I haven’t spent much time doing editorial photography. With that disclaimer, I still believe I have enough knowledge about the subject to have formed a reasonable opinion about its trends. And it’s the trends I find somewhat disturbing.
When looking at the portfolios of editorial photographers, particularly emerging editorial photographers, everything looks pretty much the same. It’s not a new problem. This has been going on for decades. It’s natural for photographers to emulate what they see in successful print. But this goes beyond that. This borders on imitation: not downright copying mind you, but imitation, which although nuanced, isn’t exactly the same thing.
Even more disturbing is the fact that much of this work is contrived. Pictures are out of focus because “that’s cool.” Pictures have polaroid-style edges because “that’s cool.” Pictures are strongly backlit and in fact blowout because “that’s cool.” When pressed, most of the photographers doing this work that all looks the same cannot articulate with any specificity WHY they are doing what they are doing. Whether they want to admit it or not I think I know why. They’ve seen it somewhere else so they are emulating it – either consciously or subconsiously.
Yet – it’s all done in the name of being “new.” Quite a contradiction isn’t it?
Yes the out of focus pictures are a response to too many IN-FOCUS pictures, so they think they are being cool by being new. If you’re a regular reader here you know what’s coming next.
It’s much more important to be YOU than to be NEW! The logic of this should be clear. If you are imitating other people’s style because it’s new and different from “traditional” photography, then you really aren’t doing anything new at all. It’s much more valuable and important to put your own, true stamp on it. Shoot from the heart. Don’t be one of those people that has an over-powered, strongly back-lit engagement photo in your portfolio because every other photographer has decided that it’s cool to wash out the detail in the picture. Instead, pay attention to story-telling and craft and know what the rules are before you break them.
It’s perfectly fine to try new things. In fact, I think it’s great. I advocate for that approach. But do so based on your interpretation and from a place that is truly you – that is authentic – that is born out of your own desire to communicate – not your desire to imitate.
Thanks for listening to my rant.
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