Shooting for Fun and Focus
I have always been a big advocate of people developing and expressing their creativity, whether it be through visual art, music, writing, or any of the other fields. For me, specifically, writing and photography have been the chief ways I’ve developed and expressed my creativity. As anyone who knows me or have read more that this posting on the blog knows, I’ve been able to parlay the whole photography thing into a way to make a living. Good deal, right? Well, I have something to tell you all:
Sometimes photography just isn’t that creative. In fact, sometimes the jobs can be downright boring and cookie cutter.
I’ll let all that sink in for a moment, especially if you are still in the midst of gasping or expressing distinct horror and shock…
Here we go…
Time for me to make my point..
I’ve had moments in my time as a photographer where everything seemed to run together. Every job seemed the same. Every approach I took was similar. Things were turn and burn. In retrospect, I hate those times with an undying passion, but I am appreciative that they happened. I’m appreciative because it forced me to step aside and find something I wanted to photograph. Something I had fun photographing. Something I enjoyed photographing for reasons not economical but for pleasure, enjoyment, and enrichment.
Don’t get me wrong. I love photographing weddings and portrait sessions. I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t. The issue with those jobs, though, is that I approach them from a customer service perspective first and foremost. It’s about giving the paying customer what they want. It’s never about what I want. They, of course, are hiring me because they like what I’ve done in the past, but each of those jobs are ultimately based on what they are wanting as a final product. I can give suggestions and lead them in certain directions, but if they don’t want to go into left field, for example, I am definitely not going to force them there. I flat out tell clients during wedding consultations, “It’s your wedding… not mine. You tell me what YOU want.”
How do I keep things fresh? How do I keep things interesting? How do I keep from going absolutely crazy?
Whenever I feel like I’m getting into a rut, I start brainstorming projects and ideas. I actively look for visually appealing and sometimes obscure things to photograph in order to try new techniques and use different approaches. Projects like “Scenes from a Bowling Alley”, my look at the first day of classes at the University of Alabama, special events in and around town, and pretty much any band or live music shoot I decide to shoot on my own. They all fall into the category of things I shoot for fun but also things I shoot to reshape my focus on things… and yes, before you comment, I’m fully aware of the pun present when using focus to describe an approach in photography.
My focus is reshaped because I am not only reminded what I love about photography, things like isolating that one great moment in time and telling an entire story with just one image, but I learn new things along the way. Things I can then go back and apply during jobs that might fall into the cookie cutter category. I have always said and preached the fact that I learned a lot about wedding photography from shooting high school football. It’s the truth, and it’s something I’ll never forget. Appreciating the detail and intricate nature of flowers or insects allowed me to appreciate the detail and intricate nature of wedding decorations. Photography builds upon itself like that, and I love that it does.
So if you’re out there in a rut or stuck without a sense of direction, get up and go photograph something. Check the calendar and see what events are happening. Find a show and go photograph it. Try new things. Meet new people along the way. Make relationships with them. Don’t be afraid to fail because, quite frankly, you can’t when you’re doing this. You can only learn new things. Some might be good, some might be bad, but they all can be beneficial to you in the future. Never ever pigeonhole yourself into one particular thing or approach.
Keeping a fresh mind and a fresh perspective is key. Don’t ever let it get clouded or narrow, especially in this field. There’s too much out there to see and experience.