Finding Your Photographic Passion
One of the most common pieces of advice any professional photographer will give you is, “shoot what you love.” This may sound strange but, when you are first starting out in photography you may not know what you love. How could you NOT know what you love? If you love birds, you shoot birds; if you love people, you shoot people, right? In the photographic world things aren’t always that simple and they aren’t always what they seem to be. So, how do figure out what you love to shoot?
At this point you would expect a step-by-step guide on how to discover your passion. Instead, I’m going to tell you a story about how I found my photographic passion.
When I made my transition from film to photography I wasn’t sure what I wanted to shoot. I tried shooting everything from landscapes to wildlife but I wasn’t happy with any of the results. I was making some decent photographs but they just weren’t doing anything for me (they were uninteresting) and I couldn’t figure out why. It dawned on me one day that the reason my photographs weren’t interesting was because I wasn’t truly interested in the subjects I was photographing. Sure, I liked birds and wildlife but I didn’t enjoy shooting them. Feeling discouraged because I had no idea what I wanted to with photography, I was just about to give up when my boss, TU Library Director, asked me to shoot some portraits to hang in the library. Up until this point, I haven’t shot professional portraits so, I started doing a lot of research and watched quite a few workshops on on the subject.
I finally decided I was ready to do some test shots so I grabbed one of our work-study students, set up my strobe and umbrella, and started shooting. Being the shy and introverted person that I am, I didn’t think I would enjoy shooting portraits, much less, be any good at it. After the shoot I loaded the images into Lightroom and then I saw the following image:
I thought it was a pretty decent shot and didn’t think much else of it until I showed it to John, the fellow in the photo. He said some things that completely changed my perspective on portrait work. He told me that he had never had portraits like this made and thought they were amazing. He then told me that he had been feeling down for a while and his self-esteem was at rock bottom but my photos totally renewed his self-confidence and told me how grateful he was to me. That in-turn made me feel good because my little photo had just made a huge impact on some one’s life.
At that moment it hit me; this is what I want to do. I want to make people feel good about themselves through photography but, I didn’t stop there. I decided I needed to take it a step further and somehow incorporate my film making experience. I thought to myself, “ok, what is it about film making that I love so much?” The answer was the creation of different characters and telling stories. Then, I thought, " how can I do that with photography?" The answer; fashion photography! I started looking around the web for fashion photographers and conceptual fashion and realized that there was a lot I can do in this space; I can be a photographer and still hang on to my love of film as well. That’s how I found my photographic passion.
There is no step-by-step guide on finding your passion; you just have to get out there and start shooting. If you find that you’re photos aren’t interesting, chances are, no one else will either and you need to move on to something else. Mostly likely you’ll discover your passion when you least expect it.
Recommended Reading: The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon