The Power of Overshooting

The Power of Overshooting

Overshooting may sound like it's a dumb thing to do, but over my time doing photography, I’ve learned how important it really is. Here, I will go over a few reasons why you should shoot more than you need to. They apply to almost any sort of shooting situation.

Personal Work

When out shooting for yourself, you are free. This is the time you shoot as much as you possibly can and create the images you have in mind, whether you are shooting landscapes, portraits, clothing, products, or whatever else you can imagine. Use this free time to experiment, because you may end up using that same style in the future for a job when you are comfortable, consistent, and like the way it looks. If you do not take the time to experiment, you do the same thing over and over and have a fear of trying new things; you may never know how good you really are. Don't be afraid of having too many photos; be afraid of having too many photos you like! There is nothing worse than realizing something went wrong with a shoot once it is all over.

Client Work

Sometimes, when we are working with a client, we have time restrictions, and these can really limit the amount of photos or videos we may be able to get while we are on their clock. Make sure you go to the job and get all the shots you want. Once you are sure those are done and you have some time, move on and get more shots if you need or want to. These are the ones that you can be creative with and really show your style. Again, this really depends on what you are shooting; if it’s real estate, maybe you adjust the lighting in the room to get a perfect photo. If it’s a modeling shoot, maybe you crack that last joke to really get your model to smile, so you have a look you love. If it’s a landscape, maybe nature needs its time to provide that shot for you. If you are shooting food, maybe the lettuce is hanging too low on the sandwich, and you need to lift it back up to get that appetizing shot you've been dreaming about for months. Whatever it is, you won’t ever get the time to go back to that moment you had, because when the shoot is over and you are home, you no longer have control of how you shot those images. You may end up sitting at your computer, regretting the whole shoot you just had, or even worse, debating whether or not you are good enough to do your trade. Shoot more, because if you don’t get what you need to, there is no such thing as going back in time to redo the shoot, not for a while at least.

Conclusion

Honestly, overshooting can be annoying because you have more to go through, but at the end of the day, you are better safe than sorry. When I first started shooting, I failed to shoot enough and almost couldn't finish a job because of it. After that small experience, I made sure I took more than enough photos at each job, because if a client ever asked to see more photos, if I had a different shot of this, if Brian's eyes weren't closed in DCIM_1321, I would be a lot more likely to have the shots my clients need. Even with my personal work, I shoot way more than I need to, so I can see what other types of photos I can get. I test the light, the camera, the lenses, and their capabilities, so I know what I can actually be doing with the gear I have. If I never did any of these tests from shooting so much, I'm sure I wouldn't have half the content I do today.

Don't be afraid to go home with 1,000 photos from a shoot; you are almost assured you will have one shot you really like from making the effort to shoot more. Maybe out of the 200 you think are cool, 3 of them are awesome. It's up to you to get those images you want, whether you are shooting for yourself or for a client. Go out there, be creative, and shoot away.

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15 Comments

Growing up with film it's difficult for me to 'fire away'. In fact I come home with more quality shots if I take my time and photograph less with more thought. The article does ring true (for me) when shooting sports, especially when attempting to predict the action.

Brandon Ericksen's picture

Same here, in class a teacher once complained I didn't shoot enough, I took 11 shots TOTAL for the portraiture assignment, processed 6 and used 3. Got an "A" and the teacher loved the shots. Manual focus lens, it makes you think *laughs*

In 2012, I went to an air show and my film budget was six rolls of 36 exposure B&W film. I put a new roll in for the final performers, the US Air Force Thunderbirds because I didn't want to be changing film during their performance. Guess what, I burned up that roll and had to reload. Fortunately, it was during a lull in their routine and I was ready when they reappeared.

PS: The Thunderbirds are on the fifth and sixth roll.

Scott Free's picture

Ralph, back in the film days the solution to that was motordrives/film loaders or two cameras and an assistant etc.

I've got motor drives for my Canon A-1 and F-1N. The motor drive for the F-1N can do autorewind. I haven't ever timed myself on how long it takes to change a roll, but I consider myself proficient with the A-1; I've owned the F-1N for a less period of time (36 years with the A-1 versus 3 years with the F-1N).

Ty Poland's picture

Film is a lot different, I didn't even think back to shooting film when I wrote this because a lot of the stuff today is digital. Film is another story, but when I did shoot it, I was hesitant to take a shot that would waste space on my roll, so a roll of film would take a while for me to fill. Now that I'm shooting digital, there is no limit really to what you can do, the only downside is going through all of the photos and picking out the right ones.

Alex Casillas's picture

Definitely get where you're coming from, but wouldn't you agree that you create more quality work when you take your time and are more intentional about your shots? Hate to be cliche and say "quality over quantity," but I've found that my best work is made when I go in with a clear vision of what I want to create and take my time with those specific shots.

Just my thoughts. Of course like I said, I definitely get where you're coming from and have had situations where the quantity of photos resulted in quality.

Totally agree with David's comment below. I grew up with film, so I take my time, especially with personal work. Often coming away from a day of shooting digital with MAYBE 100-200 shots, all of which were well thought through and taking time to think before I shoot. And it took me years to work up to that number, when I first started using digital I'd come back from a day out with 20, 30 or at most 50 shots. There is a cost to taking 1,000 shots vs 100. Time. And that is a very real cost that we dramatically underestimate. But I will say, this changes when there is money on the line... but 1,000 shots? Really? Maybe I'm doing something wrong... Now, when I'm in a new city for two weeks I might come home with 2,000 shots that is usually culled down to 1,200 or so. But per day? I don't have the time to sort through 14,000 shots.

Ty Poland's picture

Hahaha it was a bit of an exaggeration, I have come back with over 1500 photos from sports, maybe 300 for real estate and like 500 for portraits. I cant imagine going through that many photos on a daily basis and I'm sure there are some people out there that actually do shoot that much.

Dave McDermott's picture

I only overshoot if I'm working with natural light. If I'm using strobes it takes longer to set everything up so I come away with less shots. This really cuts down on the culling later which speeds up workflow.

So I kinda started with digital. Ive used film in school but didnt get serious until I went digital. I have a problem with overshooting but its a love/hate thing. I mostly shoot weddings and what ive realized is that while overshooting can be dangerous at sometimes (for example, when im shooting candids, sometimes i spend too much time overshooting and I miss a more elaborate shot I could have set up instead), and yet at other times, i love it (when im shooting B&G portraits, Many of my clients enjoy being able to pick their favorite smile. Alot of my clients tell me they have different quirks which I love but they hate so they want to be able to find their husbands favorite smirk).

I think its more important to learn your style of shooting, and focus on how to make it easier. I shoot manual everything usuaslly so once i set my settings, I can pretty much copy and paste to other pics in the same spot reducing editing time.

In other words, dont let it get in your way, but dont miss shots because you dont want to edit them later.

Ty Poland's picture

it's funny how photography has changed from film to digital and I think it's a reason why so many people do photography now. film is literally a whole process itself, something that has to be learned on its own pretty much. With digital we can get those multiple images and know that we have them because we can see them right away. I know everyone has a different workflow, so maybe shooting a lot isn't one persons thing, however, in some situations it can be very helpful like you are saying.

Paolo Veglio's picture

IMHO a lot depends on the genre of photography. When I'm out shooting wildlife the burst mode is obviously the first thing I turn on. I guess the same applies for sport photography too.

If I'm taking landscape pictures I'm more conservative. Usually I take a couple of "metering shots" where I look at the histogram, check the framing, focus and so on. After that I usually wait for the right light and keep shooting at regular intervals for a while but without overshooting too much. For a sunset shot, for example, I might take 15/20 pictures in the few minutes right around the sunset because the light is changing quickly and I like to have multiple options to choose from when I can see the results on a larger screen. But in all that the photo was already decided before I even set my tripod.

On the other hand I don't shoot portrait and I'm not even a pro, so maybe I have a different approach because I only need to satisfy myself and if a photo didn't come out right, no big deal.

Maybe you need to spend time with an 8x10 view camera or the 20x24 Polaroids before they go away?
Get it right in camera and be more confident before you spend so much extra time 'backing up' everything.
Study some cinemaphotography technique and metering. Might help you a lot.