Photographers’ Main Problem Today: “We Don’t Know What To Shoot.”

Cameras are pretty good these days. In fact they’re incredibly good.

Lenses, too. Tack sharp, excellent.

Software. Hardware. All working fine.

Yet, I keep seeing posts from photographers made with the latest gear and the best lenses and the most exquisite bokeh making boring photos of nothing. By far, the biggest problem I see plaguing the photography world is amateurs not knowing what to photograph. They photograph parking lots, sides of buildings and parts of bushes and signs and none of them are anything that you would ever want to look at.

Certainly nothing I want to look at.

It appears the biggest challenge is not do I have the tools to photograph but what do I photograph.

What is this? Why am I looking at it? It’s nothing. Making it black and white can’t save it. It’s nothing meaningful.

This must be difficult. You’re a new photographer, the camera is right there and you want to push the shutter button. Great. But wait. Wait until you find something meaningful to make a photograph of. Not everything is worthy of a snap.

Now, perhaps you are simply making a photo just for yourself, to test out the camera, to familiarize yourself with it. That’s a perfectly good use of the camera. But just don’t show it to me. Keep it to yourself and tucked away inside your learning folder. It’s not a photograph, it’s an image you made to learn from. An exercise!

In fact, I’d go so far as to say if you want to be among the best of new photographers out there, here’s how you can easily do it–just show less work. Show a handful of meaningful ones, photos that are significant to you and that others can relate to. The rest of the photographer pack will still be showing off endless photos of the same boring nothing shots, and you won’t be among them. You’ve ascended in ranks.

The best photographers are the best editors.

In the time you save not posting the boring photos, you can go out and look for more meaningful ones, and become a photographer with something to say, not just showing off how your camera knows how to expose correctly and get the colors right. Even that exquisite bokeh–it’s not enough.

That’s all expected nowadays now that the tech is so good. It’s not impressing me.

Make meaningful photographs that communicate something of your world that you find fascinating. That tell me a bit about you for having photographed it. “Here’s what I saw and it meant something to me.” Tell me why. Create a project–“I’m photographing all the dogs I find on my walk, and photographing them all differently.” See Elliott Erwitt’s dog photos.

No more “test” photos. (There’s no such thing as a test photo if it gets posted and published. It’s just a bad photo with an identity crisis.)

And alas, we have less nothing photos, more meaningful pictures and the photographers’ main problem is solved.

Content is king. Make great art!

6 thoughts on “Photographers’ Main Problem Today: “We Don’t Know What To Shoot.”

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  1. Two things I want to mention about this post of yours: 1: Thank you! I sometime felt unproductive and slow, because I don’t post pictures all the time. I recently found myself wondering, if anyone would look at my photos, if I haven’t posted anything for weeks, not months. 2. While thinking so, I realized that I obviously internalized an algorithm already, which wants you to post a lot to get attention. Luckily I didn’t follow it, but here’s the problem I believe: People think, the more, the better. And I totally agree, I am more happy about one good picture I can see, than many boring ones.

    I haven’t made a photo I liked to publish recently, I feel uninspired and unlike you, I don’t shoot people. But after all, ja, it matters what you shoot and not how often….

    Thank you for raging, this and the past post! As an amateur, I truly appreciate a professional who’s honest, I really do.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Juna. Yes, less is more. Keep working, the work is all we can do, and the muse shows up when we do.

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  2. Really? You don’t have the ability to understand that some might enjoy photographing ordinary everday objects in ways THEY find satisfying? Ever hear of Stephen Shore or William Eggleston? You’re probably right, better to produce yet another black and white photo of a random stranger.

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    1. Eggleston and Shore both made photographs that were meaningful to them not just random snapshots of brick walls.

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