Defining your craft – and yourself!

Photography as we know it has changed a lot over the past several years.  The advancements of digital are pretty well-known, and have been written about extensively.  In addition to the nature of the medium, several other factors have come together in what photographers are calling “the perfect storm”.  Included in this picture are the decreased cost of entry, increased interest from a wider and ever-increasing portion of the population, photographers are finding themselves in larger company than ever before…to put it quite simply:  there’s more of us!

David Ziser, the quintessential wedding photographer did an excellent write-up in two parts (here and here) as a guest blogger over at Scott Kelby’s blog.  Not only is he an incredible photographer, his writing is among the best in the industry too!  I would highly recommend reading these two posts because even if you aren’t a fan of “The Kelby Kool-Aid”,  (although I must admit, I take a sip of it every now and then…) because these specific writings give insights and directions for all of us moving forward.  While the insights and perspective-changing considerations to take into account (including drive, motivation, work ethic, etc.) are definitely helpful, the more serious question that lies at the root of all of it seems to find a cornerstone in one simple question:  WHY DO YOU TAKE/MAKE PICTURES?

Without getting into the semantics of taking versus making pictures – my point here is that we all pick up the camera for different reasons.  And only in understanding those reasons can you really determine where you want to go and how you want to get there from where ever you are now.  We may pick up our camera to capture a moment in time, with dew glistening off the petals of a flower in the morning light:

Black and White Flower

Does that make us nature photographers?  Absolutely!  But, by the same token, does that define us?  Of course not!  We may also enjoy capturing that beaming bride as she smiles and kisses her husband on their special day!  Or, we may revel in the laughter of children as we capture those moments in time!  By the same token, we may also be pulled on some deep and intangible level by the power of a sunrise or a sunset in some place!  Heck, maybe it’s even the place that moves us.  As David DuChemin says, “…vision is better!”

The Kiss


Mexican Sunset

There are so many scenes and images that surround us every day, but yet so often we do not trip that shutter, because we likely are not tuned in to a particular vision or perspective.  So, the question then becomes:  What is your vision?  Do you see the beauty inside that awkward teenager who only smiles for family?  Or what about the majesty of a skyline timed so perfectly?  The fact is, we can find it everywhere, and while we can blog and twitter, and Facebook until the cows come home about our latest project, or to promote and network across so many sectors of the economy (whether it’s improving or on the downturn), what ultimately matters is what motivates you to shoot in the first place?

Those Eyes!

Denver Skyline

When push comes to shove, the foundation for creating photographs (I believe) is something that comes from inside.  You have to want to be there, capturing that moment in time in order to the vision to really come to life.  Whether it’s a sunset, a smile, a skyline or anything, if you’re not true to your own roots, then twittering about it all becomes less than inspirational.

Of course, I could be completely half-cocked, and off base entirely here.  What do you think is at the root of photography?  Is it for the passion, the fame, or the glory?  Or is it something else altogether?  What drives those like David Ziser, Joe McNally, Zack Arias, David DuChemin and the rest to such degrees of excellence?  Time and again, what makes them and folks like them rise to the top?  Share your thoughts, comments, and feedback below!

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7 comments for “Defining your craft – and yourself!

  1. February 17, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Oh boy! I wish I could answer that timeless question…I’m still trying to discover it for myself. I know I originally wanted to hold on to moments forever and, of course the cliche, of wanting to matter and make a difference with my pictures. I still want those things, but have found myself drowning in the “kool-aid” and frustrated trying to master technical proficiency, thus, forgetting why unpicked up a camera in the first place. But, trying to let go of those bad habits and self-imposed expectations of shooting correctly or not shooting at all, has left me more ndefined than ever and in search of my roots and my own photographic expression and style. But, I’m working on it!

  2. February 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

    It comes down to sharing a vision for me. Sometimes that vision includes insight about my time and my place. Most times it comes down to insight in the times and places that others can relate to. Relevance is something that I look for when out and about, whether purposeful seeking “that shot” or not. I see a scene and then imagine how I might capture it and convey it to the viewer. Why? Because, the interest of the viewer is paramount in why I shoot and what I shoot. I believe this defines the photography that I do. It is about focusing on others in more ways than one.

    Great article my friend! A wonderful question and one worthy of note.


    • February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

      I think you’re hitting on an important point here. If your images are only relevant to you, it’s going to be tough to pay the bills. That’s why there’s such a market for portraiture. The images you take are relevant to people because they’re images of themselves.

  3. February 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    I make photographs because I can’t not make photographs. I’m compelled to. Loving it is only a bonus. 😉

  4. February 22, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Very thought provoking post Jason. And how ironic — I was just wondering what ever became of the images we took of the Denver skyline last fall. How timely! (Nice shot too!)

  5. February 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Success comes from within. Those who are successful want to be the best they can be and gain the tools and knowledge and work hard to get to the point their successes bring them. They pause long enough to make a photograph that speaks from inside them and we like what we see. They also likely have a very good personality that makes it easy to work with them as well!

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