For a Digital Imaging Blog and a haven for Photography this is going to be an odd post. There are no images in this story-save the pictures suggested by this treatise and conjured in your mind. Disclaimer aside, let’s talk ruts.
One of the things I love doing is see what other photographers are up to. Whether it is our buddies on Facebook or our contacts on Flickr or the myriad quality photo collection sites sprinkled throughout the blogosphere, I love browsing photos. I do this for inspiration, ideas, and purely for the enjoyment of seeing the beauty others are creating. Lately, there has been a disturbing (at least to me) trend in many of the photos I am seeing. Taken as an aggregate of all artists, the trend is less significant. Looking at it artist by artist, however, it is more pronounced.
One of these photo buddies seems to be stuck in HDR. I can’t recall seeing a non-HDR image from this person in, quite literally, years. Even the subject matter hasn’t varied. It is the same scenes over and over again, processed for surreal HDR. The only thing that changes is the season and the cloud composition.
Another photo buddy is stuck in crunch. Apparently she bought a Topaz filter pack and now requires that every image receive the gritty grungy crunchy effect. It doesn’t matter what subject is in the photo, it must look better crunchy right? She used to take really nice soft images that evoked emotion. Now she is in your face so much that the impact is gone.
Still another photo buddy is stuck on flowers. More specifically wildflowers: Showy Lady Slippers to put a fine point on it. A casual observer of their Flickr page would believe that little else exists. All of them appear as straight-out-of-camera photographed slightly above the flower. (I have always wondered what they look like underneath because no one I know chooses to photograph them from that angle.)
Trends have always been with us. I can remember back to when it was Motion Blur everything. Who can forget single colored object in black and white scene? I wish I could. What about sepia tones? People got stuck on all of these techniques
Don’t get me wrong. I understand. For the last month I have been stuck on shooting models in studio. When I started in photography, I loved waterfalls and flowing water. I cannot tell you how many Kodachrome and Fujichrome slides I have of 30 second exposures of the mountain streams of Wyoming. I was a one trick pony with a cliché subject. I still love waterfalls and shoot them when I can. I think I do a better job of capturing them than I used to. They are no longer the sum total of my photographic existence.
It is easy, when you seek mastery of a particular form, subject or discipline to get in a rut or at least shoot with blinders on. Last year everyone was doing light painting on long-exposure night skies. Are you still stuck there? Long exposure- motion panning?
Here is where we come to the subject of style. Some of my photo buddies would argue: “It’s my style.” I counter, “Is it or is it your specialty.” You can have both style and specialize. But is that the sum total of your photographic vision? You can specialize in Surreal HDRs of Sunrise on Lake Superior if you like. But wouldn’t you rather be known as a photographer than as that guy who took all those funky pictures up north?
I think there is room in everyone’s portfolio for HDR, Grunge, Showy Lady Slippers, Waterfalls, and the like. Just make sure you don’t own a portfolio of images that are all the same. After all who wants to be the photographer of whom it can be said: “Yeah but all his/her images look the same.”
Go shoot something different today.
Rikk Flohr © 2011