Phew! I’ve just got home from an intensive two-day beginners photography course with the London Institute of Photography. Run in the visually titillating Brick Lane in East London, the course is designed to give beginners full control of their camera, taking you off of auto and into manual without any stress. I went along excited about finally understanding the mind boggling ISO, aperture and shutter speed combination of doom that no matter how much I read / watched / inhaled I could Just. Not. Understand. Not for one moment did I go along thinking that the whole way I approach my photography creatively would change.
What impressed me most about the course, run by Holger Pooken (a frickin’ amazing photographer who’s work I am now a big fan of) is that the first thing he talked to us about was how having a technically perfect image does not make you the greatest photographer. Much more, photography is about finding that perfect moment, or exposing the viewer to something they have not yet experienced.
As the course went on I rapidly got more comfortable with the manual controls of my camera. Once we had mastered the technical aspects, we happened to move on to speaking about instagram and blogs and how they are really shaping what the mainstream considers ‘aesthetically pleasing’ photography. On instagram or a blog, a detailed shot, which requires consideration, would be lost. A quick thumb scroll and the moment will pass. Moments are incredibly fleeting on these platforms. You need to make a quick, impactful statement in order to be noticed. As Holger put it – the fast food of photography. Hmm. An interesting thought.
Then we moved on to working outside on the street. We were tasked with panning moving cars, bicycles and people to create blurry shots with a single, focused object in the centre (or not, depending on how you wanted to play it). We snapped away, and when I reviewed my images I didn’t like what I saw. I started to delete ones that didn’t meet the criteria.
When we came back to the classroom, we reviewed the images on the larger screen. One by one, Holger picked out images from other students that I would have immediately scrolled past. He hesitated. Started moving sliders to edit the colours, saturation, clarity and exposure of the image. Slowly, something incredibly captivating arose from that ‘shitty’ picture. Like, an image that I would literally buy and put up in the wall of my home. Incredible. When he got to the images from my memory card, I had hardly any left. In my predisposed idea of what was good, I’d deleted most of my images.
We spoke on this for a few moments. He said he never deleted any images. Often what we thought was junk he would come back to in a few weeks time and realise that he might have some gold in there. Instead of the photographer forcing the image to do what he / she wants, the image has a little bit of a say too. The creative moment has a life of its own.
I started to understand something really important.
How much of what I am shooting for my instagram or blog is being pre-determined by what I am seeing elsewhere?
Pre-determined by what the general interpretation of ‘a great shot’ is?
I realised how many of my shots, from close ups of food to street fashion stuff was just me basically doing the same thing that every fucking blogger on the planet does. When did I get so bloody boring?! I’ve always considered myself an innovator, so why was I just replicating what I’d seen other successful bloggers do?
You might know it.
The blurry Bokeh background.
The shallow depth of field on an interesting object.
The overhead food shot.
I’m not saying these aren’t visually appealing, and by no mean does this mean I’ll stop taking them. I’ve only just got comfortable posing in the street and that 45mm prime lens was a good investment, so I’m not gonna sit here saying I’m starting a revolution and you’ll never see these kind of images from me again! That would basically be utter bullshit.
I will 100% be more considerate with how I take pictures. I’ll experiment. I’ll try to push the boundaries of what might be considered an interesting blog photograph. I’ll think about it more. I won’t delete the pictures that don’t fit into the idea of what I had in my head. I won’t just do what I know people will like. I won’t just go where the masses go. I won’t fit into the box.
Because I’ve never been that girl. I don’t know when that all became so comfortable. I guess because in this busy day and age, it’s easy.
The next time you take a picture for your blog, ask yourself this question.
‘am I replicating something I’ve seen before?’
then push yourself, even a tiny bit, to try something unexpected.
I will be.