The more I learn about photography, the more I question what it means. An interesting photograph is not just an aesthetically pleasing scene. Making photographs is so much more than clicking a button. In fact, there are lots of thing you need to think about before pressing that button.
It’s unrealistic to think every picture you post on Instagram will be your very best. Stuff gets in the way – on both a conscious and subconscious level. But there are steps you can take to improve the images you’re posting, and most of those steps come before you actually take the picture. Taking a picture, clicking the button, that’s the easiest part. The art is in the idea, in the construction, in the story you’re trying to tell.
What interests you
Of course there’s stuff that people prefer to look at. Not just on Instagram, but in general. We like flowers, pretty colours and cute animals. But if you don’t have fresh flowers, or a cute pet, or a back-catalogue of charming facades from around the world (*coughs*), then you need to think of something else. Think about what really interests you. Is it architecture, light and shadow, nature? The subject doesn’t matter. It just has to be something that really interests you. Because if you’re not passionate about the stuff you’re photographing, you can’t expect others to be.
Research is key. It’s a scary word, though. It sounds academic, intimidating, and a bit boring. But research is necessary if you want to improve. And it’s actually loads of fun. Look at photos that interest you on Pinterest, or any other photographic platform, watch visually inspiring films, listen to creative podcasts, read books, journals, and magazines. Think of ways you can put your own spin on the stuff you love to look at.
We don’t want everything to be easy, do we? We won’t learn anything if we don’t challenge ourselves, so try new things. We learn more from trying something new and failing than we do from continuing to do the things we already know we do well. I’ve definitely been guilty of that in the past. I’m still guilty of it now. But as Instagram changes, so should you. Or you’ll be left behind, bored of your own stuff, and feeling uninspired. When I need to challenge myself, I do a bit of research and try to come up with my own interpretation of something I’ve seen that’s inspired me.
Tell your story
Instagram is a kind of escapism. We use it to feel inspired, to travel without leaving our bed, to imagine, and dream. It’s worth thinking about that when you’re making pictures. It’s essential you’re making stuff you like and are passionate about. But when you post to Instagram, you’re sharing with others. So it’s important to think about what those people see when they look at your images. How will the image make people feel? How might people read your image without its caption? Use your pictures to tell a story: your story.
Natural talent only gets you so far. What’s more important is hard work. If someone’s image is attracting more attention than yours, the likelihood is that person worked harder at it. That’s not to say every single image you work really hard at will be successful. But the chances are, if you’ve made a picture about something that interests you, thoroughly researched your idea, challenged yourself, and made a real effort, you’ll get a positive outcome. The more you put in to something, the more you get out.
Good photography is subjective, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree with this type of process? If not, why? What’s your process? As usual, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.