Stop trying to win social media plaudits, and take photographs that you’re passionate about, says Tom Mason
Photography by Tom Mason.
In this modern, social media infested, insta-sharing, face-poking, twit-chatting world, image production has gone through the roof! An explosion of image producers is taking the world by storm, sharing their lives through photography on a daily basis.
And yet, I often wonder how many people produce images for social media “likes”, rather than themselves. The merits of an image’s success is seemingly more weighted towards the shares, likes and emojis that it attracts, rather than a love for the craft of producing an image that satisfies you.
Developing your own style is a way to make your work stand out on its own merits. The problem is, it can often feel like almost everything different has been done by other photographers before — more so, perhaps, than any other visual art form.
Photographic principles can seem constraining. Even when considering our control of aperture, shutter-speed, ISO, composition and lighting, it can still seem like there are finite options when attempting to produce something truly unique. Of course, the answer isn’t in books, forums or blogs like this, it’s you!
It doesn't matter if a subject has been photographed a million times and by every photographer in the world; if the way you photograph conveys your own passions and views, your personality will shine through.
Browsing image sharing websites, I am often put off by witnessing the same images, time and again, of the same locations, and with the same style and look. We’re all unique; surely hundreds of photographers can't have the exact same photographic perspective on the world? Of course not, and that’s why I regard those who shoot for “likes” as image trend producers — replicating the popular image styles of the moment, in the pursuit of arbitrary “likes” and online followers.
Such images are missing a key element, personality. I would rather see a portfolio of 100 blurry spiders, than another beautifully lit, focus-stacked shot, or a HDR photograph of someone’s legs sticking out of a tent that doesn’t even have a fly sheet on it. There must be a boatload of wet campers out there!
That’s not to say that technical skill should always be overlooked in favour of personal aesthetic. But, if all of our images follow the same recipes, they soon become stale and boring.
All too often, we see multiple photographs of the same location (tripods positioned in exactly the same spot). Do we really need another shot from the exact same viewpoint in autumn, when the sun is just rising? Or do we want to feel inspired by the photographer whose curiosity resulted in an interesting angle and with a slightly different subject matter, farther along the trail?
Of course, it’s just the same in all types of photography — misty morning stags in the parks of London, puffins on the Farne Islands, slow-shutter speed images of the Millennium Bridge. All of these images are aesthetically pleasing, but how many represent a photographer’s personality and their true passion for the medium?
It’s passion which encourages us to explore, develop and ultimately produce better images. Finding subjects we are deeply passionate about results in a more intense effort to produce images that not only represent our subjects, but a little of ourselves too. Find a subject or project that you’re passionate about and your results will be stronger.
Interest drives creativity. It helps you to look for the moments and ideas that others might miss. This can’t be replicated when you’re replicating the work of others. I love to create images that divide opinion — hated by some, loved by others. The key for me is an emotional response to something that represents my own views and emotions, not a few extra “likes” or comments confirming a photography looks pretty…
One of the best ways to know if you are photographing for you, is to ask yourself: Why? Perhaps the image is special to you, or maybe your subject is too unique to pass up. Questioning your motive for taking a photograph also helps you to consider your stylistic approach in terms of lighting, exposure and speed. Just because the perceived correct method dictates how you should be taking a photograph shouldn’t, by any means, rule what you’re actually going to do!
I love to see images captured with thought, purpose and effort — thinking about why we shoot as opposed to just technical details. When you next head out to take photographs, don’t let yourself take images because you think they will be popular on social media; think about why you started creating images in the first place and how you can represent what’s important in your life.
Create images that you’re passionate about. I guarantee you will feel more fulfilled with your results.
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