As a photographer, one of my aims is to continually stretch myself and improve on my knowledge, understanding and skill in creating images. This means not being content to keep repeating myself, but constantly looking for ways to produce better photos.
In the long term this has a positive effect on my ability – the photos I generate today are definitely of a higher standard and quality than they were in days gone by. And while there are still one or two images I crafted a few years back that I can still look at with a degree of satisfaction, the vast majority leave me wincing slightly as I know I would go about taking that photo in a completely different way now.
But that’s as it should be. Hopefully my best work will always be in the next photos I create – otherwise stagnation is inevitable.
However - and I’ve come to realise this is a problem for all photographers who are continually pushing their boundaries – this results in me looking for different things in a photograph than a non-photographer. What appeals to my eye, or not, is often completely out of kilter with the general public.
For most people, when they look at a photograph, primarily they are looking at the content. I, on the other hand, am also looking at the technical execution – how well is the image exposed, focused and composed, and whether these things are in keeping with the narrative being presented.
Additionally, I spend large amounts of my time immersed in the world of images – particular websites, magazines, and TV programmes or YouTube videos – which means I’m constantly looking for originality too. There are only so many photos of a lonely tree against a dramatic sky, or a long-exposure coastal shot at sunset (where the sea looks like milky mist rather than water), I can see before they fail to impress me anymore, no matter how much I might appreciate the technical expertise. I’ve seen it all before - hundreds of times.
So it constantly catches my by surprise when photos that are merely OK in my eyes, produce a far greater response than what I consider to be my best work. Indeed something little more than a snapshot has just generated more “likes” on Facebook than any other photo I’ve uploaded to date.
Less surprising is it features my daughter, Meg. We were out for a walk in the woods at the weekend, and about halfway round I balanced the camera on a rock, set the timer to 10 seconds and photographed the two of us in a typical Dad-hugs-daughter image. I took 4 shots. The first was overexposed as I’d forgotten to adjust the settings on the camera; the second didn’t have the right compositional balance; the third had Meg’s face mostly covered in my shadow. I made appropriate adjustments each time and the fourth image was fine.
Loving father and patient daughter
A pleasant wee shot I knew my wife would like, but in terms of photographic skill and expertise, hardly a Pulitzer Prize winner. Put up on Facebook, though, it gets four times as many “likes” as what I consider to be my finest work.
But then I’ve long known that blog posts featuring my daughter always generate a higher response rate than any other topic, especially if they include a photo of her.
Technical quality is unimportant. A photo of a loving father hugging his daughter presses all the right buttons - outdone only by pictures or videos of cute kittens.
Poorly focused, crap composition and lousy sound quality, but cute.
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