AUTHOR: ZACK ST. WARD
We’ve all been there, sorting through images that just came back from the lab and nothing seems to be even close to what you remember capturing. Overexposed, strange angles, and objects in the frame that easily could’ve been avoided. Now you’ve got three rolls of Ektar that will never make it in the Louvre, and probably not your mums fridge either. Assuming it isn’t your camera’s fault for the composition you choose, there are a few reasons you might be capturing less than perfect images. Let’s take a look at what they could be.
Too Many The concept of over-shooting is a standard in the digital community, why not take too many photos at least you’ll have what you need in the end? This is a problematic way to capture images because it relies on the future you to deal with issues current you isn’t handling. You will end up with far too many images of nearly the same photo. This becomes an issue due to the time it will require to sort though images that could’ve been boiled down to maybe three, or four, much better captures.
Poor Exposure Film is a beast that many photographers have yet to fully conquer; so you aren’t alone in finding the best way to dial in the look you want from your film. There are a number of small considerations to getting a great final product though. Whether you are over exposing slide film or severely underexposing negative film; both of these can leave you with undesirable results. How you shoot your film matters to what you can deliver as a final product. If your camera has a built in meter, don’t rely solely on it — use an external light meter as well and double check what both meters say before exposing your first shot on the roll. If your meter has an Average function, learn how to use it. Finding the average exposure for your setting can be the difference between loosing the highlight detail or having just enough detail left in the shadows. Also, consider using a roll for an exposure test - pick a subject and capture images from -3 to +3 EV to understand how that film likes to be shot. This will help you to get results that fit your style of shooting on a more consistent basis.
Final Composition Have you ever considered that you may not need to edit a photo if you get it right in camera? It took me a few years to understand that if I spent a little extra time making sure my horizon was straight when I was taking the photo, it wouldn’t require adjustment in post-processing. Take the extra time to think about what you are putting in your frame. By spending extra time in camera you will save time having to retouch and remove distractions in post. Look around your frame for distractions like tree branches that protrude from a person’s head or waste bins that you don’t want in your frame, then rework your composition to exclude those bits.
If you are capturing too many, poorly lit, unthought images, you just may end up with a final product you do not like. So here’s my big concept — Think More : Shoot Less. This is a ratio, and one to be considered heavily. When you press your eye to the viewfinder (or look down through the waist level finder) choose to capture images intentionally. Before you take the photo, double check your exposure and make sure you actually set it on the camera. Look at what is in your frame and decide if you want everything to be there. You can be selective on whether or not you take a step to the left or right to avoid a bright green bin.
And finally, try to understand what it is that you enjoy in a shot and shoot it once. (Maybe twice, while you are testing out all this stuff) If you have the confidence in yourself that what you took is correct, then walk away. Scary, I know, but trust yourself to capture it well today so you will have the certainty to shoot the right image in the future. This may be a mind-numbingly simple concept, but it could save you a few years of time spent behind your computer editing rather than shooting more photos. Think More : Shoot Less is a balance that I think you’ll be fond of when it comes down to how much time you spend behind a computer editing vs. how much time you are holding your camera. By capturing fewer, yet more intentional images you will have more time to do additional shoots.
(One note regarding the images featured in this post — these are all couplets shot as couplets on the original roll of film.)