Monday, September 16, 2013

No More Burning Film

Back in the film camera era, we sometimes spoke of "burning film" to describe using large quantities of film to get the shot you wanted. Most of the shots would be discarded for various reasons, in attempt to get the few keepers. I once read of a Sports Illustrated photographer who shot forty-something rolls of film in three cameras during a baseball game. That's over 1400 exposures! Of that total, three photos got printed with the accompanying article. That's burning film! When a magazine publisher with deep pockets is buying your film, I guess that's an acceptable keeper ratio. I could never afford to burn film at anywhere near that rate!

Today, in the digital photography age, it's a different story. Once the equipment is purchased, shooting is essentially free. I can "burn film" with almost complete impunity now, limited only by the capacity of my memory cards. Back at my computer, I can hit the delete key on missed shots without fretting over the cost of film developing and making prints. It frees the photographer to experiment and take chances that, for me, were often too expensive to consider with a film camera.

A Lighter Moment, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

When photographing subjects in motion, I find the number of "misses" is usually fairly high. Yesterday morning at church I decided to get some shots of one of our pastors, David Williams, while he was preaching. I worked from the audio booth at the back of the church so as to be unobtrusive. Of course, I used no flash, which would have been a major distraction. When photographing someone speaking, most of your shots are going to catch your subject in awkward expressions. That's just the way it works. Sometimes these can be humorous, but seldom flattering. Out of 47 exposures I made, I kept three that I thought were usable, plus one that I can use for inserting a humorous caption later. (Heh, heh!) With a film camera, I probably would have been crying about the wasted film and unusable and discarded 3x5 prints. With digital, it's all good, it's all fun. The photo above is the one I thought was the best of the bunch, so I gave it a little extra attention in the digital darkroom.

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