Monday, April 28, 2008


Just how productive are we meant to be?

I had a three day weekend (we take every second Friday off) and could have gone to th3 mountains, visited the badlands or generally done some really productive shooting. Instead I was feeling stressed and not sleeping well (long story - too much on my plate) and had little ambition to do anything. I'm sure this is a relatively common phenomenon and in fact there are lots of other reasons to be less productive than normal - the muse deserts you, family need your time, work is too busy, etc.

This raises the whole question of how many good photographs we are meant to produce. there are some photographers who are really productive. They tend to work in fashion, figure and colour landscape. After a while all their work tends to look the same and I don't envy their productivity.

I suspect that many serious 'fine art' photograhers would be happy to die (but not for a while) with a portfolio of 3 dozen really strong images. Problem is, unless you plan to die very young, this translates into about one image a year. Many of us would be so discouraged by such a poor output that we'd give up.

It's the decent but not wonderful images that keep us out there week after week, trying for the wonderful and not quite getting there. Like the carrot leading the pony, we need to at least get a sniff of glory every once in a while, even if we hardly ever get to eat the whole thing.

In terms of productivity, all any of us really needs is just enough success to keep us going, to give us some confidence that with a bit of effort, wonderful is at least possible. Just how many good but not wonderful images we need to keep us going clearly will vary from person to person, not to mention how good is good.

Unless we are selling our work on an ongoing assignment driven basis (in which case none of the above applies), productivity really doesn't enter into it. You might be jealous of someone who can come home from a weekend's shooting with 12 good images while you are lucky to do one quarter of that in a month, but really it doesn't matter, so long as you see enough progress, enough success to motivate you to go back out again.


Christoph Hammann said...

Interesting thoughts about measurung success in photography. At the root of them is the serial nature of the process.
Anyway, I allow myself not to apply the same criteria of success to my photography as to my work, and I'm a MD, too. So, no outcome statistics for me. After all, it's an avocation!

pnfphotography said...

I suppose it is a matter of what one calls success.

Speaking for myself so long as I keep trying new subjects and at least attempt new things then I am content. I think measuring your own worth based on what others produce is non productive.

Enjoy the craft or do not do it is pretty much how I see it. I like how you always seem to put so much thought into things. I should follow your lead perhaps.

grant kench said...

Perhaps you need a tonic George. See a doctor maybe!

George Barr said...

Bunch of quacks! Anyway, caught up on my sleep, got my wife through her arrhythmia ablation surgery yesterday and feeling fine today, had a good walk with the dog and looking forward to next photo outing.


Stuart Harris said...

Sometimes dem blues grip me too and I wonder why the heck am I fooling around taking wannabe "serious" photos, or stumbling painfully through complicated piano pieces, or playing the sort of tennis that would get hammered by any half-way schooled teen.

As my ever-encouraging piano teacher (an eminent harpsichordist) says cheerfully: "It's all about the journey, isn't it?"

grant kench said...

On a serious note George, best wishes to your wife.