Why do documentary-style photographers shoot so many frames in each project?
It’s because this style of photography depends on capturing the moment. But here’s the weird thing about capturing a moment: Using our DSLR cameras we never actually see the moment that we shoot. And that’s because of the annoying split-second when the mirror in your camera which is reflecting the image coming through the lens up into the eye-piece prism needs to flip up to allow the image to hit the sensor located in behind it.
Well sure you can look at the display on the back of your camera but then you’re not seeing what’s happening in front of you. And here’s a trick I use: When shooting in my traditional photojournalism (PJ) style I turn off the LCD display on the back of the camera. In this way I’m not tempted to look at every image I shoot. Besides I shoot without my glasses using the camera’s eyepiece adjustment to allow me to see the image clearly through the viewfinder. But this mean I need to put my glasses back on to see the image clearly on the LCD. I do have a Hoodloupe which I highly recommend but I only use it when checking my initial photos to ensure I’ve got the camera setup correctly or when shooting landscapes or formal portraits. And again I have the Hoodloupe setup for using without glasses.
Which brings us to the Leica rangefinder cameras. Horrendously expensive and exquisitely manufactured the Leica camera has been the PJ camera of choice since it was introduced in Germany in 1925.
You see the Leica camera uses a separate optical viewfinder. In some of the Leicas with speciality lenses the viewfinder was a clip-on accessory.
So the advantage of the Leica, aside from its diminutive size and almost noiseless operation (remember there’s no mirror slapping away inside the body) is it’s ability to allow the photographer to see exactly what he or she is going to get when the push the shutter button. In this way photographers using Leicas tend to shoot way few images relying on the camera and their own ability to capture the moment as it happens and not be guessing on whether or nor they got it.