Finding a type of photography that works for you
This post is actually about my quest to find the types of photography that work for me. As I have previously said, for me, photography is a hobby. While sometimes I fantasize about earning a living from taking pictures, the reality is I would enjoy it far less if it turned to work and I’d have to figure out how to make a profit from it, let alone do the kind of photography I HAVE to instead of what I WANT to.
Obviously, being a doctor and a parent of two young boys leaves me far less time for photography than I would like to have, and also imposes limitations on the genres that I do, so I had to find what works for me and what doesn’t.
As a photographer, I tried a little bit of everything; some genres I liked, other not so much and others were simply not made for me (or me for them). Overall, I have to do the best I can under the circumstances – select from what I like, what can I actually do, and under what circumstances.
I am a big fan of flying in general and flying machines in particular. I love to go plane spotting, I love to go to airshows, and, obviously, to take pictures there. The reality of life is that now I have almost zero time available for spotting, and I’m going to airshows with at least one of the children, wife, friends, friends’ children and so on – each and every one of them demanding 100% attention from me; thus, both my freedom of movement, my attention to the show and my time there are severely limited. After fighting for a while, I came to accept the situation and try to make the best of it.
Spotting – yes, at the airport, while traveling by air – not that I have much time available there either, but I am more likely at least to capture some exotic planes that I wouldn’t normally get to see back home. I also take pictures when visiting a plane museum. Airshows? Just enjoy the time with my sons there and savor as much of the show as I can. Photography wise, do the best I can, without getting my hopes too high.
There was a time when I could go to a certain place with the sole purpose of taking landscape photos there, but now, I don’t have that freedom anymore. Instead, when going from place to place, be it on vacation or with business, if I see some landscape I consider is worth shooting, and I have the time, and it is safe to do so, I pull over, look for the best vantage point I can find, and take a few photos. The downside to this approach is that I spend only a few minutes photographing a spot, frequently not under the best light and weather conditions; true landscape photography means going to a spot repeatedly, getting to see it at different times, during the golden hour, the blue hour, at day and at night, getting to see it when it’s sunny, rainy, stormy, foggy and so on; waiting patiently for the light to be just right and the clouds in just the right spot and get THE shot. This is the difference between making a picture and my approach of taking a picture, but luck sometimes helps me get good enough shots that I can be proud of.
Most, if not all, people traveling today are taking pictures to document their vacations. Be it with the smartphone’s camera, with a point&shoot or with a DSLR, they all do the same: point – click! click! – repeat. To be honest, so do I. But to if you want postcard/travel magazine type photos, you need to make them, not just take them. This means looking for the most photogenic spots (this you can easily find looking at postcards, travel brochures and on the internet) but also to be ready to go off the beaten path and discover new things, new vantage points, new perspectives; to have the patience to go at various times of day (and night) to the location, to see it in its best light, to wait for the elements to be just right, and so on.
Usually, being on vacation, most often with family members that each might want to do something else, most people don’t have this luxury. If you are staying for a few days, you might go to the same place at different times, and under different weather conditions in search for that “perfect shot”, but getting it gets especially difficult if you are going on a cruise/circuit with only a few hours to spend in each location. So what can one do in such situations? Prepare in advance (search for the best spots before going there, learn what to expect weather-wise), and be ready to improvise and make the best of whatever conditions might be. Look for the unusual and out-of-ordinary. Change the perspective. Go low or climb up.
Or, you can do travel photography in your city. Remember, even if your city is full of mundane places and sights that you have seen a million times and you are not paying any attention to them anymore, chances are, for most people that are not from your city, and especially from your country, those are unique and extraordinary places, and travel pictures waiting to be taken – right near you.
Product photography has the advantage of not requiring (usually) too much space. It also is most frequently realized with artificial light, so the time of day and other outside conditions are pretty much irrelevant. I played with product shots but those were done with the purpose of learning new techniques and honing my skills, and are not meant to be used for advertising or similar purposes.
Like product photography, of which you can say it is a subtype, you can take food photos when you have the time, without having to worry too much about outside conditions (except maybe your kid passing through and eating your hero food). It does take time to arrange the scene just right, but, when you see the results, it is worth it.
I did and still do take photos at various events (weddings, baptisms, birthday parties and so on) for friends and family; I strictly have a policy of being the second shooter only – thus there is no pressure on me to deliver “the” photos, which at times I will miss due to my sons’ interfering, and leaves me the opportunity to try things that are different from the norm. However, going at the event and taking the photos is only the tip of the iceberg, the other part, that most people never know of, is going through all the photos, selecting the best ones and processing those, printing the photos and making an album – that’s a lot of behind the scenes work that I simply don’t have the time to do (or at least not in a timely enough manner to be of use to those waiting for the images); so while I still do take some pictures at various events, I never make any promises of any kind – I might end up giving just a single photo, or less than a dozen photos, or 50, or maybe 100, but I can never be sure if I will be able to deliver any so it’s best not to promise anything.
I am not skilled in directing people to get the shot – I am usually waiting to capture interesting moments that happen without my intervention, in a photojournalistic manner; thus, I am pretty good at photographing (my) children when they play and are not paying attention to me, or are aware that I take pictures while letting them do whatever they like, but not so much when it comes to staging and directing the shots.