The Too Precious Image
Back when I was working in large format film, I spent a lot of time on each image I printed. It was all about getting everything just right.
There are still times where I spend a significant amount of time on a single image, but it’s pretty rare. Part of that is that I’m much faster in Photoshop, and I can get the overall curves adjustment the way I want in a very short time. But I do a lot less local adjustment of curve shape to balance get things the way I want these days.
Part of that may be that I’m just making a lot more exposures, and if I sit down at the computer, often I’m limited not by how many images I have on which I want to work, but by the number of hours I’m willing to spend at the computer instead of outside with the camera. If I come up against an image that I can’t seem to get right, I mark it as ‘interesting problem’ and move on. Someday, maybe this winter when the weather is inhospitable, I’ll go back and tackle those. Or maybe not. There’s such a thing as working too hard trying to save the ‘too precious’ image. Sometimes it’s better to let go.
I struggle with this, still; there’s a sense of regret when I imagine what I wanted when I let the shutter go but I find that it’s just not going to work out.
There are an infinite number of images out there for me to capture. For right now, it seems more productive to look at the image I really wanted but which just is not coming together, and think “So, what’s wrong, here?” for a few minutes, extract the whatever lessons I can from the failure, and then just let it go. There’s the same scene tomorrow, a day older and with different light, and with me being a day older and perhaps more clever. Or perhaps not.
The one thing I do know is that there will still be infinitely many photographs for me to make, tomorrow. It’s not as if flogging a dead horse today is some sort of dues I have to pay so that I ensure an ample supply tomorrow.