The subject of why we take photos comes up every so often and I’d like to share parts of a conversation I had with a fellow photographer the other day. The conversation got me thinking about the why of our photography. We all have a different why, but many of us have a difficult time describing that why. How would you describe your why?
There are millions of images out in the world. From the beautiful, technically perfect, amazing location and gorgeous model shots to the family snapshots and oh look, here’s what I had for lunch shots.
Why do we create?
There are also just as many reasons why we are photographers, why we feel compelled to create and what motivates us to pick up our cameras every day to create art. How often do you think about this? How often do you reflect back on the images you’ve taken and think about the reasons why you’ve taken certain images? What motivates you to share your images?
Yes, we all like receiving kudos, 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 self to capture and create the emotions and feelings that we saw, felt and heard at that moment we clicked the shutter? Isn’t that what you want to share, the story of that moment?
If you’re entering your images in contests of any kind, are you entering to please the judges or are you entering for the win? In my opinion, the images you enter should be images that please you, which you are happy with and that tell your story, show your heart 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 feeling behind it, it can still be flat and uninspiring. Pretty, but uninspiring.
Of course, we want people to like us and our work — it’s human nature. But shouldn’t we be creating our art for ourselves, that’s the only way others will feel the meaning of what you’re creating, if you do it for yourself and put yourself into it. 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.
On the other side of that there are plenty of images out there that are not technically perfect, blurred, out of focus, poor composition, over processed and you name it — trust me I have plenty of those in my archives as well. Why do I keep them? Why do we share the not-so-perfect images? Because they mean something, they tell the story of that moment, perfect or not. They help us save our memories of friends, family and places.
How do you stand out
I recently saw several posts in my Facebook stream from a few photographer friends who had gone out shooting together. The images were all very lovely, pretty, technically correct and edited well. What stood out to me the most though was just how much each of the four people shot almost exactly the same shot. It made me want to scream, to be honest. Where is the individuality, where is the creativity, where are the emotions and feelings in those images? Where is the person who shot it? None of these four individuals appeared to have taken the time to assess the location, look around to find a different perspective, find a different point of view. Were they only focused on creating a shot that everyone will ooh and ahh over? Would anyone be able to tell who shot which image if you had them all four side by side? Is that important?
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. Otherwise, we are all creating the same thing and for what? I realize photography can mean many things to each of us, it’s our therapy, it’s a hobby, it’s our job and it’s a creative outlet that we need to keep ourselves sane. No matter why we take images I still believe we should be working to create our own individual signature, our own style and when you go out with a group of photographers we should be striving to create and find images that are unique.
Photography is art. Art is communication. What are your photographs communicating? Just some food for thought, the next time you pick up your camera to shoot a scene think about why you’re taking that image. Who are you taking it for?