Here’s something I’ve learnt during my journey through photography, that if you’re a photographer just starting out, you may find of value.
When I started shooting and had no idea what I was doing, I took photos of things that interested me. The results were often poorly lit, under/overexposed, out of focus etc, but they were photos that spoke to me nonetheless.
I took photos because I liked the way the light fell or simply because something in the scene ‘spoke’ to me. I loved shooting in the fog, or after it had been raining so I could explore reflections in the puddles. At heart I wanted to shoot light and movement. Impressionist photography in particular took a hold on me.
Then two things happened almost simultaneously and I didn’t even realise until I was right in the thick of it. 1) I got technically better … and creatively worse, and 2) I started shooting to meet the market’s needs, to the detriment of my own.
At the time I was going to horse shows a lot and selling prints to the competitors and magazines. They didn’t want arty photos. They wanted a clear, sharp, record of the day – fair enough. And that’s what I gave them.
Business owners commissioning product shots for their catalogues didn’t want arty. They wanted crisp, technically perfect, well-lit shots that showed the product at its best – fair enough. And that’s what I gave them.
But inside I was starting to lose interest in the art behind the whole thing. What I finally worked out was that I needed to make the time and effort to shoot for myself, as well as the client. I know it sounds obvious but in the thick of it, I simply couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
I saw a high profile commercial photographer speak at a function some years ago. He’s very good indeed and I truly admire his work. Someone from the audience asked “What do you shoot in your spare time?” and he answered “I don’t get much spare time these days, and to be honest I don’t have the energy to photograph for myself anyway.”
Keep the art inside you alive. Shoot for you. If people don’t like what you like, don’t show them! Or find someone who does. Photography, after all, is an art. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote.
“We shoot what we see until we know who we are – then we shoot what we feel” – Ernst Haas