I have already written a few articles on this blog in order to share with you my perspective on the best practices to face a productivity slowdown and stay as efficient as possible while photographing.
However, I have never discussed the most important factors so far. Indeed, I believe that working on any genre – street photography especially – with a crystal clear objective in mind is probably the single most important ingredient to success.
Below, I will list some of the reasons why I believe that finding your aim in your photography is so crucial.
1. You Find Nothing If You Do Not Know What You Are Looking For
During the very last seminar I attended a few days ago, the speaker said something very interesting, which I reported below:
In street photography, you will take the best photographs when you get lost. However, even when you get lost you must know what you are looking for.
This sentence might sound too philosophical and detached from the reality of things at first. However, it is incredibly truthful if we rest and think carefully enough.
What the speaker wanted us to understand and believe in is that the best street photographs are the ones that you make as you get lost spatially and temporally. Indeed, you can make great photographs even if you do not know where you are – as you are exploiting a new place for instance. Similarly, a great photograph does not require an awareness of the passing time. Actually, the less we are aware about the time and the more the photograph transmits this detachment, the more the image will feel timeless and immortal.
However, what the photographer – especially the street photographer – should never lose is a conceptual awareness. The photographer should always know what she is looking for stylistically and graphically. This concept seems basic but it is quite difficult to get right consistently. As street photographers, we adhered to one of the most ample genres that the world of photography offers. Therefore, we might photograph a street portrait first and a game of lights then and being doing street photography in both instances. However, we could not state they we are maintaining a consistent stylistic awareness.
Being conscious of what you are looking for is the only way to get to a result consistently and coherently over time.
2. It Makes You More Productive
I have experienced that having a clear objective made me much more productive. Indeed, it helped me focusing on series of photogrpahs rather than on the next photograph only.
Before finding my stylistic approach to street photography I was satisfied in getting a good photograph. Now, I am happy when I take a photograph that fits well in my series and follows some stylistic standards. My approach to the genre has changed.
Moreover, once I was getting out to make photos and coming back with one or two ‘keepers’. I was quite happy with the result. Now, I come back home with two or three times as many ‘keepers’. I am happy only if they fit my portfolio.
3. It Will Help You Finding Your Own Style
As I mentioned before, by having a clear aim in mind you can become more consistent over time. As a consequence, you will be able to develop a certain style and build an entire work on it.
This might not be important to you, if you are looking to get one single great image and send it to as many contests as you can in order to be noticed. However, this will make a great difference to you, if you desire to be judged on the quality and consistency of your bodies of work instead.
Moreover, as you change objective, your style may vary consequently. Therefore, you might reinvent yourself as a photographer by simply changing your perspective on the world.
Having a crystal clear objective is probably the single most important piece of non-technical advice you need to improve your photography substantially.
This is true for several reasons. Firstly, you will never find something if you do not know what you are looking for. As a photographer, you might be submerged by the quantity of inputs that the world offers you and might see the challenge of finding an order in this chaos as overwhelming.
Secondly, having an aim will increase your productivity. Indeed, you style will be more consistent and the number of ‘keeper’ will increase.
Lastly, you will develop your unique style more easily. Surely, your aim will be generated by many factors and reflections, which are uniquely yours. Therefore, the resulting photographs will be unique as well.
‘Learn from the Masters’ series:
- Learn from the Masters: René Burri
- Learn from the Masters: Bruce Davidson
- Learn from the Masters: Bruce Gilden
- Learn from the Masters: Elliott Erwitt
- Black and White or Colour Photography?
- How to Find Your Unique Style
- 3 Tips to Be More Productive When Making Street Photographs
- Why Equipment Matters