The Shots Between Shots.

Taking a portrait is a process of trying and rejecting many things until you arrive at the recipe you had in mind but didn't know when you started. The shot above is not a final shot. It's part of the process. But erasing the building blocks means erasing the description of your process. And many times you will wish you were able to go back to the abandoned frames and look for the attributes that might have become clearer to you on your return to the image through the passage of time.

One of the crimes of the digital age is the cavalier way we toss away all but the "keepers." But what constitutes a "keeper" changes with our experiences, our evolving point of view and our changing perceptions. I like the fact that the out takes from my film days are still there. Still available for me.  I go back and find new things to like and new sources of inspiration.

What seemed like mistakes to me ten years ago seem like intended silence between frames now. I like the insouciance of an "in between" frame when I rediscover it. You might too.

It helps me to be mindful not to overshoot. But the act of rediscovery also helps me to be mindful about not throwing to much away. Not to edit too permanently, in the moment.

Photo Above: Renee Zellweger in the old studio. Camera: Pentax 645n. Lens: 150mm 3.5. Film: Tri-X.


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wonderful. She looks a bit like freezing tho. Hm is that possible in Texas?

Kirk Tuck said...

Not freezing. As I recall it was a typical hot summer day in Austin.

Claire said...

Freaking drop dead GORGEOUS photograph...

Glenn Harris said...

With the price of digital storage I don't know why people would delete files that aren't "keepers". I don't know how many times I've gone back through folders from years back and rediscovered images that didn't make it into the Keepers folder first pass through. And the "in-between" images can be the most surprising, and rewarding after you have gotten through the excitement of the moment. If the quality of your posts so far this year is any indication we are in for another great year following VSL. Thanks

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks Glenn, I appreciate the good feedback.

Michael Ferron said...

Could I pass up commenting on a Renee portrait? My favorite client of yours.

Paul Glover said...

This is an aspect of shooting film I really hadn't thought about even though I've done it without thinking about it. I only make final scans of the keepers but all the other explorations of a subject are right there on the strips of negatives in my file. The equivalent digital images would surely have been deleted by now.

Craig Yuill said...

I am, generally, uncertain of what to do with my less-than-stellar digital shots, so I tend to keep them. When I mostly shot on 35mm film I tended to shoot on slide film. It was a common practice for me to throw away the majority of slides from each roll, which really is not different from deleting digital image files. With slides this made sense, for the mounts added a lot of bulk to the film. At the current rate at which I shoot digital stills and video, however, it will take me a number of years before I fill up just one small portable 1 TB hard drive, even if I delete nothing. Does throwing away digital image and video files really make any practical sense?

In my film days I tended to keep all negatives and transparencies if the processed film was merely cut or was 4x5 sheets. Film stored in thin, archival, polyethylene sheets doesn't take up a lot of space. I suspect that, except for particularly bad or embarassing photos, I'll be doing the same with my digital shots too.

One thing that I found when recently going over parts of my slide/transparency/negative collection is how so many of my "keepers" now seem to me to be very mediocre, if not downright bad. I'm not sure if this means I have become a better photographer over the decades, or just more critical of my own work. (Does THAT make me a better photographer?)

Kirk, this is a great thought-provoking post. It makes me glad I keep coming back to read your posts on this blog. Thanks.

Joe Gilbert said...


I'm thankful that you post the large files. I think I'm drawn to portraits as they allow you present enough detail in a frame to connect viscerally with the viewer. I always make a point to look at your photographs again when I get back to my desk. The connection between the subject and camera/photographer is not always apparent on a smaller screen. I hope others take the time to do the same, if not, they are missing the true impact of your work.



Alex Monro said...

I keep almost all my digital shots, apart from sometimes the obviously bad ones - accidental shutter press images of my feet, seriously missed focus, completely wrong exposure, etc. With the current cost of disk space it's probably not worth the time deciding if a shot is a "keeper". When I last upgraded my disk drives a year or so ago, it worked out at less than a quarter of a UK penny (around 0,3 US cents) per raw file, including backup copy.

Whether I ever find time to go back and revisit the in between shots is another matter... :)

Thanks again, Kirk, for another thought provoking post.

Keith I. said...

I love this portrait. To me this makes her seem so much more like an every day person, especially with what looks like a touch of nervousness. I have really liked your other photos of her as well, but this moment "in between" is really special.

Nick N. said...

This post reminds me of something i noticed back in my film shooting days. (A background aside: I used to make a living as a newspaper photographer, supplemented by various freelancing. Got out of photography to do other work. For a long time, a simple point-and-shoot was the sum total of my digital experience. Now getting photographically "serious" again in the Digital Age.)

Anyway…at one point i started to pay attention to the images at the very beginning of rolls; the results of just cranking the film-advance level to get the frame counter to "1." The images were as close to random as possible. More often than not, the camera was pointing down at the ground, but not always. Sometimes the focus was close, mostly not. Same with exposure.

The odd, random effects were mostly chaotic and unremarkable, but every so often, there was something interesting or even compelling about these "frame zero" images. At the time, i printed some of them, but many i never got around to. I set up a separate file book for them. When i have time (ha!) i may go back and look at them and maybe scan and print them.

If there are any lessons in there, i think they have something to do with experimenting, working outside of one's usual (perhaps even subconscious boundaries or restraints), trying things which may at first seem to make no sense, and having fun.

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