Shoot like it’s 1996!

Today’s Post by Todd Abbotts

If you’re old timer like me, you fed your first camera a steady diet of Velvia or Ektachrome or Kodachrome—all film types and each one as different as the shooter who was loading them. If you were on a budget, also like me, then you had the math worked out as to how much each press of the shutter would cost. I went back and looked, in 1996 one frame of Velvia cost me 54 cents from time of exposure to light table. Multiplied by 36 frames per roll and my out of pocket expense was $19.44.

My point is, that it wasn’t free. Every time I pressed that shutter it was running up my tab, and so I was really careful about each and every exposure. To increase my percentage of successful images I knew my compositional rules inside and out and broke them only when I deliberately intended too. Magazines were packed with articles extolling the compositional commandments The Rule of Thirds, lead in lines, filling the frame, simplify and storytelling. In those days, road trips yielded an average of 200 images not 2800 like my last one.

As an experiment, six months ago I went back and reviewed my images from a recent photographic road trip and I was a little horrified to see I was no longer devoutly following those rules, as I did in 1996. The relative low cost of digital had lured me into quantity over quality.

bear-lake-reflections-1-smSince then I’ve rededicated myself to the compositional basics. I’m using my old mindset of 1996 and composing with deliberation. I’m using a tripod even if I could easily run the ISO up to 1600 and handhold. I’m exploiting Live View to ensure my frame is full of relevant visual information and not counting on post-process cropping. I’m also pressing the shutter far less frequently, and ironically, that gives me much more satisfaction. I now measure the success of my photographic outings as much by what I don’t capture as by what I do. Applying the basics means I’m foregoing the mediocre shots and not filling Adobe Lightroom with “visual junk.”

You can follow Todd Abbotts on Instagram at #abbottsimaging

Author: Joe Farace

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