Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
 “ Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
 – Ansel Adams

In the last post, I talked about SIX things you can do RIGHT NOW to greatly improve your photography skills, mainly aimed at the beginner-level photo enthusiast. I’m going to throw in one more idea that I picked up from listening to one of the latest episodes of TWIP. To me, this tip was fitting because I’m already so familiar with it from shooting film for so long. I can also attribute it to some of my days in the military as an expert marksman. And technically, this tip is an add-on to Number TWO from the last post, which was just to get out there and start SHOOTING! Pick up the camera, get out of the house and just go shoot something. Anything. Go for a drive. End up somewhere and start banging on the shutter release button. But now I want you to curb your appetite a bit. Instead of going out to spray and pray, I want you to:

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo
© 2013 Terrell Neasley

TIP SEVEN – Limit it to 36 for the day!

Yeah, that’s right. I want you to be more deliberate in your shot selection, your composition, and your subject matter. This works better when you already know what you’re going out to shoot rather than having no clue, ending up somewhere, and shooting willy-nilly. So basically, on a day when you know you’re headed out for a specific reason, to a special place, to get some nice pictures, ONLY take 36 shots. You can even pull out one of those 512MB SD cards that you never use anymore from back in the day. Take a look at that again…that’s Megabyte, not GIGAbyte. I know you’ve got one lying around there somewhere. Pop that baby in that new 24MP camera of yours and see how many max shots you get. For perspective, if I put a 512MB card in my old Canon 40D shooting RAW (which actually took CF cards), I could about 70 pics. On my Canon 7D (also CF Cards), I might get about 30 shots if that helps put things into better perspective. If I put that same card in my Nikon D800E (takes both SD and CF), I would max out after TEN PICS.

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
“Its not the caliber of the rifle that matters, but the caliber of the shooter.”
– Unknown

So here’s the mind set behind limiting yourself. The number 36 is not an arbitrary number I pulled out of thing air. That’s typically how many exposures you would have on a roll of professional grade film. The consumer stuff you’d by at Walgreens would typically only give you 24. Pro rolls were mainly 36 exposures of “full-frame” madness! My fave brand of film was the Kodak TMAX 400. I’d use 100 when I needed to but 400 was more versatile to me, since the TMAX had a T-Grain emulsion that was quite fine…really close to 100 ISO on other film brands, and I had the latitude to push or pull it to whatever I wanted in the darkroom. But enough digressive darkroom talk. Back to topic, you only got 36 shots per roll. Now granted, you could take as many rolls of 36 as you felt you needed, but here’s the thing. I only expected to get 3 or 4 shots out of each roll worthy of printing. Of course I would have damn near all of them, technically correct as to exposure, focus, etc. But I’d still be looking for my best 4.

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley

If you want to get better, slow down. Don’t come back home with 1,384 jpeg images on a friggin’ card that you now have to download and look through. Slow down…be a bit more deliberate. Look at your settings on your camera, compose correctly for each shot. When its right, take the shot. Think of it as hunting with bolt-action rifle. You wouldn’t hunt with a machine gun, would you? Bring a tripod. Even in broad daylight. Maybe even a remote shutter release. Not the wireless kind, but rather the one that plugs into the camera. Or try taking it off the tripod and getting on the ground. Not just kneeling, but lay down on the dog gone ground. Get low. Take your time. See the settings in the bottom of the viewfinder as you are looking at your subject. Make sure they are right and know WHY you are shooting in Aperture Priority rather than Shutter Priority. Know WHY you choose to drop the Exposure Value Compensator. Understand the value of bracketing the shot and how to do it manually when your camera doesn’t have the BKT-function. My one-on-one students know this. You can, too. Try to make each one meaningful and purposeful. Know that each shot came out the way it did because you “meant to do that”. You’ll be better for it.