As we approach a new year. I want to make my first New Year’s Resolution as a photographer…to NEVER ever call anything (or treat anything as) a grab shot.
This resolution happened because the other day I heard a photographer use that phrase.
To me these are possibly the worst words any photographer can utter.
To me, photography is a sacred calling. Some of you who have heard me speak to large groups might have listened to my “high priests of memory protection” speech. That is how I see us. As photographers we are in the memory protection business. We capture images that others can’t. We protect and preserve memories that might change history. We document people, places and things that could be gone in the blink of an eye. We help families recall their passed love ones or countries remember their lost heroes. We capture great moments in sports for posterity sake. We record weather changes, wildlife and wild times at the beach.
Every photograph we make could be our last – or could be the last photograph made of that particular subject. I know because I’ve been there.
Here’s just one example. It happened recently when a photographer captured what seemed to be a random shot of a couple kissing in Time Square. The man in the photo ended up dead in the recent, tragic Oakland dance party fire. The woman in the picture reached out on Facebook to see if anyone could help locate the photographer who captured the special moment and asked for a copy of the image. She said she wanted it as a reminder of the brightest light of all – love.
So no photo is unimportant. You never know what impact it might make years later. No matter what, I try my best to make every photograph count. I want every shot to be meaningful. I try my best in every situation no matter how bleak the chances seem at first blush. I don’t ever phone it in. I take my time. I think about telling a story with my camera and I plan the image. I think about composition. I think about exposure. I think about how to get the ultimate level of sharpness. It doesn’t matter if it’s my usual subject (birds) or not. If I am going to press the shutter button I try to do my best. I want to respect the photographic process every time. That is my resolution.
If it’s worth photographing, it’s worth photographing well. I think that if we want to take our photography to the next level, we need to spend time thinking about how each and every photo we make might be more meaningful.
Whenever I need motivation along these lines, I watch the video accompanying this post. It’s not new. In fact it’s pretty old. I’ve shared it here before but there are thousands of photographers reading this site who haven’t seen it before so please indulge me. And even if you’re familiar with it, there’s nothing wrong with watching it again.
“Keep me, protect me, share me – and I will live forever.”
Photography is a blessing and it’s an honor to be in a position to make images that can help improve the lives of those around us. I plan to take every photograph like I mean it.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!