Why is it that some people’s images just stand out?
There are many factors, creative, technical and others, that need to be taken into account when creating an image and these are definitely some of the things that need to be taken into account but I believe there is more to it than that.
Is it the destinations that they visit or perhaps just that they strike it lucky with their wildlife sightings? Sure, these things most definitely also play a role in images that stand out but wouldn’t it be sad, and leave us quite helpless, if there was nothing else we could do to create images that stand out, images that show people our vision of the natural world?
There is something you can do. And it has nothing to do with how strong you are technically or how creative you are as a wildlife photographer.
It’s the same thing you can apply to your life in general in order to get shit done.
That thing is intent.
During every step of your own photographic journey you have a choice to make and the intent with which you make these decisions will affect the final outcome.
If you want to get anywhere with your own photography, and yeah the same is again true life, there is no point in half-assing it. You need to believe in what you do. You have to go all in.
However, shooting with intent does not mean you are immediately going to create amazing images that stand out. It means that you are buying in to what you are doing and that you have a definite idea that you are chasing and this is the first step to creating those images you are after.
Yoda’s famous words – yes I am going to quote Star Wars now – told us “Do or do not. There is no try.” Simple as it may seem there is wisdom there.
When you approach anything with a try attitude you leave yourself a rather convenient safety net which you will fall back on to escape any fears or inadequacies you might have with regards to your images or photographic skills (and life). Try is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hey I tried didn’t I?
In order to create images that stand out you need to approach your craft with the intention to do so, the intention to do it for yourself. If you feel you want to clip a birds wings in the frame in order to create a certain type of images. Do it, but do it properly. With intent.
If you want to create a slow panning or purposefully blurred image don’t mess around on the border of something that might come across as blurred. Blur the hell out of the scene and do it with intent. Mean it.
If you want to create a high contrast black and white image with an overly dramatic skies don’t try. Do it and do it properly. Show people your full vision whatever they might think of it.
Might sound simple enough but in order to have intent during your photographic endeavours and show intent in your images you have to do it completely for yourself and not give a damn about what people are going to think. Sounds easy but don’t be fooled by that little photographic ego we all have inside. That little impulse that makes you check back how many likes an image has gotten or how many people have told you how great your images are.
The moment you ignore this little ego-driven voice – and believe me it’s way more difficult than it sounds – and start creating for yourself you will find it becomes easier to have intent from the moment you decide to pick up your camera to the point where you save your final, processed JPEG.
When this happens and you intentionally allow yourself to create images for you people will be drawn to your work because you will be showing them something real. Something… you. And that is what I believe photography is about.
Believe me, I am writing this as much for myself as for you guys and intent is something I will definitely keep in mind and focus on as I move into a nice and busy photo safari and workshop period both for my own photography and for the teaching and inspiration I will be sharing with our guests. If you are joining me on any of these trips be ready to photograph with intent and to be pushed to create unique images that are… you.
There are a lot of wildlife and nature images out there and there a lot of these images all look the same. I think that too many people try and create images to fit in to whatever, at any given time, the Internet determines to be good wildlife images. Don’t get caught in this trap.
Photograph with intent, process your images with intent and show the world your images with passion and intent regardless of what they might think of it.
Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying and respecting your own photographic journey and go all in.
Do or do not. There is no try.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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