I’m often asked how I got to where I am today with my photography, and my answer is simply that not that long ago I was a beginner myself but I pushed myself, I learnt to step out of my comfort zone and developed my techniques accordingly.
I see many photographers, amateur & professional alike, produce the same standard of work year upon year. There is nothing wrong per se with their photos but they lack creativity or originality as they go for the safe photo. At first it can be risky to go for the more adventurous shot but the more you practice the better you will get and the more likely you will succeed first time.
This was highlighted to me this weekend where I attended an event. Three photographers stood in a line in a field close to one large hedge to get the dramatic landing shot. Nothing wrong with this as they would most likely have got some impressive stretches. I though went for a different option (or two!), firstly I was stood back from the fence (over twice the distance of the other photographers) at more of a 45 degree angle instead of their nearer 90 degrees. This allowed me to get some great photos which not only highlighted the size of the hedge but also the beautiful backdrop (see featured image above). I then moved due to the field infront of me becoming too crowded, and got myself up high with thanks to a fence judge’s car. This new viewpoint allowed me to shoot almost at the height of the top of the hedge (and the preceding one as well) and so at a more unusual angle. Although not relevant at this event in particular as I was there in a spectator capacity, an image isn’t saleable if several photographers have the same image. If you find yourself surrounded by other photographers your photo is unlikely to be original, move around try something different, push your boundaries and try for something new. Go elsewhere, get down on the floor, get up high (if safe to do so!), use a remote camera, experiment, experiment, experiment!
I look to Badminton a few years ago, most of the photographers were in the main arena shooting the dressage, all within a few metres of another all getting essentially the same photos, which in the rain were not that inspiring. Instead I chose to stay within the press area at the warm up which is near the entrance to the arena. Yes I didn’t get the standard competition photos but instead I captured some pretty amazing moments that meant so much more. I had to take the risk that I would be in the right place at the right time and it almost always pays off for me. One particular image is of Francis Whittington, he went into the lead with his test and gave his horse a great big hug, this image went viral on e-Venting, for whom I photograph, within minutes as it captured the true essence of the sport. This photo was ultimately worth far more than any than the test itself.
I love experimenting and often plan unpaid shoots to try out new techniques and experiment so that I can confidently work with those new techniques on my paid shoots. The same applies with my event photography I’m always planning in advance and thinking what I can try differently. It is so so easy to slip into my comfort zone and take the same photos time and time again but that doesn’t excite me. If I didn’t push myself to try new things I would never have purchased my studio lighting, which has led me to produce photographs I never thought myself capable of a few years ago.
So go out and push yourself and try something new, some efforts may work some may not but not you won’t know unless you try and you could be pleasantly surprised by the results.