Digital photography has given us a lot of things. We’re able to shoot a lot more, post-process a lot more, and share a lot more quickly. It has given rise to a plethora of new opportunities for people and lowered the barrier to entry significantly. As photographers, many of us have two bodies, probably a smartphone in our pocket, and maybe even a drone to shoot from different perspectives. With lowered costs, we don’t only shoot for important memories or jobs anymore, we shoot anything and everything. With that comes a lot of digital debris; a lot gets left behind.
Mirrorless cameras, like our beloved Fujifilm X Series camera, bring one more barrier crashing down. We can now carry a good selection of excellent quality equipment without having to see a chiropractor. I used to shoot my family sessions with a pair of Nikon D750s, a Sigma 24-35mm, Nikkor 58mm f/1.4, and a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4. It was a weight on my shoulders before I even got to the session. Now, I do the same with a pair of X-T2s, the XF 16mm f/1.4, the XF 23mm f/2, the XF 35mm f/2, and the XF 50mm f/2. This covers all my bases and even encourages me to shoot on the way to and from my sessions as well.
This year alone I have shot just over 300,000 images. That includes my commissioned work, my documentary of Seoul, my travel, and my Tattoos of Asia project. My X-T2s have held up well, my hard drives are bloated, and I’m tired of looking at my own photography, but I know that if I just leave it on a hard drive, it will never go anywhere. So, here are my thoughts on what we need to do with all this digital debris.
Have you been working on projects? Shooting client gigs? Walking to work with your camera every day? Spend some time looking at the work you’ve produced. Look for common themes or subjects. If you’ve been shooting a lot in a particular area or of a particular subject, there might be something you can produce from that set of images.
This is the time when you don’t have to worry about how people will react to your work. This time is for you. Look at your work and appreciate it for what it is, how far you’ve come, or just for the sake of memories. This process will be different for each type of work you have shot. I look at my couple sessions very differently from my Tattoos of Asia work, for example. Not only because of the subject matter but because the approaches are so different. Remember, though, don’t think about your Instagram likes here, that’s not the point. You’re taking stock of what you’ve shot and deciding which images you love the most.
Now that you know what you’ve got, you can decide how you’re going to organise it and how you’re going to get it into the world. Again, this process is going to vary depending on what you shoot and how you plan to show it, so I’ll give you an example of what I’m planning this year.
First of all, I always like to do a “Year in Review” blog series as I go through this process. It helps me to take an overall look at the work I’ve produced over the year. Of course, as I produce this collection, it leans towards things that will show who I am and what my business is about because I’ll be posting it on my website. Nonetheless, it gets me started looking at my work for the year.
Another thing I like to produce every year is a book of my achievements. These are the photographs that I’m proud of, the ones that speak to me. They may not be favourites on social media or work the client just loved. These are the shots that mark milestones for me, remind me of key experiences I’ve had throughout the year, or remind me of the good times. Some are simply selfies with my wife, others are panoramas of the Himalayas. This collection ends up as a book ordered from Magcloud that sits on my shelf and gets pulled out when I need reminding that I’m doing okay. That happens quite a bit in winter, so this is a great time to produce it!
This year, I’ve made three additional trips for my Tattoos of Asia project, and so I’ll be doing a couple of things with the images from this year. Some will end up as additional pieces at my exhibition in Yangon in December, others will end up in an eBook with stories about the people and my experiences with them. Both of these will be made public. One in print, one in digital.
The final thing that I’ll be doing is producing two sets of prints. One will go on my walls for a while, the other will be a street exhibition in Seoul. These are both simply to get things into the world. With these, I can spend more than a few seconds with my work.
Get it Into the World
Although a couple of the items above are digital, the majority are physical printed materials. This is what I feel is so important. We stop and spend more time with printed materials. We get to appreciate them more than once. Prints, books, booklets, or even postcards are such a great way to look at our work.
I like to create books. They allow me to encapsulate an idea. This could be something as simple as an album of the travel my wife and I do over the course of a year or something as spread out as a long-term documentary project. In both cases, it forces me to look at all of my work and narrow it down to a collection that represents an idea. They are also a much nicer presentation than a screen. It’s a much more pleasurable experience to sit down and flick through a book with someone to show them your work.
Whether you end up making a 100-page book, a collection of 10 prints to give your family as a gift, or postcards to send to friends all over the world, get your work in print. We shoot so much now that it’s a shame to let it all gather digital dust. The goal here isn’t to get instant gratification or have people throw a whole lot of likes on something. That will give you three seconds of pleasure and fade. The goal is to bring something into the world that can be shared with other humans. Now jump in and get those beautiful Fujifilm colours out into the world where they can be appreciated!