Do you ever do this? Take a picture in a genre for which you know you have no aptitude, that you're then overly proud of yourself for taking because it looks semi-competent? I suck at street shooting, but occasionally I'll take a picture that's almost decent as a street photograph. So then I'll lavish time and attention on it, as if it shows that I'm actually not that bad at something I am in fact not good at.
Here's an idea. We ought to stick to our strengths, and not waste time making one photograph that would be just okay if the style it's in were our real style and the picture were just one of a hundred or a thousand others in the same style.
P.S. My picture of Gordon on Tuesday wasn't a street photograph, it was a portrait that just happened to be taken on the street. I had his permission and co-operation. That takes it out of the genre of street photography.
P.P.S. I'm working on Chapter 2 of "Mastering Photographic Technique" for you. And a fine mess you've gotten me into this time!
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Joe Holmes: "Look at that: The majority of comments disagree with you, Mike! And I think the commenters are onto something—or we're reading something a little different than what you meant to say."
Mike replies: Well, they're saying it's good to experiment, and be open, and continue to challenge yourself, and not to limit yourself, all of which is of course true. But they're not giving me enough credit. I've shot 5,000 street photographs if I've shot one, and I know I'm not very good at it. It's not something I really need to continue to explore.
But that's okay, the discussion can go where it will. At least we're not talking about depth of field. :-)
David Saxe: "Very interesting. I am primarily a street (personal documentary) shooter but every now and then I get sucked in by a landscape shot. I never had any interest in those shots but sometimes I just can't resist. The funny thing is that about once or twice a year it just works—I end up with something that not only pretty good, but goes together with my regular work. Its the same with portraits or still lives or any other genre. For some unknown reason I am drawn to take the shot and can walk away with something useful. I don't know what it is but I don't consider it luck."
Kurt Kramer: "I agree with many of the comments that prescribe trying things outside of one's habitual approach. I think back to your 'Digital Variant' column about a year ago in which you proposed One Camera, One Lens, One Print, for One Year (OC/OL/OP/OY). I lasted about six months, and it totally changed the way I shoot, and what I look for. I have far more interest in including people in my images...yes, I moved in the direction of street photography. Really you might call what I am doing 'coffeehouse photography.' It's been an evolution, not an abrupt change. But subject matter that used to interest me is now less inviting. The change has been good and stepping beyond the bounds of one's habits is a positive move."
Richard Alan Fox: "I won't judge that photo, but I think you are wrong about sticking to the safe side when you create new images. Photography is about looking, experiencing and creating, why look away because it is not in your presumed strong suit? Where is this insecurity coming from?"
John: "Learning and knowing what you're not good at is a part of getting old. I no long bother trying to take macros or classical landscapes or wildlife or.... I just enjoy the superior work of others or the actual view in front of me. I now just focus on recording my life and taking photos of my loved ones. Even then, only a small fraction can be considered good photographs. But the 'hit-rate' is increasing now that I have embraced what I am not good at!"
David Cope: "I hear you Mike, and the answer is yes! I would never put myself out there as a portrait photographer as it's not who I am photographically. I have done portraits, and enjoyed doing them, but it was hard work and not a good fit for me results-wise.
"My results were competent but I felt I was not doing justice to the subject. But I love looking at great work by others in this genre, and wish I could do the same. I'm happy to acknowledge my limitations.
"If you're going to write about this topic then it will be interesting. I've often thought about what makes up the chemistry that allows us, as photographers, to do our best work in one (or a few) genres and not others.
"Is it our personas, our environments, equipment, professional or personal brief/goals, good/bad clients, deadlines, mental approach etc., etc.?
"I mean, if we are comfortable technically and understand light then we should be a able to nail it and turn in amazing work in any genre or style, right? (I wish!!)"
James Bullard: "And then again, when you aren't near the subject matter you love, love the subject matter you are near. :-) "