'Breaking Bad' habits

The break

After taking a couple of weeks off from shooting over the holidays I discovered something interesting about just how I dived back in.  It was different.  In some ways drastic.


I've always been one to stand back once in a while and look at how something is being done and try to think of a better way, faster way, or a way that might come up with better results.  It's almost always a fruitful exercise that doesn't take much work.  Although a few face/palm V8 moments happen when you consider how wrong you might have been doing something.  That just makes you consider what else to look at.

During the break I also sold a Canon 7D I wasn't using much and, to be fair and diligent, I found a program to give me the shutter count on my cameras.  I found the 7D had far more shutter activations than I thought and I dropped the price I sold it at to be fair.  It's when I checked the 6D and found 102,000 activations in just a little over a year that got me thinking.  It's not that I'm now stingy with my shots BUT I do consider not wasting as many.

So, back in the studio and here's what I found different and interesting.  Not all conscious efforts.

  • The actual time in studio dropped to about an hour for the shoots.  Typically they were 2-4 hours.  I'm sure this will vary, but after doing a couple in an hour and getting some wonderful shots in that time, and 4-5 sets, I'm thinking less time certainly doesn't mean less good shots.  The thinking between sets accelerated with ideas of how to change up the lights and get the looks I wanted from the unique faces I was working with.
  • All black and white.  This is something I'd played with a bit on and off but never for entire shoots.  In the past I used it so I could see the lights and darks and how shadows fell easier.  Of course I shoot in RAW so it's not really B&W, but what we see on the camera back and iPad review was all in B&W.  I now do that exclusively unless the shoot is about the color and then, naturally, I shoot in color.
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  • I'm doing far more directing and paying closer attention to those little things that make a shot look odd.  Elbow placement, hands, the wayward strand of hair.  I stop, fix them, and then shoot.  Instead of 20-30 shots I do 5-10.  I can see the slight annoyance with the models who like to strike a bunch of poses, but they learn very fast to give me their best first.  I expect I'll tell them that from now on and get them really thinking when I raise the camera up to shoot.
  • As a result of these slight changes, my shot count has come down 25-35% to usually less than 300.  Since I don't shoot every day it's still a drastic reduction from the 6D over the year. (BTW, 102,000 shots would be 280 shots a day for 365 days)

I think it's always a good idea to morph your techniques once in a while.  It can change our perspective and even the outcome.  As an artist this is something that should be constant in your life.

Enjoy!  And please feel free to comment.