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Telling The Story

One of the things that separates professional photographers from hobbyists and amateurs is the amount of film that they shoot. The pro shoots with little regard to how much film he may be burning through — as long as it doesn't run out before the day is done. Film and processing expenses are minor compared to travel costs, model fees, assistant's salaries, client's time and the myriad of other factors to be considered. Most pro's location shoots are measured in dozens of rolls of film a day — or the digital equivalent.

This isn't extravagance. This is simply working smart. The most important thing is that at the end of the day the story has been told in images. Not one good shot, but many. The art director, the client, and everyone else involved in the creative process has differing opinions, tastes and needs. The stock photographer knows that the agency doesn't want just one or two good frames, they want dozens. The experienced pro knows that to be successful he has to deliver variety.

I was reminded of this on a recent wildlife shoot at Bosque del Apache in southern New Mexico. On one of the days there we found ourselves by a overnighting pond as snow geese and cranes by the thousands came in to land at sunset. I shot 165 frames in a 30 minute period — the equivalent of nearly 5 rolls of film. (I was shooting digitally with a Canon 1Ds).

Canon EOS 1Ds with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS @ 80mm. ISO 500
4:55 pm
Canon EOS 1Ds with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS @ 200mm. ISO 800
5:07 pm

These 165 frames produced 4 images with which I'm happy, and which, if this had been a commercial assignment, I would submit to the editor or agency. These four are reproduced here, along with pertinent technical information and the time at which they were shot. Each tells the story somewhat differently, and each could be used in a layout for a different purpose.

At the time I had no idea what would work and what wouldn't. The light was gorgeous and the birds were cooperative — that's all that mattered. I didn't even have time to change lenses, simply using a medium zoom and changing focal length as the scene evolved before me. Only some days later did I see how the different compositions and framings that I was trying had worked, or didn't.

Four good frames out of 165 is a 2% average. Not bad. I usually don't do that well when shooting wildlife. Someone else might have chosen different frames, but likely not too many more.

Canon EOS 1Ds with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS @ 105mm. ISO 500
4:58 pm

The point of this is to have you think about how much you shoot. Are you shortchanging yourself by being too conservative in your shooting habits? I'm not suggesting profligacy — by no means. But when the light is changing quickly, and the subject is in a state of flux, don't be afraid to keep your finger on the shutter release. It's only film (or bits).

Canon EOS 1Ds with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS @ 195mm. ISO 500
4:55 pm

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Concepts: Canon EOS-1Ds, Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Full-frame digital SLR, Canon EOS DSLR cameras, Canon EOS, Image sensor, Photography

Entities: Canon, Michael Reichmann, New Mexico

Tags: good frames, Canon EOS, ISO 500, experienced pro knows, bosque del apache, recent wildlife shoot, southern new mexico, pertinent technical information, Canon 1Ds, pro shoots, little regard, good shot, processing expenses, important thing, overnighting pond, different frames, Most pro, location shoots, professional photographers, snow geese, model fees, digital equivalent, shutter release, creative process, shooting habits, art director, stock photographer, commercial assignment, medium zoom, different purpose, focal length, different compositions, wildlife, images, salaries, myriad, amateurs, hobbyists, assistant, digitally