I chose to call this blog “burning up the shutter” because it is an accurate description of photographing children, especially young ones! They move and jump, and all the time it is very difficult to get them in focus—let alone to take a great image!
It’s strange to think that only fifteen or twenty years ago most people were still shooting with film, with the 24 or 36 exposures per roll, which changed the way we had to shoot, for better or for worse. I remember this vividly as a high school student in the late 90s. Questions I used to ask myself: “Do I really have to take that photograph? Is it overexposed? Is something better coming along to shoot once my roll is full?” I had to ask myself this all the time. It made for a tight control of the camera, and the necessity of mastering at least some picture-taking techniques.
Now there is enormous wiggle room to risk amazing shots that may or may not come out well.
Today it’s different—find a scene or a setup that leads to something interesting for the kids to play with—a jungle gym comes to mind (!)—and set them to it! Introduce parents into the mix, and, voilá. Let kids run, because I will follow them with the camera and cover the good shots with another thousand shutter actuations to spare. Does this cause my cameras to age quickly? Yes. Does it also capture the action when needed? Absolutely yes.
I have no choice with children—they move too fast! The type of photography I do today was really not possible in the late 90s.
Where I would normally take 24 or 48 exposures in 1997, then go to the photo lab darkroom and painstakingly sift through the detritus of another day’s exposure experimentation, I have shifted my expense into running through camera bodies, not film. This is not for the feint of heart—these cameras are finicky and grains of dust have caused them to jam before (It was a $540 fix)! A Nikon D810 costs a chunk of change, but the upkeep can also be expensive.
This is the hidden cost associated with children’s photography, and a signpost of what may come next. What new era of still image-making awaits us? What new business types—beyond children’s action photography—may come next in the field of photography?
Just because we live in the world of digital doesn’t mean everything comes easy. It certainly doesn’t mean we can stand still.