What Not to Photograph?
Written by: steve
By Steve Russell
It won’t surprise me that if after reading this, someone accuses me of waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Sometimes, though, I can’t help myself and just have to say something. This is one of those times.
Recently, I read a photography blog where the writer was railing against photographers in general and discussed ten subjects that people should stop photographing. The blog post may have been tongue-in-cheek but if it was, the writer sounded convincing. I’ve always felt that everyone was entitled to their own opinion and that you and I are entitled to disagree. The writer felt that the subjects he listed had been over photographed and he was tired of seeing them. Needless to say, I disagreed with him on a couple of levels although some of his points I thought were spot on.
To be fair, what the writer was really trying to say was quit trying to copy what you’ve seen and be creative. Take you own photos, not what others have taken. Great point. However, with the worldwide annual shipment of new digital cameras in excess of 100 million, there probably isn’t a general subject that hasn’t been photographed – flowers, street scenes, homeless people, babies, weddings, etc. Still, there are an infinite number of photos of those and other subjects that haven’t been taken.
For example, one of the subjects mentioned was sunrise/sunset. I agree that the sun rises and sets every day. I would also venture to guess that at any given point in time there is at least one person in the world pointing a camera at the sun, low on the horizon, taking one photo after another. I’ve taken hundreds of sunrise/sunset photos and all of them have either been discarded, are in a box in the closet, languishing on an external hard drive or archived on a DVD. Still, I continue to search for that ONE sunrise/sunset photo that just knocks your socks off like this one captured by Swishphotos in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Macro photography was another area that garnered his contempt. Are you kidding me? Macro photography opens a whole new world. Macro photography allows us to see things we can’t see with the naked eye and it allows us to see it anytime we want to.
Like this spider. Okay, I’m not crazy about spiders but they do make for some incredible images and look closely at the eyes.
I’ve used this mushroom before but check out the tiny insect on the upper left side of the mushroom. I didn’t see the insect when I took the photo so finding it in the captured image was a nice surprise.
I agree that much of macro photography gives us a somewhat unrealistic view of things because the magnification allows us to see what we can’t see without it. Yet, I have seen some absolutely wonderful macro photography images.
Another subject he didn’t like was nature photography. I find that stance baffling. Actually I feel sorry for those than can’t see and enjoy the beauty and extreme diversity in nature. Okay, I admit that my first love in photography is nature photography and maybe I’m being a little protective, but what would you do if you came upon this scene?
And I admit that probably every African animal that exists has been photographed over and over, both in the wild and in zoos and other preserves, but how many times has this image been captured?
So, you ask, what’s the point?
1. Don’t let other people tell you what you should and shouldn’t photograph unless you’re working on a specific assignment.
2. Even if you’re working on an assignment, the first person you have to please with your photography is yourself. True, it always makes you feel great when someone compliments your images, but they’ll never see them unless you like them first.
3. Always remember that if we all liked the same images the world of photography would be much smaller. I’ve seen, on Flickr, many images that I thought were pretty ordinary that had 10, 15, 20 or more compliments. I’ve seen images that were just technically incorrect that people raved about.
4. Keep taking photos. Not every photo is going to be what you saw and what you imagined, but if you don’t take lots of photos you’re going to miss the best ones.
5. If you’re going to criticize the work of others because of its ubiquitousness, make sure your photography is really avante garde. The writer of the article I saw was a fashion photographer. I don’t think that working every day in a studio in New York City taking hundreds of images of undernourished, over made-up young women in outlandish clothing qualifies a person to belittle all the other disciplines of photography.
So, take your camera out of the bag and start taking photos. Most of all, don’t get discouraged, carefully listen to helpful criticism of your efforts and dismiss the non-constructive comments.
As a P.S., when I started writing this article, I had forgotten that last July, Tiffany had written an article entitled the same as this one but without the question mark. However, there’s a very large difference between what Tiffany wrote about and what the blogger I’m referring to was writing about. Tiffany’s article was filled with tips and pointers designed to make your photography better. The one I read the other day wasn’t offering suggestions to make better images, he was criticizing entire disciplines of photography.
Bonfire in the Sky by swishphotos on Flickr Creative Commons
Sunset of the Wight by badboy69 on Flickr Creative Commons
Wicked Little Jumping Spider by Char1iej on Flickr Creative Commons
Mushroom by Steve Russell on Flickr
Elephants by Arutemu on Flickr Creative Commons
Cheetah Pair by Steve Russell on Flickr
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