Every Shot You Take is an Attempt!

Dear friend,

A simple idea: Whenever you click the shutter, you’re just taking an attempt.

Take a shot

To take a shot in photography is to take an attempt. You have to take a lot of shots to get a few good ones. In the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson:

Sometimes you need to milk the cow a lot, to get a little bit of cheese.

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Contact sheet: Walking woman, Lisbon 2018
Contact sheet: Walking woman, Lisbon 2018

The word ‘assay’ in French is a good word– it means “attempt”. And yes, this is the same word as the English word “essay”.

So for example, when you write an essay for your school paper, you are just make an ‘attempt’ at getting at some deeper truth about a topic.

For a photo essay, it is an ‘attempt’ to tell a story about some topic.

You don’t know what you’re capable of until you attempt it!

I like the idea that we can only figure out what we are capable of– by pushing our limits, and by attempting more epic stuff!

Henri Cartier-Bresson Contact Sheet

For example in photography, take more risks. I recommend you to shoot lots of digital photos, as a way to allow yourself to take lots of risks in photography, with literally no downside.

For example, if you want to master layers in street photography, just go out for an entire day, and shoot 1,000 layer-street photography picture attempts.

Martine Franck contact sheet

Or if you want to conquer your fears in street photography and shoot street portraits, just take lots of attempts. Try to get 50 people to reject you and say “no” to being photographed.

In photography, there are no downsides

This is the great thing in photography:

When you click the shutter, there is literally no downside.

If you shoot digitally, there is no downside to taking bad photos. If you don’t like the pictures, you can delete them! It costs you nothing!

If you are a baseball player, obviously the more you swing the bat, the better you will get, and the more likely you are to hit a home run.

Bruce Gilden Contact Sheet
Bruce Gilden Yakuza

Photography is the same. Wouldn’t you rather click your shutter 100,000 times– to just get a few good pictures? This is the work that is necessary!

Contact Sheets from the Masters will prove this. You often have to ‘work the scene’ a lot to just get 1 decent picture. And as Alex Webb said, “Street photography is 99% failure“.

Take more risks and attempts

Don’t be emotionally attached to the downside of not getting good pictures.

A practical tip:

Only edit your photos on your laptop only once you have 1,000+ pictures to look through.

Why? When you accumulate a lot of pictures to look through, of course there is a higher likelihood that you will get 1-2 decent photos!

That means shoot a lot, and look at your photos less often. Maybe you can just look at your pictures and edit (select) your best pictures, once a week, or once a month. To be frank, I prefer to shoot more than edit my pictures. Of course this will be different for you; just do what works for you.

The shot you haven’t taken yet is gonna be your best shot

What is the best picture you haven’t shot yet? Let this drive you forward!



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