These days, there’s no shortage of distractions to take your focus off your goal(s). I mean, just look at Facebook. As much as I love to see how my friends all over the world are doing, it’s also a time-sucking beast that wants me (and you) to click on everything. Do I really need to see that cute cat video, again? Well, duh?! Yes! But not 10 times in a row, when all of my friends share it. And do we really need to see all the “mind-blowing” “shocking” “amazing” and “she did this” and “you will not believe” stuff. Facebook for all of its wondrous features wants you to spend as much time with their paid and viral content as possible so that they can rack in the dough.
But anyway, enough about my rant. Facebook is a time waster, we all know that. What else do you waste your time on? Thinking too much? Analyzing the correct path to success? Wondering “will they like my work?” In my last post, Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?, I started to explore the conflict between your inner creativity and what of visual style will help create/sustain a viable business.
I’ve racked my brain over that exact dilemma. I debated, in my mind, what kind of photos do I want to create and be happy creating at the same time. Have I come to any strong conclusions? Not really. Nothing that I didn’t already know, at least. I’ve known what I need to do for a long time now, I’ve just had too many things on my plate or just Paralysis by Analysis.
For me, I still want to create beautiful images, but I have to make it a business, if I want to survive (in life). After all, I still have to pay my bills, eat, save for retirement, etc. You know, all those things you need to do if I or you still need to do to maintain a healthy life. So what does that mean for me? First, really start treating it like a business. Creative people have a stigma of being poor business-people. Second, shoot as much as possible and show many respected industry professionals as possible and get their constructive feedback. I sought out some industry feedback last year and while mostly positive, they guided me to fill some holes in my body of work.
I’m still working filling in those holes, but I’m in a better place, now. I guess the moral of the story is 3 things…. (1) to try to avoid distractions, as much as possible, (2) determine if you want to make your photography (or art) a real thing/business or if it’s just a hobby and (3) if it is a real thing/business, treat is as such.
In “Did the Web Kill the Art of Photography”, I mused that “we were at one time (or still are?) terrible photographers.” So how do you graduate to higher levels of photography? Easy, you shoot photos every chance you get, develop your skills, try new techniques, and perfect your eye.
Here’s the caveat. You have to shoot the photos YOU want to shoot and the photos YOU enjoy shooting. Don’t let others dictate what you should enjoy shooting or what photos they think would bring the most success. Accept constructive criticism, but be mindful of who is giving you that criticism. Do they have relevant experience? Do you respect their opinion? The criticism of your art/design professor or mentor should hold more value than the casual comment of your ex or college roommate who majored in managerial accounting.
What if you don’t know what you want to shoot? What if you’re having a difficult time honing in on your particular interests and all you can say for sure is that you’re a photographer, and you like to shoot, um, photos? Discovering what inspires you involves a bit of legwork. Do your research. Pay close attention to all the images you encounter and save them if you can. You know that aunt of yours who hasn’t thrown out a single possession since 1972? Channel that pack-rat energy and become an image collector of sorts. Then, study them. Analyze them. Try to figure out how a photo was lit. If it was a magazine shoot, there might be behind-the-scenes videos on the web. Observe the process and take notes. Don’t straight up copy what you see, but draw out what vibes/moods are being communicated in the image.
Some photographers and art directors like pinning images on a wall or board. Recently, I’ve been going through old magazines and tearing out images that I find appealing or create a mood that I enjoy. Recently, I’ve been doing some house cleaning and recycling some old magazines over the past 5 years. The photo below is a wall of some tear sheets in my apartment.
This is a great exercise for visual stimulation. And, since I tend to find most of my inspiration on the web, I save all electronic images into different folders on my computer, separated into categories like style, sports, couples, fashion, etc. for future reference. The more you evaluate what makes an image speak to you, the more refined your visual palette will become. Pretty soon, you’ll know exactly what YOU want out of your photography.
And, remember to specialize! So when you land an assignment, you’ll get a subject/shot that you’ll enjoy shooting.