Fellow Photofocus author Lauri Novak recently wrote a post about asking for critique on images and it kind of got me thinking.

What is your WHY for photography?

Have you ever thought about WHY you take photos? I mean there are literally 1000s, maybe tens of thousands of photos being taken every day. But what draws us in?

There are millions of images out in the world — some are beautiful and technically perfect, others have amazing locations, cute kids, pets and stunning models. Then there are the family snapshots and, oh look, here’s what I had for breakfast/lunch/dinner or drinks and coffee shots.

There are just as many reasons why we as photographers feel compelled to create these images. What motivates us to pick up our cameras every day (or most days) to create these images? How often do you think about it, do you even think about it at all? Do you reflect back on the images you’ve taken and think about the reasons behind why you took the ones you did? Or do you just randomly burst them out and hope for the best? Have you ever thought about what motivates you to share your images — whether it is social media or just family and friends?

Is it just for the likes?

Sure, we all like receiving the attention, the likes and hearts via social media. But is that enough of a reason to create art?

Shouldn’t there be more to it than just posting images for other people to like or not like? Shouldn’t we truly be shooting for ourselves, from our heart, from our own passion to capture and create the emotions and feelings that we saw, felt and heard at that moment we clicked the shutter button? Isn’t that what you want to share, the story of THAT moment?

The light, the vista, the recipe, the petals, the shadows on a surface, the way a face showed every emotion flickering across its surface. Shouldn’t there be the intention behind every image we capture? Sure, not every photo will be technically perfect, but the intention should be.

Is it to prove something?

Do you enter your images in contests of any kind? Are you entering to please the judges or are you entering to win? Perhaps, the images you enter should be images that please YOU, which you are happy with and proud of, that tell your story, show your heart and soul and make those looking at them step back and think or feel something.

You can have the most technically perfect image in the world but if there is no heart or passion behind it, it can still be flat and uninspiring. Pretty, but uninspiring. So are you entering a competition to prove something to yourself or someone else? Don’t get me wrong — there is nothing wrong about entering competitions. I enter them too, but perhaps I need to rethink my WHY a little?

Is it emotion or technique?

Of course, we want people to like us and our work — that is only natural, we are geared that way. But shouldn’t we be creating art for ourselves? Once we can do that, create our own true unique voice … that’s when others will feel the meaning of what we are creating, and we can then connect to our viewer on a deeper level.

There are billions of technically perfect images out there but they don’t mean anything, they don’t tell a story, they have no feeling. They are just pretty pictures. Of course, there are those images that are NOT technically perfect; Blurred, out of focus, poor composition, over-processed and worse. Why do we keep them? Sometimes the emotion is for us alone, a time, a place, a special event. They might not be technically perfect, but rather emotionally charged.

Why do we share the not-so-perfect images? Mostly because they mean something, they tell the story of that moment, perfect or not. They help us save our memories of friends, family, places and moments in time. These are equally as important, I believe.

So, how do you stand out?

Have you ever been out with a group and all taken the same shot? I find this happens a lot in group shoots. I might set up a particular shot, for a variety of reasons, then I turn around and see that others have jumped in behind me to capture it. At the end of the day we all have the same shot.

If 10 of you took pretty much the same image, could you tell them apart? Where is the individuality, where is the creativity, where are the emotions and feelings in those images? What sets the images apart?

Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind some people, maybe new photographers or those that don’t feel confident directing, copying my shot. Perhaps they think I might have a better eye. I often find my edited style sets me apart, but it has taken me years to develop MY style. I am the same when traveling — I often find I yearn to captures images of those iconic locations too. But you often need time to assess the location. Look around to find a different perspective, and try to find a different point of view.

I think it’s very important as a photographer and artist for viewers to be able to pick out your images from the crowd. To find the “you” in your images and recognize that as yours. In other words, your creative VOICE. Otherwise, we are all creating the same stuff … and for what?

I realize photography means different things to different people. To some it’s therapy, a hobby. For some it’s our job. But for many, it’s a creative outlet that we need to keep ourselves sane. Regardless of WHY we take photos, I still believe we should be working to create our own individual style and voice.

Find your YOU

I honestly feel that when we shoot what we love, what we feel passionate about, others connect to it too. It resonates with them. People are drawn to our work, as they feel the creativity and passion. Not necessarily the technical prowess, although there is often a mix of the two.

So again, I ask you … WHAT is your WHY for photography? I think for each of us it will be different, for some it is a very deep and personal thing. Others just do it for fun. Are you a memory taker? Do you like to capture events? Are you a magic maker? Are you preserving a moment in time, a bystander looking in or creating your own universe? Personally I like to be a little of each, but mostly a magic maker.