Roar or yawn? Culling the hoard

At the beginning of a new year -or at least some time in January, I try to make sure that I do a new backup of my photos, and take stock of what I have done over the last year. With the processing software I use, I can get year end totals for the amount of images that I’ve kept: 7197; most used camera: Fuji X-T2; most common ISO: 200; and favorite resolution: 6000 X 4000.

That’s a lot of photos, but that’s only the images that are still stored on my pc. The actual number of pictures I took last year is (conservatively, I would guess) probably four times the amount, and it doesn’t include the hundreds of images that I fired off with my phone cam, or photos that I have stored in the cloud, or photos that I took for someone else….. 

Again, that’s a lot of photos. Most of them are either bad, or just not up to what I consider worthwhile. But they’re there. Waiting in the dark as little  digital blobs  of millions of ‘1s’ and ‘0s,’ ready to spring to life as shitty images, should I ever go hunting for something I might have missed the first couple of times I sifted through them.

It’s rare that I’ll use the ‘spray and pray’ method of shooting, where you set your camera to ‘burst’ mode, activate continuous autofocus, and simply hold down the shutter button, shooting hundreds of images in a few seconds. Probably 99.5% of the images I took last year were from individual stabs at the shutter release. Click….click….click….click…..

When it comes to taking that many shots, you’ve got to be brutally merciless when it comes to deciding what you keep, and what you toss. Why are you keeping this? Is it a good technical image, or is it just a holiday snap-shot? Is the impact of the subject enough to overlook the poor technique? Conversely, is the technique, or light, or location so great that you’re willing to overlook a boring subject? And on, and on.

Deciding what to keep is massively important with regards to how others see your images, and perhaps even more important, how you see yourself. Just like what you wear. It’s not just the colour of your shoes, it’s the style. (“Holy shit! How did I end up with ten pairs?!?”) These are the things we use to express ourselves.

Most of my shots, I just keep to, and for, myself. Some, I share with my wife, but I wouldn’t inflict the vast majority of what I keep upon her. For various reasons I keep them, but, quite frankly, no one besides me would really give a shit about them -and that’s fine with me. I’m not trying to impress anyone, or prove anything to anyone else, I just like having a body of work that I can revisit from time to time, and that hopefully reminds me that I’m improving incrementally as time passes.

Time for some new prints.

Every once in a while, I’ll go out and get a bunch of new pictures printed up, and swap out the older ones that I have framed, and hung around my house. The sizes vary; anywhere from 12” along one side, to 36.” (I say ‘along one side,’ because I haven’t a fucking clue what the photographic aspect ratios are anymore. I used to know, when everything I was shooting with was 35mm film, but that’s all gone by the board as I’ve gotten older, switched systems several times, and like everyone else, presented with an overabundance of aspect ratio options. 1:1, 16:9, 4:3, 3:2, 5:4……. Ever cycle through you HDTV’s options to try and resolve the problem of peoples bodies appearing too long, yet their heads seemed too big? Then you know what I’m talking about. 

Then, when you get around to printing, you’ve gotta get your head around how that aspect fits onto the proper paper size.)

I choose the images I want, make sure that there’s enough resolution there for the intended print size, put any finishing touches on the way I think the images are supposed to look, that I might have missed the first time, and then take them down to a printer that I’ve been using for a few years now.

Having a good printer that you trust is important. A good printer will help you with paper selections, and even offer their opinions on how they think the final print will turn out. Whether they think too many highlights will be lost; not enough resolution for that size, etc., etc. The type of paper you use is hugely important too. How it absorbs the ink; how reflective it is…. A quality print shop should have plenty of samples, and catalogs for you to skim through, to help you make your decision.

All of that stuff goes towards making a PRINT!, as oppose to just a print.

Years ago, I thought I’d get a printer, and put forth the effort into learning a bit about it, figuring that I could just do it myself. I got a half decent Canon printer, and figured I was good to go. What I didn’t realize, was that even what I thought was a fair chunk of cash ($4-$500.) barely gets you in the game. Then there’s the price of quality paper; the larcenous prices of ‘archival quality’ ink, but most of all, the thing that killed it the most for me, was that I just didn’t print enough to keep the ink heads from drying out, clogging, and wasting tons of precious over-priced ink.

That shit is expensive, and not at all practical for how often I print; hence, the need for a good printing service.

I bought myself a nice beveled mat board cutter, so it didn’t matter what size of frame I wanted to put the picture into. I could make the mat board frame as wide as I wanted to, for any given aspect ratio.


If you enjoy photography, please, print! Displaying images on a computer monitor is nice, but it’s just not the same. An image from a screen is illuminated. Your monitor/image is the light. A framed image hanging on your wall doesn’t emit any light. It reflects back any available light to your eyes. Big difference!

Plus, it helps to improve your photography. Having a framed image in a conspicuous place will make you look at it more. ‘What did I like enough about this image to make a print of it? What could I have done better?

Then, of course, there’s the bragging rights.

On the street

“There are two types of street photographers: Those that have been yelled at, and those that are about to be yelled at.”   -Me

It happens. Comes with the turf. Some people just don’t like having their pictures taken, and I try to respect that.

I’ve been yelled at before, and although it’s an unpleasant experience, it’ll probably happen again. I’ll usually just sheepishly smile, and walk away. 

Then there are those that demand that you delete the photo that you took. Well, that’s up to me. If the person asks me in a civil manner, I’d probably do it. (What’s one photo? Is that picture really going to become one of the highlights of my hobby? Probably not.)

If they’re being an asshole, I’ll just ignore them, and keep walking. 

I was walking through Trinity Bellwoods Park a couple of years ago, on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, with my camera slung around my neck, and even though I wasn’t about to, this guy who was tanning, wearing nothing but a thong, started yelling at me not to take his picture. 

Holy fuck! My hands weren’t even on my camera. 

“Why the fuck would I want to take YOUR picture, asshole?” Or words to that effect.

Seems these days, more than ever, some people really go out of their way to find things to be offended with.

On the other hand, most people just don’t care, but, I see the point of those that are wary. Everybody’s got a camera these days, and most of us are aware that photographs can be used online to embarrass, or shame, and that’s the problem. Abuse.

What are you trying to say with your photo? How does it affect others? It’s a bit of a moral paradox. Yes, you’re perfectly within your rights to photograph anyone in a public space -at least in my country, but should you? Here in Toronto, women won the right to go topless in public years ago, but do they? Choose your battles wisely. 

There are those that feel that one should never photograph the homeless, or less fortunate, or people in distress. Do I? Sure do -but not for what I feel are exploitative purposes, and not any more than I would photograph anyone else doing something I thought was interesting. Am I to pretend that these people don’t even exist? They are a part of humanity. I don’t take any more, or any less, of any group of people.

I am mildly amused at the fact that I don’t really have any friends, (I have plenty of ‘associates’) I don’t ‘hang out,’ and I avoid socializing whenever possible, yet I still like to take pictures of strangers. Maybe that’s the allure. I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to. Guess that makes me a flaneur. People are an interesting subject; sometimes for the right, and sometimes for the wrong reasons. 

The badass in the picture above, just showed up at the coffee shop I was sitting in one afternoon. My camera was sitting on the table in front of me, so I asked if I could take his picture. This guy just knew he looked good. He does.

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