and I just need to cover my tail? Or maybe I can brag to potential clients that I can produce way more images than my competitors?”

The time for critical self-review is at hand.

I recently saw a sample of a dance school photographer. She captured many images of the same pose. She obviously employed the shotgun approach in hopes that the client would like one or more of her images. What if she selectively captured a full-length image, then a three quarter view, a back view, and finally a closeup of the dancer’s face? Next costume please; repeat the process.

Think about the service you’re giving the client. Instead of a large number of let’s-find-the-best-of-the-bunch images, now the client selects her favorite poses in each costume. This is way better for your client and better for you in greater sales!

But how can you be sure you got the best images? Your camera was on a tripod, right? You only looked through the viewfinder to frame the image, right? You were looking at the dancer while you released the shutter, right? Of course you’ll shoot an extra frame if you’re not quite sure of your subject’s expression, but you’ll move on if you think you’ve got it the first time.

This isn’t easy at first, but with practice, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to provide the best images in a minimal amount of time. Remember: You’re providing a better service and product for your clients. You’ll save them and yourself, from having to plow through a gaggle of geese just to find the gander.