As a student, I had a lot of original ideas. And I was determined to take only original pictures.
I hated “me too” photographs. If I saw a classmate submit a portrait with a cliched subject like a bearded, homeless man, I’d shake my head and say to myself, “How trite.”
I was so determined to be original, in fact, that I spent more time and energy criticizing my classmates’ shortcomings than executing my own lofty ideas. As a result, a lot of my ideas never materialized into images.
Oh, I had lots of excuses for this. I was a self-supporting college student on a foreign student visa, for example. This meant I could only work 20 hours a week and had to work on campus. I told myself that this limited my opportunities to explore the world, and to make my ideas reality.
I finally broke through my inertia when I discovered that I needed an internship at a newspaper to graduate. That got me moving beyond the theoretical into the practical; original or not, I had to start taking pictures, now.
Well, I got that internship, which led to a 20-odd year career in news photography.
And yet, even today, I still find myself battling those same demons that inhibited me as a student.
I have just as many excuses not to get out and shoot.
Shake Off the Inertia
Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body will remain at rest until a force acts upon it. This rule applies not just to physics, but to photography, too.
An idea — no matter how original or exciting — doesn’t mean much if it’s confined to the recesses of your mind. You have to get out there and start shooting.
If you don’t have an original idea, that’s no excuse, either. Just borrow an idea that’s already been done.
I’m not suggesting you recreate a picture lock, stock and barrel; if you’re like me, your creativity will kick in and you’ll start changing the elements to make the image your own.
Look upon the photography of others as a means to inspire you. Don’t get in the habit of criticizing the work of colleagues, because that’s a negative cycle that will only consume you.