Our most popular post this week was "The Zen of Shooting," published on Tuesday.
Lo and behold, for once, we actually saw a blip in affiliate sales on Cyber Monday! I think this is the first time that's actually happened. (The first time I mentioned Cyber Monday, a few years back, we had an utterly unremarkable day just like any other.) Thanks for that. All the Mike Johnstons appreciate it when you do some holiday shopping through Amazon or B&H or our other links.
I've been mulling over making some changes at TOP. My son Xander has been helping me rethink some of the predicates of the enterprise.
I'm still pretty serious about starting to do a little teaching online once in a while, taking a different fork in the road by concentrating on seeing and conceptualizing skills more than technical how-to (the latter being excessively specific and also well covered elsewhere, since it constitutes most of the hobby for so many people). I think I'll probably wait until Spring to start, because most of our readers are in the Northern half of the planet and it's easier to go out to shoot when the weather's nicer.
However, here's a starter exercise, in two versions.
The goal is to take two pictures: one that has great personal meaning for you personally but wouldn't mean anything to anyone else; and one that a wide variety of strangers, including non-photographers, might like, appreciate or find appealing.
The Challenging Version: Go out and take two such shots. That might take a few days, or even a few weeks.
The Easy Version: Search your assets and find two such shots among your files.
Why? Well, "who it's for" and who a given picture might appeal to is one of the central problems in photography, and it trips up a large number of practitioners who are unaware of its implications or who haven't thought it through. The fact is, all of your mental assumptions about the pictures you're taking change radically when you learn to, or manage to, change your ideas about the identity of the imagined audience. We're always imaging an audience, whether we do so consciously or semi-consciously or subconsciously. And we're almost always, at some level, fitting the pictures we take to suit that imagined or intended mode or usage. Even if you don't think you do this, you do—and allowing those assumptions to remain unexamined is one of those things that holds photographers back.
As you do this exercise, think long and hard about the differences between the two. Try to feel the contrast between the two modes of approach. Notice which one might be easier for you or more pleasurable. Whose acceptance is at stake in any given picture? Really question it and try to go whole hog with each half of the exercise.
Boilerplate disclaimer: As with any of my exercises, insights, and suggestions, now, ever, and always, this one's status is "take it or leave it." It's spaghetti thrown at the wall—for some it will stick and for some it won't. Don't sweat it. If you think it might be useful or don't mind a challenge, try it. If you don't care, or feel you already have the issue worked out for yourself, or feel you're beyond this particular topic or at too high a level to learn from it or it's too basic for you, no worries. Suit yourself. (I'll just note in my wily way that even world-famous concert pianists do finger exercises; Tony Bennett sings scales every day of his life.)
For extra credit, test your choices: Ask a sampling of other people whether they like the two pictures you choose or find much meaning in them. If the personal one manages to leave people cold or mystified, if they respond by being polite but quiet, you've succeeded there. And if the "popular" one draws pleased reactions, positive comments, or compliments, especially from non-photographers, then you've succeeded with that one too.
As always, I hope you have a pleasant weekend. The IT guy still hasn't worked out my backup problems, and I have a heap of end-of-year tasks on my To-Do List that I have to force myself to chip away at. But I shall be back on Monday, and I hope you will be too.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
01af: "'The End Game.'"
Paul: "I'm afraid some people might not understand your exercise. Here's a link to a video which I hope may help. A word of advice; if one does not like this photographer's work do not let that put you off the advice. Just listen."