Quantity or Quality

I'd rather have made one excellent image than 10 good ones. I’d rather have 10 good images than 100 average ones. And I'd rather see the 10 best images from an event or a trip than the best 100.

It's seems obvious that quality is better than quantity when we're talking about art. But sometimes quantity does matter.

How much we practice matters. How often we do what we do. How we practice matters too, but if I only pick up a guitar for a few minutes I’m not going to suddenly get a lot better. I need a quantity of practice, even to feel comfortable with the instrument, to allow that muscle memory (and calluses) to fully develop.

There's also a certain freedom in taking more pictures. Not always seeking that perfect image, but exploring whatever catches our attention. An escape from the perfectionist, the rules, the 'right' way of doing things. There's a sense of play that I think we often lose in the pressure of work, in the desire to create something great. Not to take thousands of images of anything and everything, but to let inspiration flow whenever there might be a hint of an idea.

I once took a writing class where they introduced the concept of speed writing. You have a topic or theme or concept, then just write. Without pausing, without hesitation. I can't remember how long the exercise lasted, maybe it was 5 minutes, but it was hard. If the tutor noticed anyone pausing, she'd shout 'keep writing!' (she probably didn't shout, but it seems more dramatic if I recall it that way). I remember the almost constant desire to check what I was writing, to stop and think what might work best. To check if it sounded ok. The inner voice urging caution that there might be a better choice of words. The purpose of the exercise was exactly to avoid that voice, to force out the unedited, the instinctual. Editing comes later.

Some argue that we shouldn't take a photo if we don't feel an emotional connection to the image. But I think that connection can come later, in the selection process, in the editing. We don't have to be so selective that there's no room for play and experimentation. Stuff I need to learn to do more of.

Post inspired partly by the excellent Lenswork podcast (Aug 14 2018 - the virtues of volume).


Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City


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