shoot what you love

by julie posted February 10, 2012

Back in the days where I used to hang on every flickr comment and agonise over how to improve my photography, I remember getting the advice to “shoot what you love” (Do you see what I did there, it’s a heart in the photo and it’s nearly valentine’s day, haha …no? Oh. Never mind).

The basic thinking behind it seems to be that if you care about your subject, it’ll come through in your photos. Since i’m very much and always have been an aesthetic photographer, I would quite often choose subject based purely on their visual characteristics because I do primarily see my photography as a way to create something that’s nice to look at and can bring a little bit of happiness through that. But I did start to lose steam after a few years, because as beautiful as flowers and forests are, everyone’s seen them before, everyone’s seen better photos of them than yours (mine!), and I started to wonder if it had a point.

This post has been a long time coming because I’ve been thinking about a few things, mostly about how I’m predominantly shooting/posting knitting or crochet these days. I noticed there’s a post along the same lines from January last year and at the time I put it down to the season, not getting out and about to shoot a variety of stuff, and predicted that things would naturally change as the summer came in. I did think about how I’ve gone away slightly from my original blog intention which was photos of the slightly unreal and ethereal side of life, and I was going to apologise but if people don’t like what I post, they’ll go and find a blog that has what they do like. I do suspect these days my audience skews more towards my craftsy friends than my photography friends, whether it’s a cause or a symptom though I’m not sure!

To bring me back to my original point and pull it all together, these days I’m getting infinitely more satisfaction from shooting something that I’m interested in from an aspect other than just photographing it. I understand what it is that goes into each stitch, or even before that: the choosing of pattern and yarn, or the ultimate: designing the whole thing from scratch – you start out with a single strand of yarn and an idea and you make a Thing! It’s quite something. And to be able to be sympathetic to that when I’m taking the photos and notice things that a non-crafter wouldn’t (I want to see the selvedge edge/garter tab cast on/picot bind off, you get the point) I can provide the people who put the time into their creations with a more worthy record of them. I hope.

I suppose when you do specialise in playing to a particular audience to that degree, it’s natural that you’ll also alienate others. If I’ve learned one thing in my years behind a camera, maybe it’s that it is actually OK – even preferable – to do that. If you’re trying to please all the people all the time, you’ll never really find your own little groove to settle into. Maybe some people don’t want a groove, in which case you can ignore everything I just said…

9 Responses to shoot what you love

  1. This has had me thinking all afternoon… but to no avail.

    Shoot what you love?

    If I’ve understood it correctly, you’re asking: should you shoot what you love? Does having an emotional connection to the subject help? Does this result in “better” photos and how will your “audience” react?

    I find this thought-provoking though without any real conclusions. Of the things I photograph, it’s my family which I have the most emotional connection with. I visualised and caught a nice moment at the weekend with my dad throwing a frisbee to his dog, which is seen running in the background. It’s as I envisaged it. It’s sharp, well-composed and exposed correctly. It means a lot to me, and perhaps to him. Well over 90% of my photos are like this. But what would it mean to someone else? It’s just (another) man and his dog. That’s why it’s not on my blog. Neither is the shots of Hilary and Norah doing crafts at lunchtime. Or the shots of Norah practising her handwriting.

    And this is why most of what I publish online are my landscape (or occasionally wildlife) shots. Do I have as much emotional connection to the picture? No. But as standalone pictures I think they are easier for other’s to understand and appreciate. In fact, I think my landscapes can be quite clinical particularly in terms of composition.

    So, perhaps leave the family shots out of the discussion. But are my landscapes of Inch (one of my favourite places on Earth) “better” than those of anywhere else? Technically, I don’t think so. There’s some practical advantages because I’m often there when the light is right so I can take advantage of it. So, the images themselves aren’t better. Do I enjoy shooting on Inch beach -vs- somewhere else? Perhaps. But that’s just because I get to send more time (alone) on the beach.

    Anyway, I have no answers. I’m not even sure what the questions were. But it’s thought-provoking.

  2. Huzzah for tiny wee lovely things! What’s the point in keeping a wider audience if you’re losing interest in taking the photos that appeal to that wider audience?

  3. I see what you mean, and I believe I have seen part of your transition, too. It’s a very good advice, to shoot what you love. I think you’re doing that, that you’ve always done it. We change, and our subject matters changes too. Yet, I would still think I’m able to recognise a crop of your images from others. Our fingerprints in how we see things doesn’t change that much as we might think.

  4. The advice to “shoot what you love” is often given to photographers who feel stuck in a rut. The idea being that if you are lacking inspiration start by shooting what you love to get yourself out of a rut and into a groove. In other words start shooting what you love and end up loving what you shoot.

    I’d say it’s a good thing to question why we do what we do, why we shoot what we shoot. The answer can be enlightening. It can offer creative freedom if we stay true to ourselves. I’d also say it is best to not care what others will think. As you’ve discovered for yourself, there’s no pleasing everyone and when you lose one audience chances are you gain another.

    I have no interest in knitting and such–though I do enjoy the finished products on occasion–but I still enjoy your photography. What I’ve always liked about it, whether it’s pretty flowers or knitted (crocheted?) heart is that it feels sincere and makes me believe that while we have never met you are not a stranger to me.

  5. The yarn seems to love you right back, you know.

  6. Maybe not ‘shoot what you love,’ but ‘shoot what you feel you have something original about which to say’?

    I say this because I read Jamie’s comment about him loving his family, but nobody wanting to see a seven hundredth photo of them. And I love trees, but I haven’t been able to produce photos of trees that I feel are interesting or new. I also love knitting, but here I feel that, through photos, I have something to say about texture and craft and the beauty of handmade things. Go figure.

    Just a thought. Happy Valentine’s Day – I love seeing your photos, of knits or otherwise!

  7. I can’t agree more. I think that if you have something that you are fascinated with, very much interested in, have a love for, then it is no chore to point your camera that way and become more and more intimate with that thing as time goes on. You provided a great example when talking about the various parts of crocheting, none of which I have a clue, but so what. I love the presentations of your shots, the limited depth of field, the carefully thought out photos, and of course the cute little things. It’s obvious, at least to me, that you love both arts, photography and crocheting. More power to you, my friend!

  8. This made me think a lot. And the sad reality is that I like shooting. The process of being out with the camera, looking into the viewfinder and hoping that I’ll be able to create the pictures I’ve seen in my mind. The reality of uploading pictures and attepmts to process them is something different, but if I get one good pictures from a hundred, after processing, I am happy. And that motivates me to get the camera and shoot even more.
    There are, of course, subjects I like to shoot more, but every discipline or subject has its own challenges and learning how to approach something new is very stimulating.
    Thank you for such interesting post.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *