Thursday, November 08, 2007

The soul has no secret that a good photographer cannot reveal

Here's something that can benefit any photographer -- professional or amateur.

That's because it's something that can happen to any photographer -- professional or amateur.

You enjoy taking photos. You take good photos, even excellent ones that buyers are prepared to pay a lot of money for. But after a while, you find that you’re shooting the same kind of images in a similar style over and over again.

It comes back to what I discussed in my last post: instinct. I pointed out then that for talented photographers, the recognition of a good picture -- and the opportunity to create one -- comes from the gut. It happens in a second (what Malcom Gladwell would call a "blink") and you can learn to listen to it, trust it and even develop it... as long as it's there in the first place.

But that sort of gut reaction, however valuable, has its downside too. For one, it can affect relationships with clients and subjects. That’s easily corrected. Much tougher to fix is when it gets a photographer into a rut -- when their instinct always tells them the same thing and when their images start to lose their edge.

There are things that you can do though to refocus your eye and reboot your heart.
Do Photographers Really Need Niches?

Well, yes, we say they do. And so do buyers. It helps them -- and us -- to decide who to assign shoots to and reassures clients who are wondering what they'll get for their money. But even within a niche, it's possible to develop, to try new things and look for different approaches.

As you're shooting, try to recall an image by another photographer that appealed to you, then try to integrate that photographer's approach into a shot or two. That doesn't mean you should swap your style for someone else's. It just means taking a chance to push your style in new directions and seeing what else you can do within your niche.

Break the Rule Of Thirds... and All the Other Rules Too

Well, maybe not all of them, and you have to have mastered them all before you can start breaking them. But photographers who live by certain rules can get a second lease of life when they break them carefully too.

Changing the composition is an obvious place to start, but you could also try upping the f-stop from the position you'd usually choose or holding the camera instead of putting it on a tripod so that you can experiment with unusual angles and even blur.

In short, think about the rules that you've become used to following as a photographer, and bend a couple of them. At best, you'll surprise yourself. At worst, you'll remind yourself why the rules exist.

Stop Being such a Pro -- Play a Little

What this all boils down to is rediscovering your sense of play -- that sense of "What can I do with this?" that every photographer felt when they picked up their first camera.

By now, you've probably got a pretty good idea of the answer, so it's time to ask a different question: "What else can I do with this?"

To find the answer to that question, do what you did the first time: experiment, play, take pictures you would never have thought of shooting before. In the past, film was expensive and developing a chore. Today, errors can be erased at the push of a button. That's an opportunity to continue developing, to keep your photography fresh and to ensure that your photographic eye remains open and alert.

John P. Chapnick
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