Friday, April 23, 2010

Shoot to Impress

I believe one of the strongest reasons why many young (beginner) photographers are ripping their hair off their head was due to the fact that they tried too hard to impress.

Lets not overanalyze things, and allow me to illustrate with a simple model case.

A photographer wannabe bought a DSLR. He was glad with his purchase. He then snapped some photos. He was happy with his photos, and he wanted to share his work with his friends. He thought his shots were pretty good. He showed his photographs to his friends, and asked for comments. One friend said: “I could have taken better photographs with my camera phone.” Another friend said “Your DSLR is cheap, you should try use a full frame and a F2 lens.”. Yet, another complained about “lousy composition, no drama, and no story behind the photograph”. One more friend said “There is nothing special about your photograph.” Finally, one guy just hammered the last nail into the coffin and said “Your photo sucks.”

Oh dear, what went wrong?

Was it true that the photographs he took were so bad that everybody had something bad to say about them?

Did he try to show off too soon?

When is the time to show your photography works then?

Was it because he was so new to photography that he tried his best but people around him did not see the fact that he was trying, but simply hammered him down because they knew if they said something good it would inflate the photographer’s ego so much that he would frighten a whale?

Did he deserve any of the comments?

I would like to see the fault being partially laid on the newbie photographer himself. His mistake was, trying too hard to impress.

I knew, because I was probably one good example, well, not to such an extreme extent but it was sufficient for me to relate. I can say this could most likely be the similar case for most people out there, undertaking the same path as I did.

Sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves that we are not born to make everyone around us happy. This fact applies not only to photography, but to most things in life generally. Seriously, would it matter that much if that friend of yours think your photos are not really “suiting his preferences”? Why do you need his approval in the first place? The first question you have to ask yourself is this: Do you like your own photographs? Then you ask: Is it really good, by your own standards? You do not need others to convince and tell you how good you are. Unless, of course, you are one attention seeking whore, who demands appreciation and praises all around you ahemmmm shyly hides myself.

Seriously, comments and feedbacks should be tools for further improvements, and being as constructive as possible. They should never be seen as morale breaking self devastation.

Of course, in practice things were never that simple. We all care too much of what people say. There are also circumstances when we never invited any comments at all, but people still intrusively shoot their bullets and arrows at you mercilessly.

I have been through quite a few stages and changes of mindset as I travel through this world of photography, as new as I am to this alien place. There was a time when I do care about what every single person said, and that was the time when I could be badly affected especially being hit by a few friends who do matter to me. There were also times when I would defend myself so brashly, and counter attack the offensive comments with my own stand and justifications on why I presented my photographs the way I did. It even came to a point that I had to explain why I loved shooting what I chose to shoot, and why I deviate from the mainstream stereotype of photography style. I am glad to say that, those trends are slowly coming to pass. I am seeing things more clearly now, and I have less concern on what others have to say about my work.

I shoot for myself, most of the time. I have even named my own photography sessions as shutter therapy. Shutter therapy means a lot of things to me. Firstly, it has to do with cameras, and a whole lot of going around heavily on photography. Secondly, it is a therapy, both to my mind and soul. I shoot photos to refresh my mind, to temporarily exit this world full of sadistic people and cruel intentions. I entered a world void of negative emotions, and free of troubles and fear. This is the perfect therapy for my mind, it worked like drugs, and as far as I would go into this state of mind, it calmed myself and allowed me to clear my thoughts, seeing things in a better perspective. This is the main reason that drives me so deep into photography.

The main person I should try to please, would be myself. Not you.

Of course, I should not brush people aside if they do feel like giving their feedback. I am not saying, I should take comments lightly. That was not what I meant at all. However, the days when I would lose sleep just because someone said my shots are “sub-standard”, are behind me. If you think you can do better than me, you do not even have to say a word. Just show me your photos, and let your photos speak to me.

Having said all that, I must also acknowledge that photography is a form of art. Art is a medium that communicates with people. Therefore, I cannot be entirely just be shooting for myself alone only. My photography works should be able to connect to people, and send out messages that I have implanted inside the works. How people choose to see the story behind the photographs, would be entirely up to them. The interpretations are left wide open, and why limit yourself? If people can see your photographs in ways that you could never imagine possible, that also means your piece of work has achieved certain artistic value.

I am far from being called, a good photographer. The journey has merely begun. Like I have mentioned many times, I am not in a rush. The journey itself matters to me, and every single step I take, no matter how small, leads me forward into this wonderful world. Each step I take I learn, and improve. It is the journey of learning, that I enjoy the most. The rewards of photography is not so much of what people tell you what they think, but the whole process of the experience in making wonderful images.

Today, I learn to open up my mind, not to shoot to impress, and move beyond the traumatizing, non-constructive and worthless people who do not appreciate art or photography.

From now onwards, I shall put my heart and soul in my photographs. I want to climb to the level that, people can actually recognize part of who I am, just by seeing my photographs. Someday, this might just come true.


  1. This was a great read. Very thought provoking..and I'm not just saying that to inflate your ego. ;)

    Speaking of shutter therapy, Cyril and I, along with a couple of friends will be doing that later today. He's pretty excited about it. :D

  2. Hey Fahriee,
    Thanks mate !!
    Whoah, too bad we could not have a shutter therapy session when I was in Kuching. Must make one happen with you guys around next time.
    Will be looking forward to seeing the photos from you guys soon !!!

    Hey jasonmumbles,
    WTF !! LOL

  3. Yes.. I totally agree with you.

    Photography is not about pleasing others, but yourself. Your photo can suck to the max, but if you like it.. then you should take pride in your own work.

    Ehem.. since my name is mentioned here :P I'd like to note that I love the photos I take, but well.. I have a good feeling that today, during the shutter therapy.. I'll be bemoaning the fact that I can't get photos I want due to my limited lens range. I love taking people doing something (candid shots), and thats always the case :P

  4. Let's get FF camera and 0.95F lens to become godlike! No... wait a minute... You are already godlike!!

  5. hey cyril,
    yeap, it is true that it is important to take pride in your own work, and this is not limited only to photography sense.
    Oooohhh how I wish I can join you guys on the shutter therapy session earlier. gosh.
    Anyway, buy buy buy !!!

    Hey Chong,
    You go buy first !!! Me still so noob lah ahahha

  6. hey LKM,
    go flush your head in the toilet bowl.

  7. hey jasonmumbles,
    I never said Olympus has full frame, did I?

  8. Was referring to Chong's comment. Hehe.


  9. hey jasonmumbles,
    I think he was referring to 5D mk2 LOL

  10. Well said, Robin. Very well said.

  11. A good read, Robin. I believe that too many newbies have a bad impression that owning a dSLR makes him or herself a photographer. Thus, having the mindset that pictures coming out from it SHOULD be good.

    Photography is an art. It comes from the mind and the soul. Great photographs are being felt. Technique is important. Gears aren't. I'm sure you know what I mean. ;)

    Lastly, all Olympus cameras are full frame. Just to add to the confusion. :P

  12. Good to learn from you....been struggling with my Nikon D5000

  13. hey compmac,
    Thanks mate !!
    Yeah, I should have mentioned Olympus is indeed, FULL FRAME !!
    Thanks for reminding.

    hey desmond,
    thanks !! Nikon D5000 is good camera. I am sure you are enjoying it.

  14. Why shoot to get approved? Why shoot to impress? Is it because we have something in us that needs to be solved... the lack of recognition and approval during childhood?

    Let photography be a totally FREE avenue for each to express, not impress.

    It's sad to turn an expressive therapeutic tool into a fighting sword. We are not here to fight for more approval.

  15. Hey david,
    Expressive tools !! I love the way you describe photographic equipments.
    Yeah, we should not be struggling with approvals from others. We need a medium to express ourselves freely, and tell our stories.

  16. come to my class la.. and see what crap i teach!.. ahahahahah...

    especially when i teach my DSLR class with my S90!!.. hahahahahah

    yeah, S90 ROCKS!!!


  17. hey fahrur,
    LOL, I am sure whatever you are teaching in your class it is not crap. As long as you do not encourage your students to shoot to impress !!
    S90 eh? How was your student's reaction towards your use of S90 in class?