Alright folks, rant time!
No, I'm just kidding. What I really want to do is share some thoughts on creating work that matters or capturing memorable photos. We've hightlighted before here at Light Stalking an Instagram account that recently got me thinking. I took the opportunity and gave a lecture about it. Everything is repeating, so, what are we going to do about it?
The Instagram account is called Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) and it basically recollects the same photo being taken over and over again across many Instagram accounts. This shows that plenty of “unique” photos are just a reflection of a desire of mimicking others, or something even more profound that has to do with building one's identity… but we'll keep it simple.
The main goal of this brief piece is to share with you some of the answers my students gave me after asking them “what should we do?” right after showing them plenty of images I retrieved from this Instagram account for academic purposes. The other goal is to get you thinking a little bit more about what you are actually doing with your shots. After finding a niche that drives us crazy in love, what's next? That's the main answer that bothers us at night, what should we do next.
In order of popularity, these are the most solid answers:
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This one came up a lot… And after a few times I started asking, “what do you mean by experimenting more?”, and the answers were varied.
The one that I liked the most is to move away from your comfort zone, or start getting to know another genre. The first one happened to me just recently, I was pretty reluctant to shoot street photography at night, but I recently had the opportunity of doing it. Let me tell you, it was amazing. The light was so beautiful and everything looked unique and fresh to me.
Whether you are an experienced photographer or a novice, giving yourself permission to flirt with other techniques, or even experimenting with another genre is a magnificent experience. Even Sebastião Salgado did it.
Salgado is a consumate documentary photographer, but after a while, he wanted to shoot landscapes and wildlife. His peers and colleagues told him this was a crazy idea, but he didn't listen. Of course, he has been successful in these genres and has remained a passionate, award-winning photographer.
With so many photographers out there, research is key in doing things different from the rest. The best way of actually seeing something from a different perspective is by deeply researching and understanding the genre, topic or subject.
I was really glad to hear this one from my students, because sometimes it is easy to assume that students are more prone to finding the easy way, and structured research is quite an indepth task. This goes further from social media or wikipedia, you need to be aware of journals, alternative news, podcasts, books, exhibitions, libraries, etc.
Immersing yourself in your preferred subject matter is a great way to stimulate your creativity.
3. Watching Films and Series
Cinematography is a generous school for many photographers. A vast amount of techniques can be learned simply by watching films. There is a rule of thumb for knowing when a movie or a series has beautiful cinematography, just randomly scroll through it, and if every time to stop at a beautiful photograph, then you got it.
Many great cinematographers have had a previous background in photography. Even Stanley Kubrick was quite a brilliant photographer, and cinematography is a world that is still very pristine in terms of visual resources or inspiration.
4. Working Within Constraints
I gotta admit, this one took me by surprise! One of my students told me that by shooting with a very limited camera, or with a single lens, the lack of options forces you to be more creative. Even shooting with a small SD card will make you conscious of shooting less but better photos each time.
If you are currently stuck, find some solutions, shoot with a long prime if you are into street photography, shoot with your LCD off, go traveling with just one point and shoot, there are many twisted ways to constrain yourself and to make your photography more thrilling.
5. For Your Eyes Only
Why not just take photographs for the pleasure of doing it? Why not shoot simply because there are intimate moments that deserve to be preserved and not shared? Whoa! I really loved this one. One shy kid told me that she likes taking photos but specifically for her eyes only, and occasionally for family and close friends. This reminded me of Annie Leibovitz intimate photos of family, friends and lovers.
There is nothing wrong with taking photos that will matter only to us. We actually need to start celebrating that there are photos that nobody else will see. Why are we photographing the world if we aren't capable of capturing moments that are meaningful to us? I felt really moved by this suggestion, and I deeply encourage you to just take photos for your own enjoyment, especially if you have abandoned this beautiful habit.
So, what are you folks going to do in order to avoid repeating all the same photos that are currently going viral? Please share your thoughts with us, it doesn't matter if you are new to photography or a highly experienced photographer, we cherish every opinion that you have for us!