Stop Worrying and Shoot What You Want to in Photography

There is a lot of pressure to conform to certain styles, techniques, subject matter, and manners of shooting in photography, but at the end of the day, you answer to yourself and no one else. If you struggle with this, you should watch this thought-provoking video that discusses the importance of staying true to yourself as a photographer. 

Coming to you from Steve O'Nions, this excellent video discusses why you should shoot what you want to how you want to. I have always enjoyed O'Nions' work and outlook, as he is a very independent thinker who follows his own path in photography. I think it is particularly important not to get too sucked into conforming these days more than ever, as we are inundated with imagery from all directions nowadays, and their acceptance can feel like they are quantified by likes. But photography is a creative endeavor, and if you are not expressing yourself through it, you are likely not enjoying it as much as you could. Of course, being able to receive feedback on your work and improve is important, but finding who you are and embracing it is also crucial. Check out the video above for O'Nions full thoughts. 

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The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

...Robert Frost

William Nicholson's picture

Well I am not a pro picture taker by any means. Always thought a picture was worth a thousand words no matter how good or poor it is. No I am not a professional photographer but appericate those of you who are and your talent. Call me old school for I am older and have no desire to use any photo editing software to enhance my photos. Call me what you wish, I'm not stupid, just don't like to sit on computer and making what I call my own something it is not with fancy software. I read many articles and take advice from all you pro's to advance my ability to take a better photo and so far I am doing well. I agree that there are times when you look at a photo and wonder just how much time was spent in post to make it look that way. It's cool and beautiful to see such photos but I'll never get to that point for this old dog not going to learn new tricks. Thank's to all of you here and the awesome photo's and advice you all share.

O William ; I do admire your thoughts and attitude. However; Ansel Adams photos didn't fall out of the camera as we see them today . If you left a film to be developed at a mini lab, the photos didn't fall out of the printer with no adjustment to colours or density /tones . A digital raw photo file is pretty boring, flat and colourless so the file need to be processed . If you use jpeg to record the subject ; the camera will make adjustments to the file as it (the camera) sees fit . If you are one those very clever photographers who can set your camera perfectly for each subject recorded then you are actually "editing the image".
Photos have been edited since the start of photography . As techknowledge improved the 'camera', and the photo labs edited the photo. I know because I owned a mini lab in the dark ages and we could adjust a photo --- 'edit the photo', in many many ways .

Digital photography has basically replaced the middle man ; the one who made a photo from the film or digital file . Yes; most mums and dads are generally happy enough with their photos from the off the card jpg file as they record their family because they never notice things like the off colour skin tones .

Because you have made a comment here ; I can only assume you are into and understand the more serious sides of photography . Photo making has come a long way in a short time and digital photography is more than clicking the shutter and letting the camera and the middle man "edit" your film / files into acceptable photos

Over the years I have heard so many (me too) saying words just like yours , and I have often learnt that most do not want to edit their photos because they don't know how to, or they feel they need to spend hours edit one file . Once they learnt that most of their jpg photos just needed a little basic adjustments their photography completely opened up .

Ansel Adams didn't spend a hour or so "editing" his photos into the masterpieces so many still admirer today . He could spend days or even weeks perfecting his "edit" while working from notes he made when recorded the subject with just one click of the shutter.

IMO; any one who doesn't do basic file editing is missing so much of modern digital photo and those not getting involved with more serious editing might not be seeing their true potential as a photographer instead of been just another camera user

Werrd. I'm a younger dude and I haaaate editing. I can definitely do it though. I may not be pro level but i can produce a well edited image. It sucks the fun out of photography for me though. I taught my self editing because I figured I'd need it later on down the road and I did but I enjoy taking the photos more than editing. I switched to Fuji for this reason. I change my Fuji cameras to shoot jpeg (because the jpegs are amazing)and snap away. I can then use the wireless features to send them straight to my phone for posting or printing. If I REALLY want to editthem the fuji cameras them selves have basic level editing built in so I can change exposure, picture profiles, sharpness, shadow tone, highlight tone, ect. then save it out and transfer it to my phone.

Peter Nord's picture

I teach older adults. >50. I would say, "I can teach you all you need to know while standing on one foot." Now that I'm 80, and can't stay on one foot long, I just say, "shoot what you love."

William Nicholson's picture

Well you nor I can stand on one foot. My grand parents taught me photography 50 years ago as well my dad and to the day I still have all the old Leica and Olympus equipment. Just saying that many pictures I see on this site are over the top with photo editing, beautiful as they all are and well appreciated. I just don't like to go to such extreme for I am shooting action of my boys playing sports so no need for over the top editing if you know what I mean. I will always take your advice and "shoot what you love" Great to know that someone as young as you are helping out and teaching those who seek the passion and artist value of photography. Stay well my friend.

Zack Schindler's picture

Learn from the greats like all did before us. Look at all kinds of art and it will run in the background of your mind. Observe movies, paintings, commercials. whatever. Just look and observe. Soon it will synthesize and incorporate into your learning and your mind it and will become your art. And then your art will be your own. Shoot what thou wilt and do not worry about what others think. Go your own way. One will not get rich doing this but your life will be better for it. After all what other choice do you have?

William Nicholson's picture

Zack, No plans on getting rich from photography, my kids do not pay me well for taking their sport photos. I like your analogy, I will be rich with thousands of photos of my two boys growing up, all we do together, all the fun times. Priceless. Very much so I appreciate those who are professionals in this industry and the magic they make through their eyes. I am not one to judge others on their work, rather admire their artistic talent.

Tom Reichner's picture

Alex Cooke sid,

"There is a lot of pressure to conform to certain styles, techniques, subject matter, and manners of shooting in photography, but at the end of the day, you answer to yourself and no one else. "

Actually, Alex, I do answer to others, and not just myself. As a wildlife photographer, the people who view my images and who I submit images to want to know whether or not the animal or bird in any given photo was a genuine wild animal, or one that was in a captive situation, such as a zoo or preserve. I do have to answer to these people, because they are the ones who my photography-derived income comes from.

Timothy Gasper's picture

I don' t get the point here. "Stop worrying....." About what? What other people have been or are shooting? In the video he told not to emulate others' works. Adam Ansel, Robert Ketchum, Henri Cartier-Bresson, et al, took magnificent photos. So which advice is being given here? To shoot what you want to or not to try and copy, if you will, others works. Maybe Joe Blow down the street there is infatuated with David Muench's work and wants to emulate that. Wouldn't that be 'shooting what you want?' Since the beginning of photographic works we have all stood in awe at the beauty of the Masters. I, too, have several times looked at these wonderful photos and tried to emulate them. Not necessarily to go there and shoot the same scene, but rather through composure, mood, etc. All these things have been laid down for us for over a hundred years. The only thing we can do is learn and understand these principles and apply them. If Joe Blow wants to shoot like Ansel Adams then isn't he shooting how he wants? Just saying. As for critiqueing others works, I will never do that. All of this is seen through the eye of the beholder. What may seem mundane or downright boring to some people could very possibly be the most beautiful shot another person has ever seen. Why? Perhaps it reminds them of some thing, some place, someone or some time, yes....time. For this reason I will never deny or demean what one may hold dear and wonderful just because it doesn't suit my taste. Cheers and shoot with a smile.

Timothy Turner's picture

What I find interesting is that at least in my experience, people will like or dislike my photos for the same reason. For example " One person will say I like that photo for the soft back ground, another will say I don't like that photo because there is not enough detail in the back ground."

jim hughes's picture

I'm not a "pro" but I do sell a few prints a month online via POD. The ones that sell the most are the ones where I went out after something I liked, and had concept in mind - then kept at it until I got it right. Trying to guess what sells has never really worked. And I wouldn't feel like doing it anyway.

Timothy Gasper's picture

You are right sir. If you're going out there trying to take photos which will sell, you may get dissapointed. Just let your heart and soul guide you.