There is a difference between what you see, what you think you see and what the camera sees. It takes time to put the parts together and make your vision visible by the camera.
It takes even more time to convince people to see what you wanted them to see in the first place.
To get that picture that conveys your vision is hard work. For a very long time, I was more of a collector than a photographer. Shoot this, click that, snap there… Sometimes going out with a specific photographic goal in mind, but all too often just snapping away.
Frozen in time
Shooting wildlife is a little different, as it gives you a tiny chance to get a picture and then it tells you to go elsewhere by flying away, running away or running towards you. The latter is quite unnerving if that is a bison. Even if they are in their enclosure and you’re not…
On a different planet
Shooting plants and flowers is a little different, although there is little chance to shoot something that has a specific mood when taking those shots outside. Again, the mindset of “take what you can get” is then more prevalent. Not that the plants would run away, more like the wind moving them around too much.
Time is flowing like a river
So you are left with unmoving subjects, like landscapes, cityscapes or even models. But models have to be directed, which is also a very specific task. Personally, I have difficulties telling some gorgeous lady to sit or stand this way or that way. But others may not have that problem. I guess that comes with experience in directing.
Sometimes you have to tell them to “make love to the camera”, which usually goes well unless a guy like me stands behind the said camera.
Here comes that rain again
For me, that leaves the landscapes and cityscapes and general nature shots. I don’t do product shots as there is no creativity in those. “Show off the product the best you can”, is often the directive for that. So you take the shots with perfect lighting, perfect angle and colour grading, only to find that a cellphone shot by the company director’s nephew is the one chosen for the ad campaign. Where’s the fun in that?
Before coffee in the morning
And then you have to compete with all the others in the field. It’s all too common to have people get a camera for Christmas and open the John and Jane Doe Photography business in the following January. They inundate the “market” with pictures that should never have been allowed to see the light of day.
On top of that, they “sell” their pics for prices that don’t even allow you to buy either a coffee or a filter for your lens. Let alone decent gear. All the more reason to become jealous of them, right? But they too (perhaps) have a vision they want to convey. It’s probably not yours, for sure.
Off into the sunset
So how do you convey that vision in your photography? It all comes down to practice and more practice. There is no way that anyone can teach you what that vision should be. Not your family, not someone in a YouTube video, no one.
All you can do is try to get that feeling into that picture. Imitating other photographers that “have the style you want” is in my opinion the worst way to go about it, unless you just want to practice their style so you can improve on it or change it. Nothing beats practice.
I’m coming home
Yet your feelings are your own. Prize winners like Steve McCurry (“the Afghan Girl”) don’t direct their shots. They have a sense of the moment like not many others have. That’s where experience comes into play. And of course we don’t know how many shots were rejected in favor of this world-famous picture.
Experience comes from practice. If you don’t practice photography at every moment you can, you won’t grow (into it) and those split-second moments will pass you by without noticing them.
The end of the line
Once I was walking in the streets of Winnipeg with my camera, looking around for a shot. A lady came up to me and asked “What are you looking so intensely at?”. My answer was to hold up the camera and say that I was a photographer. The lady nodded and walked on. A funny interpellation, but in fact, it was all about what I was after.
The trees and the forest
If you don’t look around, you won’t find that shot. And to get that shot, you need to have a camera with you. Never mind what that camera is. A cellphone might do the trick, after which you could come back with the real camera and get a better shot at it.
One time or another you will find that vision that shows what you had in mind. For some that comes easy, most need hard work. I’m still working on my vision, being in a beautiful area might be called a distraction. There is too much beauty to show off to be “working” on a vision. Or perhaps that is what I need to shoot after all…
I’m being “philosophic” about it. For the last 40+ years I have enjoyed shooting all kinds of subjects, with or without a mood or underlying intention. I’ll continue to do that.
Until next time…