Stripping away the Gimmicks

Next time you come across a photograph you think is good, try this basic exercise.

Simply question why it has caught your eye.

Do you like the fact infra red was used? Or the sepia tone? The colours or the printing technique? Is it the strained expression of a sportsman or a dancer poised beautifully in mid air? Was this done perhaps with a motordrive giving the photographer hundreds of images to choose from? Is it the fact that the photographer was in an amazing location or had access to a warzone? Is the power behind the image simply the fact that the child is dying or perhaps the sheer scale of the waterfall? Or is it the rare animal caught on camera that happened to set off a sensor while the photographer was fast asleep?

In your mind’s eye strip all this away. Ruthlessly. Now what is left?

Do you still think it is a beautiful or powerful image? Or is it now a dull, middle of the road photograph with little imagination in the composition. Chances are the photographer has failed to take an image that has included his own soul and personality within it. A photograph should not rely on the subject matter or whatever gimmick was used to give it it’s power or beauty.

Now apply this criteria to your own work. Ruthlessly. It can be soul destroying sometimes. But when your images start to pass this test, the feeling you get, the knowledge that your images will stand the test of time, is immense.

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