As someone who really never had a true film camera, I’ve been in the digital camera age as long as I can remember. I started off with an Olympus Camedia D-550 3-megapixel digital camera for my Journalism class in high school. Since then, taking digital photos and “developing” them via tools like Photoshop, Lightroom Classic and Luminar has become second-nature for me. I really don’t know anything else.
Minus the one occasion where I developed in a dark room in high school, and using a film point-and-shoot of my parents’ during college, I’ve always shot digital.
It stands to reason, then, that I really don’t have many photo prints on my walls. I’ve written about this before, and it’s something I’m trying to rectify. After all, prints stand the test of time, and let me showcase some of my favorite works throughout the years.
For, printing photographs lets me pause a moment. It lets me look back on my career and some of my favorite photographs. It tells stories, and lets me remember how I captured a certain shot. All in all, it lets me showcase my craft in a way that doesn’t rely on my followers clicking the Like button on social media channels.
My first — and only — art exhibition took place a few years ago, at a Starbucks not even a mile up the road from me. They had put out a sign up sheet to encourage artists to showcase their work on their walls, for free. Most other coffee shops will do the same.
I knew I wanted to do something different. I had been in that Starbucks several times and had noticed the same old thing. Paintings or photographs of landscapes or close-up nature shots. I realized that I had not once seen a photograph of a person there. So that’s what I decided to do.
I created an exhibit that focused on capturing different emotions of people, called “Rapid Emotions.” I wanted it to be over the top, and I wanted to focus on recognizable people in my community. I came away with some photos that I still enjoy looking at to this day.
That experiment presented me with a creative challenge. By no means was I a perfect portrait photographer. I didn’t really know how to light my subjects, and relied on natural light for the entire exhibit. That served as a learning experience.
Regardless, the employees at Starbucks thought it was really cool. I got a ton of compliments as I hung my work, as they were “something different.” I realized right then and there that I was on to something. Be different.
Applying lessons to your work
While we might not all start a small exhibit at a coffee shop or enter an art show, you can do the same thing at home in the comfort of your personal space. Challenge yourself to create work that will make you think. Come up with something different and unique from what you usually see. Pay close attention to the technical aspects of what you’re creating, but don’t let that overshadow your creativity either.
Recently, I ordered the above photograph as a print from Xpozer, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I already have several ideas of where to hang it in my home — I’ll see where it ends up!
As you come across new challenges, switch out your artwork. While not completely permanent, you’re making yourself look at your photographs for an extended period of time — more so than just posting on social media once and sharing with your followers. Instead, you’re “finishing” your work, and challenging yourself to create something meaningful.