64,938. Based on the counters on my digital cameras, that’s the number of digital exposures I’ve taken in the last 3 years. Those shots are split between a Nikon CoolPix 990 (which accounts for just over 24,000) with the balance being shot on a Pentax *ist-D.
By the standards of digital photography, I’m really quite a slacker...
I often talk to folks who claim phenomenal numbers of digital shots taken in very short time periods. Heck, 65,000 shots in a four and half year period (I bought the CoolPix in the summer of 2001) works out to just one shot every 36 minutes. Well, I shot a lot of film as well, so I wasn’t entirely goofing off…
The ability to photograph freely, without worry about the cost of film and processing, and the immediacy of the results, are two of the great strengths of digital photography.
No matter what you set out to do, the more you work at it the more your learn it. Whether you are learning to play the piano, hit a baseball, sail a boat, or take photographs – practice makes perfect. Digital provides the photographer with the ability to shoot, evaluate, adjust, and re-shoot (if need be.) And that adds up to learning how to take better photos.
Some folks have argued that digital actually hurts your ability to learn photography by making it to easy to take photographs. That strikes me as a pretty odd concept. You certainly don’t hear music teachers telling their students to practice less, or athletic coaches telling players to knock off the exercise.
Apparently, the perception is that running around, willy nilly, shooting everything in sight is unconstructive, and ultimately harmful to one’s ability as a photographer. The logic is that a disciplined, studied approach to the subject is more productive.
There is a grain of truth in that logic, in that taking a serious and studied approach to anything is usually the best way to learn it. But at the same time – just doing something is useful, even if the doing is unstructured and free form. You may not make it into the NBA by shooting hoops in your driveway – but you’ll learn more about shooting baskets by doing that than by sitting on your front porch.
And while some digital photographers do run around shooting willy nilly, many don’t. Some of us only spend part of our time in chaotic abandon, and actually pay attention most of the time. Shooting a high volume of shots does not preclude a thoughtful and studied approach. Having more experience does not mean that you learn less from it.
Above all, digital frees up the imagination and makes it easier to experiment with different ideas and approaches. If they don’t work – well, you learn something and delete the image. If they do work, you just may find that you’ve discovered something worth pursuing.
The real challenge lies in evaluating and editing your work. Of those 64,938 images, how many are really worthwhile? I don’t have a count, but it would be a slight faction of them to be sure.