Those of us who learned on film learned that every shot counts. You only had 24 chances, and if you missed it, or messed it up, you could never get it back. We learned to be perfectionists. We were trained to make sure that lighting and angle and every little detail was exactly how it needed to be.

And... we missed so much.

My first digital camera was little Sony P&S. It was for snapshots. That's what those things were for. No one would ever do "serious" photography with a digital camera (Oh! The horrors!). I took a lot of snapshots with that camera. Snapshots.

Then, one weekend, I was the catalyst that brought together an excellent photographer and an eager model. I watched the photographer (a good friend of mine) working with his digital camera. I pulled out my little P&S and started thinking like a photographer—but not the photographer I used to be. My friend—just by shooting the way he did—show me that I wasn't constrained by 24 frames anymore.

Shortly after that, I bought my first DSLR (a Pentax K-100D) and a 2GB SD card. I could fit over 200 photos on that card. Two hundred! That's over 8 rolls of film. I couldn't imagine taking that many images in one session.

Within a few months, I went out and bought a 4GB card because I kept running out of room.


When I bought my K-x, I bought an 8GB card—because the 4-gig was starting to feel confining.

I had developed a new style. I call it "machine gun shooting". An average shoot for me runs about 3 hours—from the time the model walks through the door until I turn off my camera. I average about 500 shots per shoot. During that time, I'm running around the (very small) studio; I'm up on my 3-step ladder, I'm laying on the floor; I'm crouching, bending, and twisting into shapes that make my arthritic body scream (and I pay the price the next day). And... my shutter never stops.

I can easily shoot 500 images in 2 hours. Out of those, 20% are immediately thrown out. They are out of focus, motion blurred, durp-faced, and random pictures of the floor. Another 75% are... "meh", 马马虎虎, just so-so.


But the remaining 5%... those can be gold. That 5% captures reality, it captures spontaneity, it captures moments that can create entirely new stories.

This is not a method for everybody. If you're shooting high-end, fashion, products, etc., this is a waste of time. If you're shooting portraits, sports, or journalism, machine-gun shooting can help you to capture the moments that nobody else can.

Machine-gun shooting is not, by any means, a shortcut to greatness that will allow you to ignore the rules and conventions of traditional photography. A key component of this style is knowing what an image should look like, and being able to capture that on the fly. That takes training and skill. To capture that 5%, you have to know what to look for. That requires experience and insight.


The learning curve, however, works both ways. If you are just starting out, never stop clicking that shutter. Pay attention to what's happening, pay attention to angles, lighting, background, pose, expression, movement, and the thousand other things that are going on. And when you look at the images, remember the context. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't. The 95% trash is not wasted, it's a tool to help you better understand what does and does not work.

With a little skill, a little work, and a little luck, you can capture a moment that tells a great story and makes people stop and think.