Don’t spray and pray, just pause and think

“Spray and pray” is a term familiar to a lot of photographers. It entails thoughtlessly firing the shutter without pausing to give any thought to the composition, or anything else that matters, and just hoping and praying that you get a good shot. It’s like the photography equivalent of engaging your mouth before engaging your brain and just firing off knee jerk reaction words without thinking about the desired end result.

The first rarely gets you a good shot, unless maybe you spot a wedge tailed eagle and you don’t even have time to change lenses, let alone stop and think before lifting your viewfinder to your eye. And the later isn’t the way to resolve issues without diminishing another person, or looking silly.

They both create messes. The first results in people going home with way too many photos, with no idea which ones are keepers and end up struggling to complete the culling process to arrive at a decision. While the second results in messy words that the speaker can’t take back and the receiver can’t forget.

Sometimes it’s not the spray and pray approach at all… it’s just a case of taking a shot, second guessing yourself and taking 30 more shots of the same scene from different angles and heights and slight variations in settings. It makes no difference if it’s from thoughtlesness or from perfectionism, the result is the same — too many photos in your Lightroom catalogue sapping your joy. It’s why some people are returning to film — you can’t afford to second guess yourself or spray and pray if 36 shots are all you have to play with.

But whether it’s ill considered photos or words, there’s a solution.

You may have heard the THINK acronym. That is, think before you speak. Are the words that are about to come out of your mouth or appear in an email, blog post or any other form of communication True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind? I have a longer version. THINKER. True, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind, empathetic, rational. Granted, there are times when things need to be said because they are true, necessary, and rational in which case the best you can hope for is that it’s not unkind. Just focus on the issue at hand and speak your truth without diminishing the other person. If you’re on the receiving end of knee jerk reaction words, then yes, be thankful that you’ve acted with strength and haven’t diminished anyone yourself, but also view the person with compassion, knowing that they aren’t the only person who has made the mistake and definitely won’t be the last. And if you were the speaker of those words then next time you feel anger or irritation, choose to be a THINKER!

I’ve just come up with the photography equivalent of such an acronym. CAMPING! Composition — are you sure you like the composition of your photo? Aperture — have you chosen the correct aperture for your preferred depth of field? Manual — are your other manual settings appropriate? Print — is it a picture that you can imagine loving enough to print and display on your wall? Interesting — is there anything interesting in the foreground, or is it just a boring shot of the land and sky? Ninety — do you already have 90 other very similar photos sitting on your computer hard drive? Great — is it a cut above the rest of your photos? Is it one you hope to enter in a competition? If it doesn’t meet the criteria then why fire the shutter?

Like most things, this new philosophy takes practice, but I’m pleased to say it now works a fair amount of the time. I shot the image featured on this blog while out with other local photographers last year. It seems I’m not alone in my habit of sometimes taking too many photos, just because I can, because when I decided it was time to pack up my gear the response I got was, “Aren’t you getting any good shots?” To which I replied, “Yes, but I’ve got what I was after, I don’t feel the need to take any additional shots of the scene.” And just like that… a new habit was born. Likewise, I’ve chosen to be a thinker.

But just as the THINKER acronym can be a valuable tool for people stopping themselves from voicing words they may regret, it’s also a tool for people too afraid to put their words out there. For people second guessing whether they should be writing regularly and whether their high school English teacher’s description of them as a talented writer is still true today. The truth is, perhaps unused writing muscles do diminish over time, but there’s only one way to build them back up again. Just write. It might not be the perfect expression of the idea, or the words might not flow as easily as they once did. But as long as the words tick the THINKER criteria, write it anyway. And post it anyway.

Originally published at Szilvia Virag.