Creating Unique Photographs in 2020
For the last four years I’ve been frustrated as a photographer. In my whole career, I think I’ve probably taken two photographs that were unique and meaningful. Two unique images in twelve years! I’ve made lots of “nice” photographs in that time but is that enough? How difficult is it to create a unique image. You can tell yourself that any photograph you take is unique as it captures a moment in time that can never be repeated. Factually true but total nonsense.
The longer you’re a photographer, the worse it gets. The more images you see, the harder it becomes to be impressed. You slowly begin to realise that almost every photograph you’ve taken, had already been taken before by someone else and you’re just adding to the collection.
So what it’s a portrait with Rembrandt lighting. There are millions out there like it and Rembrandt did it first. So what it’s a photograph of a stunning model. Replace the model in the image with your grandmother or grandfather. Does the photograph still look as great. If the answer is no what made your photograph great was the model and not necessarily your photography.
Is “Nice” Good Enough?
This photograph is a perfect example. It’s a “nice” photograph. Just one of the one thousand, four hundred and seventy nine images of Thurne Mill that you can see on Flickr. Do a search on Google, there are even more. There’s nothing unique about it that makes my photograph stand out. It’s just “nice”.
But, I don’t want nice, I want more. So what would’ve made this image unique. That’s really easy to answer. It’s the same answer for all landscape photographs (any photograph in fact). The light. What would have truly made this image great would have been incredible light.
Check out this video from Charlie Waite on YouTube to begin to try and understand the complexities of photographing landscapes well.
I’ve watched photographers on YouTube admit to going to places to repeat images they’d seen other people share on the internet. Where does inspiration end and copying begin? Is this the best we can do? To copy what others have already taken and try and improve on it?
Photographer or Photocopier?
Maybe doing the above is fine. Maybe it’s a good way to learn and improve. But if you publish that image and proudly say look at what I did, the answer should be “you copied”. Intentionally copying a photograph someone else has already taken, leaves me creatively empty. Doing that doesn’t make me a photographer. It makes me a walking photocopier.
I’ll just have to accept that there are some things that I’ll never be able to create a unique image of. Take for example the Eiffel Tower. The only way I’ll ever be able to take a unique image of the Eiffel Tower would be if it begins to collapse to the ground as I put the view finder to my eye. But that’s a unique image I wouldn’t want to take (proof you just can’t please some people). Besides, at least a hundred others will video it on their iPhone’s.
The first image is one of the two unique images I’ve taken. It’s not the musician on the stage as there are lots of those online. It’s his daughter on the bottom right at one of his first performances. That makes the image unique and meaningful. At least to me and I’m the only one that has to be impressed with it.
I’m my toughest critic. I see fault where others don’t in my own work. The conclusion to all of this. I’ll have to be satisfied taking “nice” images and hope for a third, maybe a fourth image along the way that fits my definition of unique.
Or maybe I should quit whining and go out and take more photographs.
Post last updated 15/12/2019