What Do You Want To Shoot?

Recently I was reading Part 3 of Don Giannatti’s interview with Selina Maitreya titled 4 To Do’s for Photographers and in the very first item Selina says “taking the time energy and effort to develop a visual product before going to market is key. Ask yourself what do I shoot and what is my visual approach to my subject?”. You can’t create a body of work (step 2 of Selina’s To Do list) without knowing what your vision is – what exactly do you want to shoot?

What kind of things do I like to shoot? Well, let’s start off by taking a look at some of my favorite images on Flickr:

One of the things several people have suggested you do when trying to define your style is to go through magazines and pull out your favorite images and see what they have in common. Find things that inspire you. So I did that with Flickr since there are tens of thousands of images to choose from. After going through my favorites I noticed several things in common with a majority of the images that stood out to me:

  • portraits
  • interesting locations/environments
  • interesting lighting, both natural and artificial
  • strong contrast, both in colors and from light to dark
  • medium to high amounts of post-processing

Now, not every image meets all of the above criteria, but a majority of the images meet a majority of the things I listed above. So now I know what images I find compelling, I can break that down into a statement about the work that I want to shoot and show:

I’m a portrait photographer that shoots people juxtaposed to interesting locations and environments by utilizing light, both natural and artificial, to create contrasts in both light and color. I use post-processing to enhance these contrasts and to help realize my vision for the images I create.

It’s a work in progress, but you get the idea. That statement is a fairly accurate representation of the images that excite me and of the images I want to create. Hopefully you see this theme throughout many of the images that I have shot and shared with you on Flickr:

It’s not perfect representation of what I said I want to shoot, especially at the beginning of the set, but I feel that my more recent images are all starting to lean towards that central vision I want to adopt for my work. And yes, there is some studio work in there as well, which negates the interesting locations/environments portion of my vision statement, but shooting in the studio can really allow me to bring out my other talents, especially in the lighting and post-production departments.

Time and time again you here that you cannot market yourself until you know exactly what it is you want to shoot and be known for. If you don’t shoot and promote that work then you’ll be known for shooting that type of work, which will keep you from reaching your goals. I know I don’t want to shoot weddings, kids, maternity shots, etc. I want to shoot interesting shots of people, in interesting or relevant environments, that can be used to tell a story, or create a story or interest in a particular subject. Ultimately I’d like to shoot higher-end commercial and editorial type work, stuff like Joe McNally or Douglas Sonders shoots.

While we are on that subject I want to mention some photographers that I really admire. Photographer’s work who inspires me and makes me want to reach their level of ability and success. I already mentioned two:

But there are several others who’s work I really admire (in no particular order):

And that’s just scratching the surface. There are so many photographers out there that have amazing work that inspire me. But each one of them has photos that share part or all of my vision of what I want to shoot that attracts me to them. McNally’s use of light, color, and the environment. Sonder’s and Joey L’s use of light and post-processing. Hobby’s use of light and the environment. Each one of them shoots in a way that I strive to shoot and just by studying their work I’m learning more and more about what I like and don’t like. And, if I ever had the chance, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the ability to learn from them in person, to meet with them and pick their brains about the hows and whys of what they shoot. And, if I could ever be so lucky, I would drop just about anything I had going on for a chance to work with them, to be their assistant (or whatever they needed), whether it be for a day, month, year, or longer. They all inspire me and would love to be able to work with them.

What/who inspires you? What’s your vision for your photography? What do YOU want to shoot?

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