Many people take photos professionally, and I might look like a bit of a tool for buying much of the same equipment they do and posting my photos in some of the same places they post theirs while lacking most of their talent.
Merlin Mann recently wrote a great piece on why he takes photos, entitled Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking. Read the whole thing, but I liked this part most:
Yeah, I know, it’s no masterpiece, but I’m proud of it for reasons of my own. Because, last night, as I was splayed prone in the fog along Taraval Street, I realized I was getting a little better at this.
The key is that he’s taking photos for himself. And that’s my motivation as well.
Sometimes I share my favorites with the internet. But I’m not displaying them with any intentionally implied semblance of expertise: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never taken a photography class. My framing and perspectives need a lot of work (Tiff is much better at those). My keeper rate is pathetic. I never plan or set up anything. Many of my best photos are the results of luck, not skill. And my subject matter is fatally dull for nearly everyone except me and occasionally my friends or coworkers.
But I’m not taking photos to create world-class art. I don’t care if my photos aren’t popular or relevant to other people.
I take photos to document my life and the people, places, and things around me. Most of my photos were taken in my office or at home, because those are the places in which I spend the most time.
I photograph people around me doing absolutely ordinary things, like working at their computers. I know it’s not interesting to you. But it’s interesting to me because I know these people, and this was my life for this time period. And when I look back at these pictures in ten years, they’ll bring back the good memories of this environment that I spent part of my life in with these people.
I love taking pictures of random things. I can take a picture of a CPU fan, and I’ll enjoy it, because I like the way that CPU fan looks, and I’ll know it was my CPU fan and it cooled well as part of this great silent computer I built. It’s documenting a minor accomplishment in my life or some thing I liked. To a pro photographer or aficionado, this would be the most worthless picture they’d ever seen. To me, it’s a valuable memory.
I could easily take these types of photos with any consumer point-and-shoot camera, and it would be far more practical: I could get a pocket-sized model instead of carrying around 5 pounds of equipment in a backpack wherever I go. I could spend a few hundred dollars instead of thousands.
But then the pictures would suck. Another side of my personality interferes with that idea: I’m absolutely ruthless about quality. I want all of my photos to be technically great: high sharpness, contrast, and saturation with low noise, no CA, and no unintended distortion.
Essentially, I strive to take technically great photos of the people and everyday minutia in my life for my own satisfaction.
To anyone who knows me well, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. And the reasons I write are very similar.
So I buy all of this big, heavy, expensive stuff to take technically good but compositionally mediocre pictures of boring things. But I do it for me, because I’m slowly developing a skill that I’ve always wanted to have, and the process is producing results that I value highly. Any enjoyment or praise of my photos by others is a welcome bonus, but not the goal at all.