There’s a lot of information these days about the best practises of photography and choosing what you should and shouldn’t be listening to can be challenging. More recently, websites and posts are becoming more and more tailored to the trends and fads of photography. The purpose of those articles and even books are short lived tacts to provide a hobbyist insight, at a high level, into one of many techniques creatives use to produce bodies of work.
The problem with these fad articles and books is, once the basics of the fad technique is mastered, a form of stagnation and boredom sets in and the next fad emerges which many learn and the cycle continues. This trend in photography is visible across all of our social platforms, one of the most notable examples of this is selective colouring when that became hugely accessible with the improvement of photoshop for example.
After a while and after not being able to escape the stream of selectively coloured photographs everywhere, they disappeared, and this is pretty synonymous with the routine fads that come and go. Learning and practising just these alone are certainly not going to help you develop as a photographer and it will likely narrow the view you have of photography as trends and fads at best, which does a total disservice to your potential creativity, but also the effort and skills that it takes to hone in on a style of photography and reproducing it consistently.
Learning and becoming a better photographer is not just about learning tricks of the trade, that, by no means, will make you a better photographer, and practising these bad habit’s will likely burn you out, or worse, make you loose interest in photography which is a naturally expensive endeavour.
Here are some great ways to improve your photography without falling for trends:
Focus on the bigger picture
This seems a little obvious at first, but with all that’s out there it is very easy to get caught up in Instagram follower counts, fads, wanting to be successful and so on. The goal of photography at a fundamental level is to record through observation that which we find most interesting; this is a specific but open statement for that very reason. It provides us with the guidance on what we are doing as photographers, but at the very same time doesn’t totally restrict how and what do it with. Being able to understand the contribution every photograph taken makes, and working toward having a voice in your photographs should leave you feeling a sense of achievement.
A lot of the times when you see or read someone saying ‘your voice’ it can be a little discouraging and confusing as to what they mean. The bigger picture in relation to ‘your voice’ is you learning to take your perspective on a matter and applying it to your photographs. For example, working with a specific colour contrast consistently through your work such as red and green to set a sense of tension in your images. But this is all dependent on what your objective is and style also. ‘Your Voice’ is the combination of those three things (and more) which provides your imagery with a ‘you’ feel.
Don’t worry about trends
Trends in photography are very short lived. As mentioned earlier, the selective colouring technique is a perfect example of a fad which had it’s 15 minutes of fame and drizzled out as an approach once the nuance faded. Structuring an approach, narrative, objective or project is far more important, and will likely lead to more recognition and potentially even a high ranking position in a international competition if you submitted your work. I placed in the finals of the 2019 Lens Culture Street Photography award for my entry which focused on my interest in geometry and surrealism in every day life.
The photos I presented to Lens Culture took me 3 years to put together from my every day meanderings and photographing. I always keep the same topic in mind, and aim to find these moments as best I can. The work is presented more chaotically than I’d like but that’s another lesson worth discussing.
Success isn’t an outcome
Most of us would love to do photography for a living, but the reality of the matter is, unless you have a deeply refined and well practised approach and a tonne of luck, its a tough market to break. Furthermore, those that do buck the trend are in the top 1% of photographers. Success doesn’t always need to be defined by money however. I do not believe I am a successful photographer because I placed highlight in an international competition for example. Rather, looking at those photos as I write this, I want to change and fix the submission; trade out photos for others. I feel as though wanting to improve, fix and develop the work I submitted is what makes someone successful, or at least it does me in my view.
That sounds cheesy, but I’m not saying that specific characteristic is what will define success for you, rather, defining successes in my own endeavours by personal refinement helps me achieve my goals. Finding your own success factor is what will help you improve and feel accomplished.
Spending time thinking more about what you want to achieve as a photographer and placing reasonable structures around those achievements so you can work toward you goals is a far better approach to improving compared to follow and copying fads and trends.