Photographic self-gratification and expectation
I have, over the years, ran into many people, who suffer from a lack of confidence to display their photography.
I have also run into many who are dissuaded or feel intimidated showing off their work on social media, both because of a lack of confidence and the feeling that their work is not good enough for them to show it to the world.
Look at where we are at these days, 20 years ago you would probably bore the pants of 10 people in your life, showing them your holiday snaps – now you have the ability to bore the pants off 000’s on Instagram and Facebook.
We have platforms now, such as the two above, which enable you to show off your work to the world either singularly on your own page or in groups, which may be more suitable, encompassing a single interest or genre of photography.
As you develop as a photographer, try not to think of things competitively at all, try not to be driven by others – try, if you can, be more individual than you ever have been – I urge you to do this for your own sanity.
The fact is people will bombard you with misinformation, they will try to push their opinions on you as to what equipment you need, and remember other people are always good at getting you to keep up with them.
Photography has entered a new realm of consumerism, like nothing before, and this is putting the manufacturers under huge pressure to deliver. Photographers have entered a phase of 'I want it yesterday', we are seeing more and more new equipment come to market, new techy advances bring out better systems of low light performance or auto-focus capabilities, to name just two.
As I write the new Nikon Z9 is about to come out, awaited for a year or more, teaser trailers to wet our appetite coming every few days , they call it the new buzz word for greatness 'Flagship camera' . Sony have just yesterday released the A7 IV , and a couple of months ago the Canon R3 - its all go in the new product world - we have far less photographic consumers and yet more demand for new products - this bubble will burst people - one day.
None of the above will make you a better photographer – many will disagree, but it is so.
You see, photographers seem to have evolved into kids in a school playground playing top trumps – there is such an appetite for gear these days it is unreal. My Canon is better than your Nikon and his Sony is better than the lot of them – I jest of course, but some people take it quite literally and it is so misguided.
Yes, some cameras are indeed better than others, some have better features, some have better low light performance, the list goes on, but the fundamental issue is no-one makes a bad camera these days, No-one!
The camera is a tool for the artist, nothing more, nothing less. The artistic ability of the photographer has nothing to do with one’s ‘Gear’ – it has everything to do with one’s timing, composition, ability to convey emotion, the list is endless, but you get my point. An outstanding image can be captured on a cell phone if you are in the right place at the right time, and these days, to be perfectly honest, they quite often are.
As the old saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you- everyone carries a phone, all of which have highly capable cameras installed in them these days.
My hope is that, despite the current decline in digital camera sales, just perhaps, some mobile phone users will be encouraged to buy into a camera system and allow their artistic ability to escape the limitations of a phone-camera, of which there are, of course, many.
I have seen people who have really got an eye for an image, take stunning photographs on a mobile phone and then progress to a camera system and become outstanding photographers – but they cut their teeth on a phone, which is wonderful.
I encourage everyone and anyone to free themselves from the techy part of photography as early as they can and to focus on composition and light – spend your money on travel, not the latest gear, the life experience will be more enriching and the photographs more exhilarating because they will be different to the norm, fresh and new.
The travel will have been exciting and when one travels, one learns, other cultures, ways of life, people of the world, there are so many wonderful things out there if we only take the time to look.
Try and work on projects, something you may have in your mind that you like and work with that. Remember there are no rules, and all the rules there are best bent or broken – they guide us all to a very different outcome, so allow them to guide but not control.
Try to shoot consistently, try to use the same focal length for any projects, that allows for continuity throughout. Feel restricted, excellent, let’s make you work for an image, it releases your creativity, don’t be tied, limited – it’s good for you – stepping out of one’s comfort zone, releases you to do things differently and opens doors, leading to that, which will free your creative mind.
Persist with it, if you can, you can thank me later!
I remember when I first met Sarah, it was on a cold February afternoon, and we walked up to the Castle gardens in Rochester. She lifted her camera bag onto the band stand, where we were chatting, and stated her gear ‘show and tell’. When she got her 50mm 1.8 out, I said that’s the best lens you own, oh I got the scowl from hell, her hatred for the fixed lens clearly showing through at me.
Now 3 years on and she’s exclusively shooting 35mm film with a 28 on an old F301 – how things change – now she’s borrowed my 50mm for her Z mount and I cannot remember the last time it was out of her bag – I love that, I love her ability to embrace the challenge and to persist with it.
I remember saying to her, it’s better not to shoot into the sun too much, yep, she ignored that too and almost judges a lens by its ability to control flare and give her a 16point sun-star – you get my point, but she has her way – develop yours.
I know a couple of guys from the social media community who have real issues with their mental health, yet they are exceptional image makers. For them it is a release, a freedom from reality to allow them to express themselves whilst getting therapy at the same time. The walk in the woods, the sunset is what it is all about – I call it ‘Phototherapy’, there is so much more to taking or making photographs.
Now we come to the pressures of social media.
As far as I am concerned, it is, sadly, loaded with clowns who are full of their own pretentiousness – YouTube is largely the same. There are some ‘big names’ on YouTube in photography who are not photographers at all, they are vloggers – there is a huge difference between the two, huge.
Yet people aspire to be like them, to even go to the same locations to ‘copy’ an image, such is the pressure on them to deliver – please guys, that’s not what it’s about.
Of course, there are some very good ones too, I’ll not tarnish all but there are some that make my blood boil.
Guys, Girls…. break away and be your own person. Ignore the lack of likes, or shares – that is not the judge of your ability as an image maker or artist – not at all.
Free yourself to develop and then you can express yourself properly as an artist.
The title of this is about ‘self-gratification’ and, which, gives your personal satisfaction, what makes YOU smile, and feel good about YOUR photography.
I dislike the stories of people who have thrown the camera bag in the wardrobe because their images did not get many likes on Facebook, or they got ridiculed about a setting, or even their gear, come-on guys, that’s not what it’s about.
You’re not putting your work up to impress, you’re putting it up to share it, an image will stir emotion in some and not others, it will touch a heart or please the eye in some and not others and remember, if good old Facebook don’t like it, then no-one else will – yup that word ‘Algorithm’!
Social media is the worst thing to happen to photography in my opinion.
It has devalued the very art form of photography itself, people look for 2 seconds and move on, their attention already distracted by the next post or news article, the scroll of the thumb on the cell screen – no one reads any more, not long form – if you are still with me here – well done, har har.
Bite sized pieces of misinformation is how someone once described Facebook to me, and I think they were right.
You post a paragraph on Facebook and accompany it with an image and the audience is easily fooled because they only look at the image and don’t read the copy – that’s social, that’s modern life & limited attention span by, sadly the majority of folk these days.
So, don’t be despondent if your image does not get likes, remember, no-one really looks or reads – the one’s that do are worth having as an audience, those that comment these days are worth a thousand likes, because they took some time to say hi, well done, I really like that – better still if your image stirred a memory or moved the soul, reminded someone of their youth, or a place they used to call home, I like it when that happens, I like it a lot.
Try to be your own artist, follow your nose and create what you would like to create. Think of projects and write down ideas for your projects, it could be church doors, or piers, rivers, lakes, a single street – anything can be a story book, if you make it so.
Just because you look out of your house and see the same old thing, does not mean it will be boring to everyone. A Friend of mine lives over the road from a Church, he shoots it sometimes when the light is good, and people love it, they might have married there, christened their child there – it really can be the simplest of things that stir the soul.
I love seeing people mature as artists and I have seen many here in the Medway towns who have gone from being mediocre to outstanding, there are some who have been on, and will remain on the hamster wheel, not wishing to evolve their skill set but still making nice pictures – you know that makes them happy too and that’s spot on as far as I am concerned.
I have also seen those who change their gear like their underwear and yet their photography remains stagnant, so why bother – remember your gear does not and will not, to any large degree, make you a better photographer.
It’s fair to say, of course it is, that a faster lens might offer better bokeh wide open, some may be sharper, a camera might have more resolution but none of it will make you better at what you do.
My first DLSR was a 6-megapixel Nikon – I shoot digital work now with predominately a 47-megapixel Nikon, on Social you would not tell them apart!!!
Be inspired by others of course but generate your own style, we all end up with one eventually, sometimes you can fall into a style, you are heavily influenced by a photographer’s work. I am influenced by two gentlemen that I can only ever dream of being anywhere near as good, that is Ansel Adams, and Bruce Barnbaum, the latter saying something like ‘I am an amateur who has occasionally done professional things. I can relate to that on a personal level although ‘my’ professional ‘things’ have been far less professional than his. I like them both because they are extremely accomplished silver printers, I would not actually regard one any better than the other.
Will I ever be as good, ha, of course I won’t, does it bother me, no BUT here’s the deal. I have been to Ansel’s back yard and have walked his footsteps and I have enjoyed the same vistas, seen the things he has seen, and taken completely different photographs than he did, why, because my artistic impression is very different to that of his. But he inspired me to climb the mountain, that grey haired old man from California, 8000 miles away, lured me, like he had done to millions of others, to go look, to see.
So go be your own person, do your own thing and celebrate your own work, because you are truly special, your work is truly special, to you, because you are the only one you must impress.
Remember the experience of making an image is as important as the image, and you’re the only one who will gain from that, so enjoy it very much, the walk, the climb, the early start from a warm bed or the hot coffee on a cold foreshore or beach – Enjoy it!
Print your work, often! Make books, often!
Do an exhibition, entertain when doing so, and feel grand!!!!
I have only ever done one, another is in the planning stages with Sarah, but, as ever, Covid gets in our way. I got married once (reads twice), I was amazed, you see all these people came to watch me celebrate my marriage to my wife.
An exhibition is much the same, be prepared to be flattered and enjoy the moment – that is highly gratifying, people love to meet the artist too, and indeed the artist loves to meet their audience as well.
Enjoy the flow of the Prosecco and maybe a sale or two as well, now that’s what SOCIAL should be all about.
Hold this thought, the 'amateur photographer' does so because of love and passion for photography, most professionals 'do not' fall into that category.
Indeed, after several years, I largely walked away from being professional because it was killing my passion for a hobby that I loved - I'm pleased to say, I have fallen in love again.
Thank-you for taking the time to read my article, I hope you can take something away from this, please, please go make more pictures.
Invite me to your exhibitions, I’d love to come.
Please remember, I am one person, with one vision, sometimes I am right, on others I am wrong, disagreeing is just fine, because, reasonable people can disagree 😊
Oh the image at the top, its off, soft out of focus - looks great on my wall - see expectation - one day I'll go back and nail it , one day.
The 6 images below are taken with cameras from Nikon, Bronica & Leica - from over 50 years of technology
Love life people.
October 22nd 2021