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The 36 shot camera roll — The Daily PPILL #73

The 36 shot camera roll — The Daily PPILL #73

If you know me, you also know that I like photography. A lot.

When I was just starting college, I once enrolled in a photography elective. We used film at the time (remember that?), and invariable, no matter what the assignment was for the week, our instructor, my beloved Fernando Carrizales (RIP) would ask us to shoot a whole 36 frame roll, and then bring to the class, A SINGLE FRAME that we would have selected.

At first, it seemed like a weird exercise. Why would you shoot a whole roll, when you only had to bring back ONE picture? It seemed like a lot of waste, not efficient at all.

A few cycles into the class, it started to make more sense; and years later, it all connected with Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality.

At that class, the first thing that happened is that having 36 shots to be done, the first two, four, or maybe six, go fairly intentionally. Even the first dozen seem to follow a plan and allow for “alternative interpretations”. When you are up to 24 shots, you ran out of ideas and you really start to dig deeper, find more creative approaches. You barely make it to 36 in agony, and poor you if you loaded the roll extra diligently because you will have to push for a couple more at least.

This was the purpose of the assignment of shooting a roll of 36. To make you go above and beyond the obvious. To search for more. The selection process for picking one, that’s yet another lesson, that would hone the student’s critical eye.

Then there were a few more things. By looking at the roll as a whole, after the fact, you could get an idea of how hard were you pushing yourself. A roll with all pictures well exposed, no blur, and all of them in-focus, would usually end with lackluster results. The more bad frames you had, the more interesting the results would be. I am not talking about a stray shot, a blurry image that you could put the label “artsy” on, what I am saying is that usually, in the same roll that had mistakes, it also had some brilliant, in-focus and well-exposed frames.

If you were not making any mistakes -and not failing-, you probably weren’t innovating enough. The 36-frames, allowed you to fail quite a lot. Finally, you would fail at an average of 1/500 of a second. How’s that for failing fast?

It is the same way at work or in life. If you take some risks, you will eventually fail now and then, but if you are always playing it safe, you probably won’t be leading a very interesting life.

As published on The ChannelMeister

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