So you’ve spent a good portion of your spare time and money building your photography skills. You’ve been out to group shoots, you’re learning the tricks of the trade and becoming part of the photography community. You’re not where you want to be yet, but you feel like you’re at least making some headway. Then, it inevitably happens. A casual photographer who knows little to nothing about photography comes up to you and raves about their new GoPro or other gimmicky, consumer camera they just bought. You’re not impressed.
That little thing couldn’t possibly house the glass necessary to give you that sexy sharp optical quality you crave while mitigating spherical and chromatic aberrations, lens flare, ghosting, distortion, diffraction and vignetting. You’ve spent a good deal of time away from your friends and family just to find out what those terms mean. You’ve rented countless lenses and bodies to try and get the best possible image quality in your budget. There’s no way you’re going to let this person get this much satisfaction out of a 5 minute impulse buy at Costco right? Well, you might give them a piece of your mind, but let me recommend an alternative approach, something that will actually move you forward in your photography journey.
Casual Photographers are an Asset
A good portion of your friends and acquaintances now make up what I’m calling the ‘casual photographer’. These people have cameras of one kind or another (pretty much everyone now), but they have more than a passive interest in their toys. They like to show off their skills on social media and are photography enthusiasts. You need to understand these people if you want to succeed in photography.
Casual photographers also have traits you need to emulate. They don’t care what you think about them or their chosen photography tool belt. They just want to explore and have a good time. Exploring is a lost art in some segments of the photography community and we need to bring it back to center stage. The pure desire to take a thing that makes a picture and see what it can do is the name of the game and you need to get it back.
Light and Pixels
Light and pixels (or film if you prefer) are the things of photography. If you want to find success as a photographer, I recommend you don’t become too attached to any particular photography instrument. Being a loyalist to a particular type of camera has an odd way of stifling creativity. By not using a variety of tools a photographer can get both comfortable and complacent — these are your enemy. I encourage you to embrace all things photography, if only as breaks or experiments.
Take for example the GoPro mentioned above. It’s actually a great little device with a lot of possibilities. The inventor of the GoPro was surfing one day and wanted a little camera that would allow him to capture himself in that element. Turns out there were millions of people with similar needs. This man is an OddTog if I ever saw one. He made something that captured peoples imagination and allowed others to capture moments that were not possible before. So I want you to ask yourself, when you see a new photography tool, no matter how gimmicky it might be, are you instantly curious or do you tend to stick your nose up at it?
Photography with Vision
I watched a documentary of the man that tied a wire between the twin towers and performed for nearly an hour before being arrested. It wasn’t his first run-in with the authorities. Everywhere Philippe Petit went he imagined new places he could hang his wire and perform. He didn’t try to get a permit or inform the public of his intentions. He saw opportunity and went to work.
This man understood something that all photographers would benefit from, that it wasn’t enough to walk the tightrope anywhere, he had to have a vision of a something that would make his performance stand out from others — something that the audience would remember. He’s now probably one of the best known high-wire performers of recent history. You can do the same in photography. When your friend comes up to you with something that makes pictures, don’t shrug them off. Take that thing, have some vision and make something amazing.
photo credit: Ryan McGuire