Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fearless Photography

How would you shoot if you knew for certain that you could not fail?

Many times, my choice of gear and sometimes shooting technique are based on a "maximin" strategy, meaning to choose a strategy that will maximize my minimum payoff.  In other words, the safe path.  So for example, between a 24-70 2.8 and a 50 1.4, I would choose the 24-70 2.8 because it is more versatile and can cover more situations.  Or suppose I had a 50 1.4.  I would choose an aperture of f/2.0 or thereabouts because I know the chance of getting acceptable focus is much higher than if I chose f/1.4.

Recently I am slowly realizing that there is often no reason why I shouldn't try a more aggressive "maximax" strategy (maximizing the maximum payoff), i.e., rolling the dice.  Many times, I am shooting just for fun and personal satisfaction.  It's not like I've been hired as an event photographer.  With no one depending on me for photos, there is no downside to missing shots.  For us hobbyists, there's no such thing as failure.  The worst case scenario is that I could come home with no acceptable pictures.  Even then, it wouldn't be a big deal.  On the other hand, if I did get one or two good shots, they could be significantly better (to me) than the safe shots.

And so last weekend, I did just that.  I was taking my daughter to her classmate's birthday party.  I didn't take two cameras -- just the D600.  I didn't take the all-purpose 28-105.  I just took the 85 1.8G, a relatively specialized lens.

Ordinarily, I think it would be crazy to try to document an event with just an 85.  The field of view is quite narrow, so you probably couldn't get enough context.  But I wasn't there as an event photographer. I just wanted to try to get a good shot of my daughter.  And yes, I would prefer one good shot instead of several 'acceptable' shots.

I didn't try to take many photos of my daughter.  I just took some photos here and there, only when I recognized an opportunity for a good photo.  I didn't go out of my way to keep hunting for photos or get a shot of every vantage point.

In choosing my aperture, I knew that when used wide open the 85 had just enough depth of field to get the subject in focus.  I didn't try to stop down to increase my chances of getting focus.  Did I miss focus some shots?  Sure I did.  But I got some that were perfectly in focus, with the background and foreground blurred nicely.  And that was more than enough for me.


  1. Hi again. It's wonderful to read this article which sets out so clearly the path I followed. I didn't really think about it in these terms but you have it spot on here.
    Had I seen this sooner it might have saved me the hassle (and cost!) of buying and then selling the 24-70!
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks! Glad to know I'm not alone in thinking this way.

      Actually, I would have benefited from this article myself because like you I also ended up selling the 24-70!

      Best regards,


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