There are times when the most simple of explanations eludes us. When it comes to photography, or more specifically to the point of making strong photographs, we must be fully aware. Not just aware of our settings and camera placement but also our intent. Oddly enough, it’s frightfully easy to lose this awareness during the very process of doing the thing which we love. What I’m so gently hinting at here is this: do you know why you make photographs? Are you aware on an internal level why you you shoot what you shoot?
In this article we’re going to take a look at why we can so easily lose sight of our purpose while making photos. This artistic straying can happen gradually or on a picture by picture basis. Perhaps more importantly we will also examine how you can regain your a creative awareness and become a more deliberate, purposeful photographer.
Obsessing with the Technical
When you think about it there are arguably very few absolutes when it comes to photography. So, why does the pursuit of technical perfection occupy such a large corner of our creative minds? Never place more emphasis on the technical aspects of photography than you do on expressing the feeling of a scene.
How many incredible photographs have you seen that are underexposed? Over exposed? Maybe they are slightly out of focus. The worth of those photographs or any other image doesn’t lie in the balance of a histogram or tack focus. They move us because they were made with intent and show the truth and beauty of a moment. Don’t put so much attention into the way you capture a photograph that forget why you wanted to shoot it in the first place.
If you make photographs long enough there will come a dark and wretched day when you simply become tired of it all. It might happen sooner than later or it might take years but to some degree or another you will have to face burnout. When you become tired of shooting there just doesn’t seem to be anything out there to make pictures of that interests you. You just don’t get the joy from the process as you once did.
Don’t worry…this literally happens to us all and it isn’t limited to one event. There are highs and lows throughout a photographer’s journey. The key remedy is somewhat paradoxical, however. To beat burnout you take a break but not altogether stop shooting. Try to take a rest from your camera(and it from you) and breathe for a while without making photographs. When you begin to say “Man, I wish I had my camera with me” you will know you are cured. Do this as needed or as directed by a photo writer….
The best way to forget why you make photographs is by trying to make them them exactly the way someone else does. Be mindful that there is an incredibly fine line between inspiration and emulation. Never allow yourself to sacrifice how you want to capture a photograph based on the idea that it’s not the “right way” or just because it might not look like someone else’s version.
There could be an entire book written on this point but I’ll do you the favor of brevity. It’s perfectly alright to absolutely love the way other photographers images might look; that’s great, learn how to make yours in a similar way. But only do this if it fits with your own vision. Don’t do it for ‘likes’, shares, or any other reason that would otherwise cause you to shoot with anything but your own photograph in mind.
Today, it’s easier than ever to allow yourself to forget why you make your photographs. We are constantly bombarded by new and better equipment that make us lose sight of what makes a good photo. Sometimes we simply become tired of shooting and this causes us to forget why we love making images at all. And what maybe be the most common danger, sometimes we doubt our own instincts as photographers. All these reason, and no doubt others, can make us forget our own intent. Luckily, they can all be overcome and if you find yourself in any of the circumstances I’ve mentioned then I hope this article gives you a helping hand. Have fun with what you do and always remember why you do it!