When I started doing stock photography, one thing I struggled with was whether or not to photograph something that had already been covered. With food photography, there’s a good chance that a certain dish or food item has been photographed by at least one person, and there is a part of me that feels like I should find another dish to prepare and photograph, something that may not be on the site. The same goes for creating images of people on white backgrounds, something that could arguably be over-done on stock sites. Of course, original and unique content will always thrive and rise above the mediocre, but should that keep me from creating something that I want to create?
When discussing this with a friend of mine, she said something that has stuck with me: Why not take your “slice of the pie”? When it comes to stock photography, I am making image that I hope will ultimately be licensed by clients and customers of those stock websites. People love to have options, so why not give it to them?
This method of thinking can also be applied to other types of photography. Consider the Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic landscape in California that has been photographed by thousands of photographers. On a perfect day, the fog can drape around the bridge like a warm blanket, allowing the top of the bridge to peek through the top. On these mornings you are likely to see dozens of photographers ready to capture this “cliché” moment, lined up side-by-side on the top of the hill. One could easily argue that they are all creating the same image, or even go so far as to not even take the time to photograph it only because it has already been photographed by so many people. But why should what other people do with their photography affect what we do with our own photography?
I’ve been to enough photography locations and events to know that you can put a dozen photographers in front of the same subject, and they will all come up with different images of that scene. Whether it’s in lens choice, composition, exposure, or post-processing, our images will be unique to our vision. And if we stopped photographing things because they have already been covered by other photographers, very few of us would ever use our cameras.
Also, photography for me is not just about the final product. In fact, the act of creation is what I love the most. I strive to be in the presence of something beautiful, whether it’s a part of nature or something I created myself. I love living the moments that lead to creating the photograph, such as being outdoors and breathing in fresh air while watching the sun rise. I love experiencing that moment for myself, and seeing it through my own eyes.
So don’t let the “everyone else has photographed this already” thought influence your actions. Never stop exploring concepts and scenes with your own eyes, even if others before you have already photographed the same thing. Get out there and make beautiful photographs with your own unique vision. If you want to photograph something, then do it! Don’t let other photographers determine what you do or do not photograph.
Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several print books and eBooks, and runs her own online store for photographers, the “Nicolesy Store“.
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