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Habit 4 for Amazing Photographs.

Updated on September 2, 2014
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher photo by Bron Praslicka
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher photo by Bron Praslicka

Habit 4 - Take A LOT of Photos.

Even the most skilled photographer knows that memorable photographs don't come along every day. But I wouldn't just take my word for it, listen to these very successful professional photographers.

  • The legendary fashion photographer Helmut Newton once said, “The first 10,000 photos are the worst.”
  • Eric Kim who has earned internet acclaim as a street photographer explains, “In my experiences, after an entire day of shooting– even having 1 or 2 “keepers” is a good rate”.
  • Ansel Adams the well known American photographer and environmentalist shared how difficult it was to take memorable photographs when he stated, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
  • When nature photographer Hennie van Heerden was asked how she captures such stunning wildlife images she stated, “When I finally capture that one picture, it is often the only pick from a series of hundreds, but often enough a couple of thousand pictures.

So if I can summarize for these talented individuals, since great photos are few and far between you can increase your odds of taking an amazing photo by taking A LOT of photos. Thank goodness for the age of digital photography.

I'll be honest, this isn't as easy as it might sound. As much as I tell people to take A LOT of photos, I still have occasions where I wish I myself had taken many more photos of a particular subject. I think where I usually get in trouble is in a situation where the lighting seems perfect, the subject is in great condition and stationary, so I assume it should only take a few photos to get it right. What I have tried to train myself to do is to take A LOT of photos by changing my perspective on the subject, thus taking more photos.

There are situations however where it is obvious that it is going to be hard to capture a great image. The time I captured the photo posted above of a Scissor-tailed flycatcher in flight was one of those situations. I had noticed a group of Scissor-tails feeding on the berries of a tree at the edge of a parking lot. I found that I could pull my car up close to the tree without disturbing the Scissor-tails while they ate the berries. I had the advantage of knowing that a bird would eventually fly up to a group of berries but I didn't know when. I sat taking photos for almost an hour before I was convinced that I had captured a great photo. Out of close to 150 photos, there were only two or three that I really thought were excellent photos.

As a side note: If you aren't familiar with the Scissor-tailed flycatcher you probably aren't alone. The research I've done on the species says that it spends its summer in approximately 6 states in the south central part of the United States, and winters in Central America.

Young Cliff Swallows photo by Bron Praslicka
Young Cliff Swallows photo by Bron Praslicka

No - He Isn't Dead.

My wife hates to see animals being injured or killed. I have to admit I'm not a fan of it either however unlike my wife I can still watch Planet Earth and other nature documentaries without being upset when a predator catches up with its prey.

For those of you who might be like my wife I just wanted you to know that the young cliff swallow in the photo above wasn't dead - or even hurt. I just wanted you to know so that I don't lose you. As it turns out the photo above is one of my all time favorite photos of animals being less than perfect.

I came upon this group of young cliff swallows one spring morning just as they were learning to fly. The fence was about 30 yards from a bridge where the cliff swallows had built their nests and the young birds had been brave enough on their first flight to make it to the barbed wire fence surrounding a large open field.

Again by staying in my car I was able to pull up very close to the fence without disturbing the swallows. The young birds as well as the adults were extremely busy that day so I got comfortable and shot 300 or 400 photos that morning.

Although we can all guess that it takes young birds a lot of practice to get the hang of flying, we never stop to realize that it takes just as much practice to simply learn to sit on a wire or limb. As I observed that particular morning it takes a lot of practice to learn to perch on a wire. Most of the young birds would simply start flying again when they lost their balance, but this particular swallow didn't seem to want to let go. As a result he first fell backwards while hanging on with both feet, and then simply decided to hang by the single foot for a minute or two.

What I really loved about this photo are the looks the young swallow is getting from his friends. Although he was obviously trying to be cool about hanging upside down, I don't believe he was fooling anyone.

White-lined Sphinx moth photo by Bron Praslicka
White-lined Sphinx moth photo by Bron Praslicka

When Timing Is Everything.

As one last example of when you should take A LOT of photos (although I should need to provide examples since as I said you should ALWAYS take A LOT of photos - however it does provide me an excuse to share another of my favorite photos) is when you are trying to capture a subject that is moving about while you are trying to take its photograph.

The photo above is of a moth known as a Sphinx moth, and this specific species of Sphinx moth is known as a White-lined Sphinx. The White-lined Sphinx moth is fairly common across the U.S. and because it is one of the few Sphinx moths that like to fly during the day time it is probably one of the most often seen moth of the Sphinx family.

The other thing I really love about the Sphinx moth is that they aren't easily spooked by humans. If you don't move too suddenly it is possible to get within 4 or 5 feet of a White-lined Sphinx in order to capture a great photo. Because it was very bright day I knew that my camera would set the shutter speed at a high rate which meant that it should be able to catch an image of the moth with its wings open.

The challenge is that Sphinx moths move their wings extremely rapidly. They are often mistaken for hummingbirds since they move about exactly like a hummingbird while they fly from flower to flower. The challenge I had was trying to take a photo at exactly the same split second in time that the moth had its wings open. The truth is it is all about luck. My hope was that it I took enough photos of the moth in flight, the odds were that at least one or two photos might be fortunate enough to catch its wings in the open position. I was right.

Not only is this one of my favorite photos of a Sphinx moth but a number of other people have enjoyed it as well. If you make time to do an internet search of Bron Praslicka Natural History Museum of Utah the first item listed should be a link to the Museum's web page titled Bugs of Utah. I am happy to say that several years ago I was contacted by the individual who was putting together the Museum's new Bug web page and asked if they might use my photo on their page. Of course I was more than happy to help out.

Thanks for dropping by - Take Lots of Photos - But most of all - Enjoy.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more of the habits or techniques used to take more stunning photographs - simply click on the link just below to go to the next habit or technique you can use for taking better photos or hop down to the link below that and go to my opening article on my series on the 7 habits or techniques for taking better photos.

© 2014 Bron Praslicka


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    • BronPraslicka profile image

      Bron Praslicka 3 years ago from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas

      I made that same assumption for a long time. As I was researching some of the more famous photographers of the past for a class I was developing I discovered that it's not that they always take great photos but that they take a lot of photos which makes their odds of success that much greater.

    • J Henderson 91 profile image

      J Henderson 91 3 years ago

      Amazing photos and great tip. I think we tend to assume great photographers are so good that every photo they take must be amazing - so it is nice to hear that just isn't the case.