What if you had the same camera, lighting and subject matter as everyone else. A groundhog day for a photographer so to speak. If we all have the same gear what would make you different?
Imagine you had no way of visually showing someone any of your work, and they ask you to describe what you’re about, not your genre, but what is the essence of what you’re trying to achieve? —Katy Niker
This quote is something we should all think about and consider when pressing the shutter button. What is it that you’re trying to achieve beyond visuals?
The world is saturated with photographs and many of them are technically perfect, so what matters now? Most people rely on lighting, subject matter and/or camera gear to distinguish themselves from others. Instead of striving for something technically perfect, strive for something meaningful, personal and unique.
To achieve this, photographers need to show or expose something raw and real about themselves in their work. What can you bring to the table that would drastically set you apart from everyone else? What makes your photos unique? Or a better question to ask yourself: “What makes yourself unique?”
I have asked myself this question to see if I am a photographer or just another camera operator. Do you have any creative expression or an artistic vision beyond the camera gear you use? When you are honest with yourself, this question can be quite scary.
First off without gear, we wouldn’t be photographers — the camera is what defines our profession. Put that aside — what else makes a photographer beyond gear, lighting, and subject matter? I struggled with this for a while. I boiled it down to two things: story and meaning.
What is the intention behind the photograph? That is what sets you apart from every other photographer. If you don’t have a meaning or a story behind your work then you are sadly just a camera operator or an Instagram clone, pleasing microsecond engagement and likes without any lasting thought or influence.
So what is the meaning and story behind your work? Why did you take the photograph? What does it all mean, and why should I care? These are the questions we need to think about before we press the shutter button or at very least what we need to contemplate during the editing process. Why take this photo? Why share this photo?
For me it started out as self-expression, then it turned into finding myself and self-reflection. Then my photographs started to become a meaning and megaphone for Zen and being alone and content with one’s self. Now the influence of social media likes has started to creep into my choices, and I hate that. This need for acceptance, dopamine, and endorphins from a numbered icon has sickened my soul.
But I am aware of it, I have acknowledged it and admitted it. Now I can change and get back to what really matters, meaning and story. Because without that then we are all just camera operators using the same cameras and light, shooting the same subject matter. Just another social media clone chasing likes on the endless digital feed.
About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.