How do you know when you have found your vision?
There is much talk throughout the photo community about finding your vision and strategies to find your own.
I have wondered if this means that when you don’t find it you will never graduate from mediocre to magnificent.
What exactly is ‘finding your vision’?
Is it when you have the ability to observe light and composition better? Is it the ability to pre-visualize so you know exactly how you will capture the subject and once done, the photograph is magical?
Maybe you have ‘found your vision’ when you win a photo contest or license an image, or you are simply producing a higher number of stunning images than others?
And then who decides when you have found your vision: you or the viewers of your images?
In the world of photography, how good we are as photographers is often tied to our creative self esteem. Like much in life, photographers as well self impose a rating system as a way to measure their photographic worthiness.
Does this mean then, if we love our images and no one else does, we have failed at finding our vision?
THE STUDENT OF PHOTOGRAPHY
I once had a student who took a 1-year commercial photography course from me and while I thought her work was typical for any student at that time in the course, about halfway through I got an email where she stated; “Obviously I am not cut out to be a photographer, you can tell by my work.” She never answered another email from me.
Her decision was not based on the fact that she was no good and never would be, it was in my opinion her false idea that she could create the images used in the lesson examples by pointing the camera the same direction and placing the lights in the same position.
She had, again in my opinion, lost patience with the journey required to find her vision. She wanted instant perfection by following a formula for camera angle and light position and was unwilling to learn the process of creating.
Great photography is not created by a recipe where the necessary elements are precise cupfuls of all the required ingredients.
I FOUND MINE
I am happy with my vision, very happy. I most enjoy my working life when out in the wilds, but my vision also thrives on the computer in creating what are to me beautiful and highly conceptual imagery.
While in the field, I have been asked by others visiting an area I am photographing: “what are you photographing” as they wonder why my camera is pointed at nothing. When I show them what I have framed the response is often similar to “wow, I did not see that.”
Rather than comparing our success to other nature photographers, take a moment and look at non-photographers.
Many watch the world pass by and are oblivious to the fine details of the natural world around them. Photographers have chosen a path that puts themselves more in tune with the world and the earth, as they stop and take the time to look and listen, smell and touch.
This connection is driven by our desire to search, discover, capture and share.
The simple fact that a nature photographer sees something the average person might not means that some degree of vision has been found.
Early in my career I enjoyed ‘taking pictures’ but at some point I became an imaging junkie. I have never been able to slow my brain from coming up with ideas for images all the time and at any time. I think for me, I have found my vision, but it did not happen overnight. It has been a long journey.
FORGET ABOUT PERFECTION
Vision is never 100% perfect otherwise every picture taken would be perfect. We all want to be great photographers but here again there is no such thing as perfect.
While a photograph that brings me great joy and I feel is ‘perfect’ may not elicit the same response from another viewer. So perfection is only a state of mind.
I don’t think finding your vision is about discovering a way to create perfect photos every time. It is instead the process of mastering visualization that drives us in a direction we want to go.
Sometimes finding your vision means letting go of something like ‘the rules’ or listening to too many ‘experts.’ The search to finding our vision is what drives us forward; helps guide us on the path to discovery.
You wont know where you are going if you don’t remember where you have been.
The goal to find your vision is not like reaching some destination and crossing the finish line. Rather it is more about the journey to originality. It is about discovering where your creative spirit lies. And it starts with commitment!
- Commitment helps you find our path. Having a vision helps you follow that path.
- Commitment allows you to focus on your vision and this is how you become unique. Vision is what defines you and makes you uniquely different from others.
Is it the journey that drives the vision or the vision that drives the journey?
SOME THOUGHTS ON FINDING YOUR VISION
- You must embrace originality, not just shoot what’s in front of you.
- While emulating other photographers is a great learning tool, you cannot really claim to have found your vision if you copy the work of others.
- Photograph what you really care about.
- Visualizing the end result provides guidance in capture.
- The camera is your partner, telling you how to technically record the scene but you have to tell the camera WHAT TO CAPTURE
- You must believe you are creative and if you do not believe that, you never will be.
Finding your vision comes from perseverance and practice. When you feel you hit the wall, start again by turning left or turning right and continuing the journey.
Remember great photographs are not waiting for the next photographer to stumble along and capture them like a product on a store shelf waiting to be bought.