There is not one way to approach photography. Most of us find a way that fits our temperament as well as our photographic vision. Some photographers spend a lot of time reflecting over each photo they capture. This is particularly evident with a so-called contemplative approach, which is very much a Zen-like way of thinking and, I would add, a slow style. (I wrote about the contemplative approach in my post Different Perspective) .
I, on the other hand, mostly find myself at the other end of the scale, applying a more intuitive and faster approach. It goes along with my restless nature and need for speed. However, from time to time I do try to slow down and become more thoughtful in the process of capturing photos. As I wrote in the post called exactly Slow Down some weeks ago (written as a reminder to self), it’s often too easy to “spray and pray” when rapid-firing the shutter without too much reflections. Slowing down, then, is about being mindful and staying with the subject and findings its inherent quality rather than forcing yourself and your vision upon it.
One approach isn’t better than the other—or any other way of shooting, necessarily. We each need to find the way that works for us. However, I do think it’s always valuable not to become too rigid in one kind of expression or approach. By changing approach, trying out new ways, we keep developing our photography. Yes, the quick and intuitive way of shooting is “my” way when I don’t have time to experiment and play. Nevertheless, I should by no means become confined to it.
This much said, though, I believe we often tend to overdo the thinking, maybe as a result of an uncertainty in how to approach a certain subject. As much as I a couple of weeks recommend to slow down and approach the capturing with mindfulness, I think it’s equally valuable to, at least from time to time, let go of all inhibitions, preconceived ideas and over-thinking.
I am a strong believe in what the renowned photographer Henri Cartier Bresson once stated: “Thinking should be done beforehand and afterwards—never while actually taking a photograph”.
One way of letting go, is through something one could call free shooting. You have probably heard about free writing. This is the idea of letting your ideas flow to paper. No concern is given to grammar, completeness, or final usage—just opening the door and let it flow. No idea or statement is too crazy. The same approach can be applied to photography. Thus the term free shooting.
With free shooting you let your imagination go wild. Try any idea that comes to mind. No concern should be given to limiting your composition, exposure, or any other technical or artistic considerations. Don’t hold back. This approach often works when trying to capture a fleeting moment, taken many shots in a row, hoping one may deliver the perfect image. Just letting go. What happens happens.
Free shooting is a way of getting you juices flowing.
Some time ago I photographed a roller derby tournament. It was a perfect event for using free shooting. There was so much energy and speed with the teams flying around the track, ever faster and more competitive as the competition evolved. There was certainly no time for a contemplative approach or slowing down for a more mindful approach. I just raised the camera and kept shooting without knowing what I got.
Have you ever tried free shooting? Besides, what is your favourite approach to your photography?
Facts about the photo: The photo was taken a Canon Eos 1D with a 16-35 mm lens set at 35 mm. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.