Sunday, January 9, 2011

Does your photography make your heart skip a beat?

Often in the chase for technical perfection - am I using the right f-stop, shutter speed, lens? - we forget about the emotion. Photography is meant to be an expression of creative art but often we forget about the passion and concentrate on the technicalities.

But when we do that we lose that feeling of passion. Our heart no longer skips a beat when it's supposed to. We may have created an image that is technically adequate - and now by looking at our metadata we can see what all our settings were at the time we pushed the shutter button - but our hearts won't be singing

Maybe we all need to think a little less about the settings and a bit more about our own feelings. For me there are a number of ways that photography makes my heart skip a beat. The most obvious one is when you capture an image that simply takes your breath away. The one that you look at and don't even stop to consider what f-stop it was shot at, but what an awesome moment you experienced. How your image managed to capture exactly what it was that impressed you about the sight in front of you. That feeling usually comes when I manage to capture an image of something that happened unexpectedly, or beyond my control. Amazing light, an animal doing something incredible or maybe just a wonderful smile on the face of a portrait subject. In other words it wasn't something I created but reacted to and managed to photograph.

Another time might be when I'm trying to learn a new technique, or experimenting with a new look. I don't quite know what I'm doing and all the reading of technical books in the world isn't going to help me achieve what I see in my mind's eye. Only by getting the camera out and experimenting and experimenting and experimenting some more will get me where I want to go. In those situations my heart beats faster before, during and after. Before is when I'm imagining the types of pictures I want to create. During is when I'm out in the field actually trying to create what I imagined. And after is when I get the pictures on to my computer screen and find I either did, or often didn't, achieve what I was after. In this case my heart beating faster is caused by getting out of my comfort zone and just revelling in the fun of photography. The joy of trying something new and the feeling of anticipation to see whether I can do it or not. Whether I succeed or fail is irrelevant.

And the third way photography causes my pulse to race is when I show it to other people. In this case it's not so much a result of excitement but more fear! Well some excitement maybe. I have some work that resonates with me and I feel excited to share it with other people, but also fearful that they might not feel the same way about it as I do. At the end of the day I know that the opinions of others won't affect my desire to photograph, or my need to express myself in images, but it still is nerve-wracking to share your work with other people.

How about you? Does photography make your pulse race? And if it does do the same things cause that feeling as me? Or do you have other situations that make your heart beat faster? More importantly, if your photography doesn't excite you then how can you expect it to excite anybody else? The only people who get excited about an f2.8 zoom lens are other photographers. Don't get caught up in letting the technical details tell you whether an image is great or not. Let your heart tell you. If it stops beating for an instant than you've done your job.