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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photography and fear

What could be scary about photography? You point the camera at something, push a button and up pops a little image on the LCD screen. Couldn't be less scary if it tried.

What is scary though is being true to yourself as a photographer. The internet gives us unfettered access to billions upon billions of photographs. Good, bad and plain indifferent.

The bad stuff makes us feel like we're really good, the good stuff makes us feel like we've still got a lot to learn and the rest of it we can take or leave.

But none of it necessarily makes us wonder if we're taking the right kinds of photographs. Have you asked yourself lately if you're taking the right kinds of photographs? And what exactly are the right kind? The kind you want to take. The kind that move you. The kind that inspire you. And that can be a little bit scary.

I've been going through my images in preparation for loading up some images to Photoshelter. I've read Art Wolfe's latest article in Outdoor Photographer magazine and mostly agree with him. Licensing your own images, as long as you're prepared to put in the work, seems like a bit part of how we'll work in the future.

The problem though is you suddenly become your own editor. You decide which images you want to show. And that means thinking about the style of pictures that you like. Over the years I've experimented with lots of different styles of photography from natural light, documentary style to full on produced shoots with lots of lights etc. And you know what? None of the heavily produced stuff will see the light of day.

I've discovered that it just doesn't move me. Sure they're nice pictures and at the time the clients were really happy. But they were a fad, a blip on my photographic journey. A passing interest. So I'm sticking to what I know and love and that is scary because I have no idea of other people will like it as well.

So the next time you hear about the latest photographic style - HDR, strobist, infrared...whatever. Ask yourself if it fits you? Could you see yourself doing it and loving it? If so go for it. If not then I highly recommend taking the time to work out exactly what it is you want to photograph, what you want to say, and how you want to do it.

It's a continually evolving process this searching for a unique style and it's certainly a bit scary and confronting but in the end I hope it will make me a more passionate, and thus better photographer.


Anonymous said...

I have asked myself the question too.. do I really have to have a defined, or fabricated, 'style'?

Is it possible to be a great photographer with the style of 'normal' or 'straightforward'?

Timing, composition, moment, technicality, all there, but with no overriding special 'look'.

I wonder.

Paul Dymond said...

Hi Jonathan,

I like to think that those of us who work in a 'story telling' style of photography have a certain style but it's not necessarily reliant on tricks that make us more important than what we're photographing.

In other words many of us may use different techniques (both in-camera and post-processing) but at the end of the day none of them take away from the most important thing - the subject.

It all comes down to what you want your audience to think. Wow what a great shot, I wonder how the photographer did that? or Wow what a great shot, I wonder what kind of a place that is?

I'd much rather have the latter. So in answer to your question I'm lazy enough to let great subject matter propel my photographs and capture them 'normally'.