Excessive ambition

I like looking through various Flickr groups sometimes. It’s a good way for me to see a large sample of what people are doing pretty quickly. The downside is that you don’t have very many people posting paid work on Flickr; it’s mostly people posting their personal work. There can be some very good stuff on there sometimes, but there are countless examples of what not to do or photographic cliches. I was reading in Zack Arias’ Q&A book where he described a shot with a house on fire and firefighters dramatically silhouetted in the foreground. I saw the exact shot on Flickr today.

We almost have two different camps in photography. Actually, can the almost; we do have two camps: the photo industry and pop photography. There’s plenty of overlap of course, with amateur shooters using Canikon 1D4 MKIIIs all over and proper pros shooting with Fuji x100s and the like (which the internets will clearly tell you are targeted at enthusiasts, not “professionals”). There’s a big difference in what each camp brings to the photographic process.

Pop photographers honestly produce some fairly predictable images of questionable quality. They may be properly exposed, tack sharp, noise free, et al; but that’s all technical stuff that anyone can learn in a few months’ dedicated study. Really, one might not even have to know anything technical to be a pop photographer, since cameras are “smart” enough to produce technically acceptable images on their own most of the time. One of the things I see most on flickr though is what seems like photos that are trying to be more than they actually are, as if the photographer had grand imaginings which may or may not have turned out in the least. I’ve been guilty of this in the past: I had an image in my mind with this really cool concept. Lots of mood to put into the image, and I really wanted to try out my new lights and get my then room mate in to do makeup. I still kind of like that shot, but I think it probably falls into that overly-ambitious category. Pop photographers see great shots (largely fashion it seems) and want their own great shot. Some get lucky, most not so much. There’s a distinctive mood or feeling that much of fashion photography (the proper stuff) has, and really pulls it off in most cases. I think half of Flickrites try very hard to emulate that mood, and it just doesn’t work. I don’t mean to be ungracious though. Pop photography, from what I understand, can be very rewarding for the photographer, and in that sense I think it’s perfectly legitimate and important. Instagram for example is culturally important, but it’s not going to change “pro photography” very much (here in quotes because of the term’s frequent abuse). The industry is always changing, but the mentality of someone who shoots full time is categorically different than someone who shoots recreationally or “occasionally for friends and famil”, even if said shooter takes quite acceptable pictures with their “really nice camera.”

And yet again, I’ve rambled myself into a corner and don’t know where to go from here, so cheered.


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