Thursday, 3 December 2009

Photographic Personal Philosophy

After about a decade of seriously pursuing photography, I would guess that I am in the "mid-life" of my photography journey. Along the way, my thoughts and approach to photography have evolved: I have gone though different favoured subjects such as landscape, candid, portrait; used different media such as black and white film, slide film and digital; and shot for different purposes in mind, documenting my own travels and day to day experiences, other people's events, weddings included, for commission, and for my own portfolio. It is useful to stop and reflect on how I have come to be where I am at the moment, codify my own personal photographic philosophy.

In essence, I would characterise it as "balance", though this could be said of life in general. I see this delineated in my photography, where balance is applied to its main elements which can be broadly identified as equipment, technique, vision and opportunity. It seems that much argument and distress is caused by failing to see the larger picture and concentrating almost to the exclusion of the rest on a single aspect.

Pronouncements like "equipment doesn't matter" miss the heart of the art and craft of photography. Equipment, technique, vision, opportunity, these are all ingredients which contribute to the final result. Depending on the type of photography you do, some of these may be more important that the other but the absence of any one of them severely impairs the final result. The question is at what point improving any one of those aspects ceases to make a difference, then it is a case of working on the ones which will.

For me, I am at the stage where getting more/better equipment would not improve my photos much. I'm lucky in that my photographic subjects are relatively undemanding of bodies and lenses. I do not take sports photos or wildlife so I don't need huge lenses and fast bodies. Conversely I cannot make the excuse that I could have done better if I have a more expensive lens/camera.

I've also developed my technique to suit what I do and the equipment I have. I am familiar with the operation of my equipment and I know its features and limitations. Through reading and experience, I have a fair idea of what shutter, aperture, and ISO are appropriate for the photographic situations I regularly encounter.

However, vision and opportunity is what I have to work on in order to improve the photos I take. One can become too comfortable with what one is proficient at, whioch can lead to staleness of vision. This is why it pays to go outside one's comfort zone and try something new. I had a go at taking bird photos which was enjoyable, though I was under-equipped and unfamiliar with the technique. Street photography has always been a keen interest of mine but I'm not really cut out for it, lacking the basic "chutzpah" required. I have the opportunity to get into studio photography which would be another way of expanding my vision, where photographs have to be made, not taken.

Unfortunately, opportunity is constrained by other commitments (ones which pay the bills). Just going out and taking photos keeps you in practice, helps you maintain the way of photographic seeing. However, I could be looking at making the most of the opportunity I do have by expanding the vision of what photos I could take.

Balancing these four main factors is the key to being a good photographer, being a successful one also requires the fifth ingredient and that is luck, though some would say that you make your own luck through perseverance.

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