Updated: May 5, 2018
"No more easy shots" is a quote that photographer John Free has made on more than one occasion and which is echoed by Ted Forbes on The Art of Photography youtube channel. Rather than being a call to throw out easy-gotten images, it's a promise that you're going to continue to push yourself outside of your skill set and comfort zone. For those including myself, that get "the hunger" when we have a camera in hand, it can sometimes be difficult to move past habitual behaviour; the norm of heading to an event, working the shot and getting the desired image can become an exercise in collection and self-satisfaction rather than improvement and self-critique.
The statement "no more easy shots" urges a deliberateness on a photographers part. Pre-planning, shot-design, consideration, analysis and judgement all being important elements of such. However, to avoid falling into a mushy, nebulous discussion on artistic merit and self-reflection, I have an example of something I've done I think, that has made me a better photographer: carrying a heavy DSLR. Now although I do have a mild case of "Gear Acquisition Syndrome", my statement is less about quality and cost of equipment than it is about physics and my response to it. To be clear, I'm a 6ft 3, well-built guy who carries a Nikon D810, commonly with a NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR. The total weight comes to almost 1.7kg (3.74lbs). Add on carrying bags, accessories, cleaning kits etc and heading out becomes a very deliberate exercise regardless of strength, and that's the point.
What will cause you to think before raising the camera to your eye? What will cause you to question your objectives on a shoot when packing your kit? What is going to push you to be efficient, purposeful and more considered? Physical effort and potential pain will. I carried a full camera kit plus normal baggage along the classic Inca Trail in 2017. Four days of climbing up and down for many hours each day with reduced oxygen makes you think more critically about raising that camera to your face; let your brain do the work first. Obviously, it's an approach that requires self-determination, but so does deliberate improvement.
Film photographers often decry the rise of digital cameras that impose no effective limit on the number of shots you can take. The cost associated with camera film made it a limited resource; a barrier to shutter happy photographers - shooting enough to get good, and made considered photographers think harder about their subject before opening the shutter. Camera film was something to conserve, because of cost and, accordingly, think about its use beforehand.
It's only human nature, in 2018, to degrade the importance and effort placed on taking any individual shot, when that and the next are free. So what kind of limiting factor can you impose to make you think? And it's not helpful to sardonically cry, "just go back to film, you Neanderthal!" Micro Four Thirds cameras and point and shoots are at a stage where they can capture images equivalent if not better timed than cameras most think should live in the studio. However, if you struggle to organise hundreds of photos where none are quite right, dig out that old 4 megapixel DSLR that's been sitting around, or screw on a folded heavy tripod to your camera. You might just find, when you slow down, things will turn out better.