In the last blog, we looked at greed and gear acquisition syndrome. For some of us, gear acquisition is never going to be a problem because we simply can’t afford to just keep adding more equipment to our camera bags… or camera bags to our cupboard!
This is where we might fall into the trap of our next deadly sin: Envy. We want the gear that others have and we fixate on this. We blame our photography failures on not having the right gear.
But this is looking at things the wrong way round. You will never progress by constantly looking at what you CAN’T do. What you need to do is look at what you can do and learn to be creative within those restraints.
There is a saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention” what this means is that when you are up against a major restriction this can force you in to be creative. And that creativity can lead to a better product that would never have happened without the restriction.
For example filmmakers, Myrick and Sánchez had limited budget and equipment so when they decided to create a horror film they made the film looks as though it was video footage that had been lost and subsequently rediscovered. This gave the film they made a unique style that hadn’t been done before. That unique style made the film stand out and it grossed nearly $250 million dollars at the box office. The name of the film? The Blair Witch Project.
As yourself this question – what are the things that are restricting your photography? Are there ways that you can turn them into something that will make your photography stand out? Are you a photographer that longs to do more strobist work but you only have one speedlight? Can you develop a style that ONLY uses one light? Do you want to do wildlife photography but don’t have telephoto lenses? Can you place your camera with a wide-angle lens near where wildlife will come and trigger it remotely? This will give your images a more ‘intimate’ style.
It’s not just gear that photographers are envious of, it is ability and style. We look at the images of others and think – I’d love to create images like that? We can easily fall into two traps.
The first trap is to feel disheartened and give up. Never, ever give up. Remember that these photographers that you look up to were once photographers who had to learn their skills. They made mistakes they got it wrong. They made bad images. The only difference is that no one sees their mistakes – with great photographers you only ever see their handful of best of the best images. Here’s how to deal with this trap. Take a long hard look at the images that you like and make a point of trying to recreate them. It’s not about ‘ripping of their ideas’ it is about using them as inspiration and learning from them. As you try to recreate the images you will learn the skills that particular photographer has. But be careful this is where you can fall into the second trap.
The second trap is JUST emulating your photographic heroes and not developing your own style. By all means, copy, recreate and be inspired by another photographer’s work. And for the record, I have not got a problem with anyone using my images as inspiration this way. The trick is to go beyond emulating. You have recreated an image that you like – so now what can you do to make it different to the original. Can you change the lighting? Change the angle? You want your version to be YOUR version, not just a knock off of someone else’s work. You are you – celebrate that fact and don’t try to be the next… whoever.
One of my photographic heroes is travel photographer Steve McCurry, I’d like to be able to emulate his work. Would I like to be the NEXT Steve McCurry? Absolutely not! I want to be the FIRST Ian M Butterfield.
Don’t envy other photographers – just celebrate what makes you – you. Remember, you are an individual.
Until next time, keep MAKING great images,
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