Above: Image by Gina Milicia
I once knew a photographer, Richard Barrett (not his real name), whose work was absolutely perfect. Every single image was perfectly composed and sharp as a tack. Every pixel was exposed precisely and the post-production was flawless. Technically I could not fault his work. He was also a nice guy and yet his photography struggled to get noticed. Why? I believe it had to do with the way he ordered his wine…
An artist and a scientist walk into a bar. The scientist carefully studies the wine list and chooses a wine based on all the data he is given, including the region the grapes are grown in, the history of the wineries and the reviews of each bottle.
The artist orders the same bottle the people on a nearby table are drinking because that’s exactly what he feels like.
I believe the way a photographer orders wine or chooses anything in life is directly related to how they approach their photography, and the way a photographer works influences the way their work is perceived.
The photographer that orders like a scientist is guaranteed to always take consistently good photos. There is very little risk in ordering wine based on research. It’s a very safe way to order – but safe and consistent can also be a little boring and don’t leave any room for growth. This style of photography whilst being technically perfect is less likely to stand out from the crowd.
The photographer that orders wine like an artist is comfortable with risk and the higher the risk the greater the reward. He or she may order some dud bottles of wine when they make a mistake but we learn more from our mistakes than always taking the safe road.
When the risks lead to developing a new style then our work will have an edge that helps it stand out from those who chose the safer option.
So back to my friend Richard the photographer. Richard always took the safe road when it came to how he photographed his images. His work was technically perfect but lacked feeling. His work was kind of safe and boring. He photographed exactly what he saw yet failed to portray what he felt.
Photography is one of the fastest-growing mediums in the world. The technology is now cheaper and easier to use than any other time in history. The photographers who stand out today are the ones who are prepared to take risks and experiment with their styles. They have a unique style that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd.
Developing a unique style involves stepping out of your comfort zone, taking risks and making mistakes. Experiment with different lighting styles, locations and post-production techniques. Let go of the need to know what the outcome will be. Try ordering a wine you know nothing about every now and then. The results might surprise you.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes on the importance of taking risks and failing forward.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.” – Anonymous
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt