It's easy for humans to be dismissive. It's an integral feature of human nature.
I am not good with plants, so I've always been happily dismissive of flower pictures. But in buying a new house I have inherited the previous owner's garden, which I have to say has been an ongoing surprise and delight throughout the whole Spring. There is always something new coming along, sometimes where you least expect it.
So naturally I have been taking pictures of it. Not because I have any deathless need to commemorate flowers, but because I tend to take pictures of whatever interests me at any moment.
And I have to say, it's not actually that easy.
Who knew? I always assumed taking flower pictures was sort of drop-dead easy. Wrong-O, tulip-bulb-head. I've actually had kind of a hard time with it.
As with anything else it requires observation. Flowers come and go. You basically get to say, "Oh, that's nice," and then a few days goes by and you forget to look at them again and that's it, they're gone.
And everything's sort of chaotic, too. But if you stay sharp-eyed, you can kind of guess that something might be about to happen.
I'm no expert, but doesn't it look like something's about to happen here? I'm keeping my eyes on these bad boys, and will keep you posted.
I had occasion to exchange words yesterday with a reader named Tony Roberts, who is a very accomplished golf photographer. (Check out his CV—if you follow golf, you've seen his work.)
Specializing has always struck me as a smart business strategy, and one that has the potential to make your life more fun, too, because you get to spend your life around what really interests you. I've known of people who specialized in thoroughbred racehorse portraits, motorcycle racing, cars (for advertising), cars (for editorial), sailboats, weddings of course, portraits of children, portraits of babies, architecture (interiors, exteriors), all sorts of things—the list is probably very long. I probably wouldn't have made a good specialist, because I'm distracted easily and have lots of interests. But the idea has always appealed to me.
Even art photographers specialize, in a way, some of them. Amateurs too—you might know people who are passionate about landscapes or trains or animals or something else.
I wouldn't want to specialize in flowers, myself. But I have more respect lately for those who do.
(Thanks to Tony)
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Featured Comments from:
jeffdmontgomery: "I consider myself to be a generalist as a photographer because I am a university photographer. I shoot athletics, grip and grins, theater, campus life, portraits, summer camps, architecture, food, and the list goes on and on. However when I take photos for myself I tend to point my camera in the direction of flowers. I like all kinds of flowers from wild ones growing on the side of the road to those in gardens. I really believe that being a generalist at work helps me be a better flower photographer."
Rene: "Mike, Over the years of reading your blog, I must admit that I did notice your distain for flower photography which always rankled me as I spent a solid decade doing mostly just that. I'm glad you've finally seen the light, as it were. :-) Shooting flowers (especially macro shots), particularly in the wild, can be devilishly hard. I've frequently spent as much as an hour and a half or longer on one flower, just waiting for the wind to die down and the light to be just right same time. After obsessing on flowers for a decade, I finally did burn out on them and couldn't shoot another one no matter how nice."
Kenneth Tanaka: "Specialization is very much essential to achieving success in many (most?) fields, particularly photography. Within what most people would call "flower snapping", for example, there are folks who specialize in photographing gardens and those who are expert in botanical documentation. I've met one of each and can tell you they are just as manic as neurosurgical specialists, particularly the botanical shooters. Then, of course, there are art photographers who shoot flowers, usually dead ones. LFI has a very nice feature on the work of such a photographer named Mike Tinney."
Steve Jacob: "To be financially successful as a photographer it's almost compulsory to specialise in one area, understand the market thoroughly and make sure you know where the commercial meat is. Only then is it possible to define a strategy and build up the competence, contacts and client base necessary to make money.
"The problem is that it becomes very hard to do anything else. You become type-cast, you are constantly competing for work, and if the market turns down, you can't reinvent yourself easily.
"Moreover, constant repetition of the same routines can become boring, and it gets increasingly hard for some to maintain any enthusiasm. A well established market is generally conservative. Taking risks is, well, risky.
"If you are one of those at the top of your game, you have some scope for taking the odd risk, in which case everyone else will soon follow, but in the main your paycheck still depends on giving customers what they want. I think many well known photographers are in that very rut—Steve McCurry included.
"Being an artist by nature makes it even harder. The market for 'art photography' is predominantly one of well worn stereotypical clichés of the kind you see on the walls of coffee bars and new apartments. The main market is interior decorators.
"To be a successful artist on one's own terms requires an extraordinary level of integration with the art establishment itself, which creates a market for you through its contacts with wealthy patrons. It is very seldom something you do in isolation, and in its own way, it is just as prescriptive. 'Be different' is just as tedious as 'be the same.'
"Hobbyists have no such concerns. Much of the time, hobby photography is just an extension of another consuming interest (or set of interests) such as your kids, travel, ornithology, motor racing, trains, horticulture, etc. It's a way to be involved in an activity you love, as is blogging or writing books.
"It just so happens that some hobbyists are also exceptional artisans and artists, and having complete freedom to do whatever they want, they sometimes come up with ideas and styles that are truly interesting. Not often perhaps, a very small minority possibly, but it does happen all the same. You just have to do a lot of trawling to find them."
JOHN GILLOOLY (partial comment): "I believe in most cases the type of job you end up in is a direct reflection of your personality type. For me specializing would not work as I need to be doing something different all the time. I would assume I first chose photography as a profession because it satisfied many of my needs as a person. Then once a photographer, you gravitate to certain areas of the business based upon what is suitable for your personality."