The Concept of Your Favorite Photo Has Changed

The Concept of Your Favorite Photo Has Changed

Everyone has what they would tell you is their favorite photo. The measure of why has changed quite a bit over the years and I think I might like the old way better. I only say this because Social Media is the main source of validation for a number of photographers today. Applying modern day metrics of likes, shares, retweets, and views creates a score of sorts that someone can use to justify why a photo might be their favorite. This score didn't used to exist. The old equivalent might have been a photo placing well in an art show or being used in a print publication.

In my opinion, good photos can become great photos when the story behind the shot is told. Most impressive photos don't just happen. There is planning, challenges, motives, and even some luck involved at times. Take this old favorite photo taken by a photographer friend of mine James Neiss. It's clearly from the film era and probably took some time in the dark room to get the double exposure just right. The photo depicts two ghostly figures looking into each others eyes.

It is a nice enough photo but nothing mind blowing until you read:

When I was 21 my former girlfriend Sue Flaherty was killed in a stupid car accident. Photography became an outlet for the grief and this is one of my personal favorite images from all those years ago.

Now the photo has a whole new meaning and explains the artists drive to create. I shared this same grief outlet when my Dad died so reading his caption gave me chills and really made my connection to the photo and the photographer stronger.

My first favorite photo was taken on Easter Sunday in 2012. It was one of my first few times attempting to bracket shots for use in and HDR photo. There is an amazing sculpture called Freedom Crossing meant to signify Lewiston, NY's role in the underground railroad that helped slaves escape to Canada across the Niagara River. On this night the sun was just setting behind the monument and I took a few bracketed shots (-2, 0, +2) and went to dinner. When I got home and processed the photos in Photomatix I was blown away that I had took and created this.

Freedom Crossing Monument sculpted by Susan Geissler

It is actually the photo that transformed me from a picture taker into a photographer creating art. My new favorite photo would be the shot I shared in my second article, There Is Nothing Like Photographing a Sunrise [Part 2].

This photo titled "Its Roar Awoke the Sun" is my all time favorite.

The last two favorite photos of mine I'd like to share are very simple but have huge meaning to me.


Dad's old Canon AE-1

This was my Dad's camera. He always would have it with him and really played a big role in my interest in photography early on. I was often able to use it and wish I knew where all the picture are today that I pressed the shutter for. In my opinion this camera is such a beautiful piece of hardware, and it holds so many fond memories of my Father that this insignificant photo that could have been taken by anyone is a favorite of mine.

"La chaise vide" (French for The Empty Chair)

The last photo I'm sharing was hard for me to take. It was during the dreaded clean up of the house I grew up in after my Dad's passing. The emptiness I felt was 100% manifesting itself in front of my eyes in an old empty chair in the attic. I really hadn't taken many shadow play photos up till this point and I was very happy with the result. Creating the photo actually helped the pain a bit too.

So without showing any more of my work, I invite you to share your favorite photo(s) in the comment along with why. If your answer is "because it got 1000 likes," try harder. Don't get caught up in the current social media is all that matter craze. Go back and find your best stories that accompany images and you might actually find your favorite isn't what you've been telling people.

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8 Comments

Kaare Lytsen's picture

It's hard to say which one is my favorite photo, there are so many good photographs out there. But im really like the B/W genre. So this one is from my own portfolio, and this is one of my favorites http://www.kaarelytsen.dk/verden-i-sort-hvid#5

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Thanks for reading K L. What about that shot makes it your favorite? Looks like a cool setting.

Sometimes a photo speaks to a crowd, and sometimes just to the photographer. The photo of your father's empty chair does both beautifully. So sorry for your loss.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Blair that's one of the nicest comments I've gotten since writing here. Thanks so much!

Wayne Denny's picture

This photo is probably still one of my favorites, despite it looking more 'commercial' than personal, it's highly personal. I had gotten my moto license less than a year before, and then did a trip around the entire ring road in Iceland with two friends. This was at the end of the first day of riding, and we still couldn't believe that we were on this trip and were just having a blast playing around at the wreck. We had no idea what was in store for us in the next 10 days. From being literally blown off the road by wind, taking in magnificent vistas with no other people around except your friends, to sleeping on the side of the road riding out storms behind giant rocks, and meeting incredible people along the way. I have this printed out and hanging in my home, and it always reminds me of one of the best times of my life. https://fstoppers.com/photo/85326

Sólheimasandur, South Iceland by Wayne Denny

Sólheimasandur, South Iceland

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Great shot and an even better story behind why it's your favorite! Thanks for sharing it Wayne.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Good call Tacy!
It's an amazing sculpture in Chicago. I had the pleasure of visiting and walking the city on my own for half a day last July. This was a long exposure I was able to pull off because it was early (9:04am) and on a weekday. Otherwise this place gets crowded in the summer. I setup a tripod and did a long exposure with a neutral density filter on it. Everyone calls it "The Bean" but it's really titled "Cloud Gate" and was done by artist Anish Kapoor.
Thanks for asking and reading :)
Here's a couple more:

I like the double exposure photo. I have an accidental double exposure that turned out interesting. I was handing my used Canon New F-1 that I just bought to a coworker when I heard the shutter go "click". That weekend, I took it to the lake for some photos and there was Emily appearing to rise from the lake.
My first SLR was the Canon A-1, so I can see your attachment to the AE-1. I don't have any emotional attachment to the F-1, but that has a classic look.