I’ve often heard people say that anyone can take a photograph. While that might be true, especially with the kind of photographic technology we now have, taking the photograph is only a tiny part of it.
Think about it. If you went out for a walk with three other photographers, came across a beautiful scene and all took a shot, I guarantee you would take completely different ones.
But why is that?
Years ago, I went on a photography workshop and what I learned there resonated with me. They told us that we, as people, are influenced by all our experiences, loves, likes and dislikes. It’s those things that have a bearing on how we capture our photographs.
Bear with me while I try to explain this…
Think about it for a moment. Look back on your life and think about everything you’ve ever done, everyone you’ve ever spoken to, all the places you’ve visited. Think about the music you’ve listened to, the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve watched, the food you’ve eaten… and on and on it goes.
All those things build up to a combination of life experiences and influences that only YOU have had. No two people will ever have the same experiences or remember them in the same way. Each person gets left with their own personal imprint that defines them from anyone else.
Still with me?
Good! Because it’s these factors, plus your upbringing – your morals, your belief systems, your behaviours and so on – that go into making you the individual soul that you are. Any of a million factors from your past experiences can influence the way you do something now.
Which is why if two of you stand side-by-side and take a shot of the same scene, you’ll capture something completely different. It’s the absolute beauty of what makes us human and what makes what we do as photographers flippin’ exciting, don’t you think?
So how does this relate to how you know yourself?
Ultimately, all your wealth of experiences will explain why it is your work might look completely different from someone else’s. Neither way is right or wrong. They’re just different.
Knowing a little more about yourself can influence the way you photograph because it might show why you do something one way while someone does it another.
Take subjects, for example. I was talking to another photographer recently and she spoke about how she rarely liked to include people in her work, while I was all about them. We figured out that she is very patient and will return to a scene again and again to get the image she has in her mind. I, on the other hand, am impatient and, frankly, lazy. I prefer to shoot what I find and move on to the next thing. I rarely return to the same place to grab an image and, if I do, I’ll try to do it in a different way from what I did before. I also love the constant ever-changing hurry of capturing people in a scene. That excites me and explains why I loved photographing weddings so much!
It’s my influences and experiences that explain why I’m like that. And she, with her much slower pace and style of capturing photographs, will have had her own experiences and carry her own influences.
These are the things that make us unique. They’re the things we bring to photography, to creativity, to ART itself. And they’re the things you should try to get to know about yourself. It can make for a very interesting journey when you start to piece together why it is you do something the way you do it!