Photo by Lele Saveri
This one is a message to those of you feeling blah about your photos. A common feeling to photographers near and far. A common email I get. The feeling usually comes in cycles or waves. You might be feeling yourself for a month or 2 and then all of a sudden you hate your photos every single one. I say it is you feeling average in your talent, skill, and technique. You want to feel above average. But what is average?
Average is the middle of the pack. So what’s at the front? What is “good”? If you are going by Instagram likes, then the Kardashians won. You might as well get surgery and shoot selfies all day. And what is “bad”? It really is subjective. Your Grandma’s favorite all time photo will not be your favorite all time photo.
I think 3 things make a “bad” photo. I think once we figure out what is “bad”, then it will be easier to get to “good”. Or at least get your numbers up because if we are talking averages then we are talking numbers. In baseball, if you are hitting the ball 3 out of 10 times, then you are killing it hall of fame status. That’s it. You can strike out 7 times. Instead of saying 30% though, they write it like this “.300” and verbalize that you are batting “300”. If we are going to use baseball references, then lets call them strikes.
Strike 1. Editing
Does this particular photo fit this particular thing I am working on? Am I trying to tell a story? Is this photo part of that story? As an editor of a black and white photo zine about living on Earth, it is so weird when someone submits full color still lifes shot in the studio. It happens all the time really. It’s not the right fit. Not “bad”, just the wrong application of these photos. Other editing examples: editing for a book vs editing for gallery exhibition or editing for an article vs editing for a portfolio.
Strike 2. Skill and Technique.
Sometimes seemingly talented photographers are just really skilled at photoshop. Some photographers might say post processing is more than 80% of the photo. I have said it before in other posts that skill and techniques comes with experience. Is your camera setup the proper setup for you? Are you using it in the correct way? What is your work flow? How are you processing? All this comes with experimenting and studying.
Strike 3. Purpose.
Do you have a sense of purpose with your photography? This teeters into a philosophical discussion. And I know some of you are like, “Man, all you shoot photos of is squirrels now. How can you sit up there and tell me what’s what?” I can’t, no one can. The squirrels are part of my latest chapter about living in surburbia. My story. What’s your story?
It may be opinion but I am saying if you are telling YOUR story, then really there are no “good” photos and no “bad” photos just details and scenarios as part of the bigger story. And the sooner you get better at telling your story, not someone else’s, along with editing and skill and technique, then the sooner your averages will go up. And the sooner your averages go up, then the sooner your photography will be above average. We are all a work in progress. Let’s just pay a little more attention to what we are doing and start hammering these stories out.