Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not every image has to be award-winning

I gave a talk to first year photography students at James Cook University the other day. It was a chance to hopefully give them a little bit of insight into the workings of the small niche of photography that I work in - namely that of travel editorial and stock photography with a smattering of commercial work here and there.

One of the questions I received was something along the lines of do I take lots of images to flesh out an idea before taking the final shot. Yes, yes and majorly yes.

The digital camera is like a visual notebook for me. I use it to photograph anything and everything that takes my fancy. Whatever interests me. And I'm not necessarily thinking about producing mind-blowing, knock your socks off images every time. Because thinking that I had to do that with every press of the shutter would be too stressful.

You should use the camera first and foremost as a way of expressing how you feel about something. Take the image above. Shot off quickly from the roof of a passing bus it's a bit blurry, slightly noisy and not likely to make it to 500 Pix's image of the day, or the hour for that matter. But I like it. It speaks to me of what enchanted me about Paris. Late night cafes with tungsten lighting, locals walking nonchalantly through what seemed to me to be an amazing place. So I snapped it without a second thought.

And I think it is very important to do so, because you need to tell a complete story of your travel. It's all fine and dandy to wander around and only take photos on a tripod with mirror lock-up when the light is beautiful and the conditions are co-operating, but realistically how often does that happen? And how many pictures do you think you will come away with? Not many I'm willing to bet.

So use your camera to flesh out your ideas and feelings about the places you visit. Photograph anything and everything that captures your imagination. Sure you need to get some amazing images or else you won't be satisfied as a photographer, as an artist. But don't let that be the only images you take. Settle for the less than spectacular when it helps you tell a complete story about a destination.

Not every image is destined for the front cover, but magazines still need lots of  images to fill the supporting roles on the inside pages, and so do your travel albums.