What does it mean to be on a photographic journey?
Just what is this photographic journey you’ll hear me talking about? Well, it’s our job as photographers to make the world look interesting because most things we come across are so familiar to our eyes. Much of what we repeatedly see each and every day we take for granted, which is such a shame. As light-catchers, we have a wonderful chance to show the common and mundane of our world in a new way. Changing the way we see again, and photographing subjects in new ways, takes time – hence we need to go on a journey.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt
It’s all about learning
The key to your photographic journey is simple. It’s about learning. To learn to see things in a new way, you must learn from the best out there by studying (not emulating or copying) their work. Portfolios of work by men and women that may span many decades. Study photos by the masters rather than fixating on some filter-driven influencer who is all the rage with their rocketing number of followers. Your journey will take time so take the time to learn.
Get up to speed about the life of the greats and try to look at their journey. Find out all you can about how they went about creating their works of art. Later, when you’ve developed a style of your own, you can worry about the number of followers or curation of your work, whether on social media or in your galleries. Don’t forget it’s your journey for you, utilising your unique offerings to the world. Start from that point, and the people who are photography fans will find you and follow you.
Just to repeat it again, the key here is learning, not copying, emulating or recreating. Your journey will comprise two areas of knowledge. The camera’s technical aspects and the visual language of creativity. The former can be mastered easily to the level you need. The latter will take a lifetime to master as you keep growing.
The philosophy of the photographic journey
Photography is a lifelong journey of learning. The goal is to create works that make you grow from the average to the good to making memorable photos on a consistent basis. Your end goal is to capture scenes of light that are memorable to the viewer. Anyone can take an average photo. Social media is jampacked with them. With training, you can grow your work to produce good images. However, it takes a great understanding of how to see the world to make a memorable one. That is something we must all strive towards.
Your photography, or more importantly, your photography journey, is all about you. How you want to capture the world translates from your personality and what passions you have in your life. What gets you fired up and makes you lose all sense of time? These passions (or single passion) can guide you into what genre of photography you are probably best to start in.
You will learn more from studying the great photographer’s work than sitting on a train, headphones on, watching a YouTube video of someone shilling their editing presets at only $9.99. The masters have huge bodies of work, showing all the twists and turns of their own journey right there for you to study. Why did they shoot the way they did? What makes each photo work? Why do you like/dislike a photo of theirs?
Tips for enjoying your photography?
- Don’t do it unless you are going to enjoy it and have fun
- A passion for this art is paramount to quell the fear of having the right equipment, dealing with demanding clients or worrying about your social media strategy.
- Have a camera in your hand that keeps you in the moment. One that makes you happy to lift it and point it at subjects you love working with. Forget all the trends and fads – find a camera (and editing process) that makes you the happiest. And it could be very different for mine.
- Avoid discussions with the “to be a true photographer, you must only shoot in manual mode” purists. They’ll sap the joy out of it all. They distract you while luring you into a conforming club or echo chamber that needs self-validation to overcome some insecurities or another.
- Find your style for the genre you love, and then shoot it your way. Forget the rest because it is your work.
- When taking a photo, stay in the moment. Don’t overthink all the technical stuff. Don’t keep chimping (checking the back LCD) to see if it’s okay. Set up your shots, check the histogram (exposure) once and enjoy the shoot. Obviously, focusing is crucial but keep on point to make photos that will emotionally engage or at least hold your viewers’ attention. I train beginners to expose, focus, then frame – a method to start you thinking before the photo is taken.
- It’s all about the photograph and not the equipment or social media content you may create. Focus on your craft, not your gear. Once the initial purchase has been made (Read my article – How to buy your first digital camera), crack on and start shooting. Many don’t want to shoot digital or even convert to mirrorless just yet, which is fine. However, whatever format you shoot in, accept that at some point you’ll have to upgrade your kit. Part of our tech world means new technology comes at us all the time and old ones are phased out.
How can I help you define your journey?
One-to-one sessions out in the world are one of the best ways I can help you with your journey. The goal is to teach you how to learn by firing up your passion and help you realise that only you can teach yourself to take photos out there. Everyone can be told about the technical skills needed, but you have to learn to shoot in a way that is unique to you.
Once the basics are learnt, the next step is to gain a good working understanding of how your camera and lens combination works for you as you continue to grow. The visual language is about so much more than just basic composition – it’s about a passionate view of capturing light while telling a story to your viewer.
Every next step you take (and there will be many) requires courage. You will find all kinds of resistance to change while embracing the next step on your journey. Partners, family members, friends, and even your peers will question your decisions. No one is more important than you. Stay the course and keep following your passion.
Photography is your creative journey. You are unique among the billions on the planet, and your path ahead should reflect that. Trying to follow someone else’s journey will suck the life out of your passion for your hobby or career.
Occasionally you may need a little outside help, and I want to help you master your ongoing journey for yourself.
Have you had a look at my ABOUT ME section?