I was thinking a bit about my motivation for loving photography as much as I do and I had the realization that photography is very much part of me now. Not necessarily part of who I am, as in I always have a camera with me so its part of my life, it’s grown beyond that. After all these years of shooting I feel the act of making photographs has somehow grafted onto my emotional core as a means to communicate things that words and memories alone can not always dictate well enough.
Some look at photography as a technical achievement, and it is. It is fully dependent on technology and it’s easy to get mixed up in thinking that technology and technique is all there is to it, but of course this is far from the truth.
Captivating images come from beyond a mechanical knowledge of how to make a great image. Photo hobbyist geeks can wax poetic about the finer points of lens design or the importance of sensor sizes, but creating something beautiful with a camera involves much more than the technology created to capture it which pales in the light of the emotional connotations of the process. The creation of a timeless photograph comes from somewhere deeper than the part of your brain that simply remembers how something works. It’s not like rebuilding an engine, programing an alarm clock, or filling out paperwork.
Capturing beautiful images involves making a connection between your emotions and your technical knowledge of the craft and, like everything in life, you must find a balance in this space in order to truly appreciate photography and use it to its full potential. For me at least, the emotional side of photography all boils down to respect. I feel understanding this is vital to becoming a better photographer. In having a respect for the subject I am able to find an emotional connection to what I am shooting. When I can later look at an image and feel the emotion I felt while shooting it I feel I am off to a good start. When I share an image with others and they seem to share that same level of respect for the subject, then I feel I have accomplished something great.
Many people these days, aided by the comforts and cheap victories that post processing and digital manipulation can give, seem to think that photography is an easy profession to get into and on the surface, maybe it is. But calling yourself a photographer should contain a certain pride that shows through in your work. I feel it’s one of the secrets of becoming a great photographer. The respect you have for your subject shows within your composition and approach. It shows through your choice of medium and how you choose to present it. Weather you see it or not, your emotional connection to the subject and motivation shows through plain as day in your work. Every snapshot you take as a photographer should be like writing a page in a diary then publishing your secrets for others to see.
This is why some months may go by where I won’t shoot much of anything at all. Because my emotional state is not focused on my photographic work and I am too distracted to focus and give respect to the things I feel I want to shoot. It’s a natural ebb and flow and sometimes I think it’s important to give my creative side a break.
At any rate, this is just one of those things people don’t often discuss on message boards or in how to books and articles. We can worry about what filter presets we may or may not have or what gear we may or may not own all day long but without inspiration, respect, and an honest curiosity for what we shoot, the results will always feel mechanical, dull, and uninspired.
I realize I have touched on the subject a few times in the past as well and will most likely continue to explore it in the future. It’s hard to ignore when you start looking closer into the motivations behind what and why we shoot. So the next time you are out there with your camera take a moment to consider what drew you to capture what it is you found and if nothing at all comes to mind it would be wise to ask yourself why that is.