Thursday, May 03, 2007

Separating Fun From Serious Photography

I suspect that a lot of us do both serious photography in which we haul out our best equipment, ofter with heavy back packs and tripods, but sometimes feel like shooting for fun, with a smaller camera, and heaven forbid, we might not even use a tripod at all.

I tend to feel a bit guilty when I do this, feeling that I should be using the time to photograph seriously. It raises some questions though (don't most of the things I write about, huh?).

Is it useful or distracting to do 'fun' photography when you think of yourself a serious photographer?

Does using novice equipment and techniques mean you are going to get poor results?

What do you do with any images you obtain?

Truth is, tripods are a hassle and slow you down and sometimes even limit your position. It may be that shooting landscapes with everything in focus (ie. small f stops and slow shutter speeds) isn't compatible with no tripod, so one has to change one's standards or styles of shooting or even subject matter. Consider some of the lovely work done with Holga cameras which is a perfect example of a serious photographer using a fun camera to take artistically worthwhile photographs.

It may be that with your 'fun' equipment you can't make 20X20 prints but there are photographers with 8X10 view cameras who do nothing but contact print so while not having huge prints of these images to sell might hurt the pocket book, it shouldn't in fact pose any problems in being artistic, creative and producing serious work while actually having fun.

If on the other hand, one tries do do something for which the equipment is totally unsuited out of laziness, then we might have to question our motives, values and drive. Though even here, there are some famous European photographs known for their black and white landscape work shot on 35 mm. and without tripod - parts of the image are out of focus, all of the image is grainy, yet they still get hung in galleries because their work is creative and uses the equipment to advantage.

Perhaps the problem occurs when we pretend we have an 8X10 view camera but actually shoot with 35 mm. Maybe we should be thinking along different lines, or using an 8X10.

With lightweight fun to use equipment, we are more likely to explore our creative boundaries so one could very easily argue that playing around is good for us, that it broadens our horizons and might actually improve our serious work.


Anonymous said...

That's interesting, because I am somewhat opposite. I have an Olympus 5050 that I use for "fun", and when shooting with it feel absolutely no need to be a "photographer". These are snapshots, pure and simple. My friends and family seem to think they're nice, but I put in no serious creative effort, instead enjoying my role as temporary amateur.

George Barr said...

I suspect that the fun that Chuck refers to is the family event rather than the recording of it, but perhaps not. I was thinking more along the lines of say a serious landscape photographer with a 30 lb. backpack plus tripod who wanders round his garden snapping flower pictures with a consumer digicam.

Anonymous said...

i never take my photography seriously, and i always try to have fun. but i'm not earning a living from it, so i'm under no pressure either. i can't imagine earing a living from photography, it sounds way to stressful and uncertain.

Mark said...

Craig Tanner of the Radiant Vista had an interesting podcast recently on the 'power of play.' That engaging in activity, photography or otherwise (he used kite flying), that encourages more right brain activity. Could 'fun photography' possibly plant the seeds for the more serious type?

I don't enjoy carrying around a tripod either, but recognize it as a necessary evil. Although it slows you down, sometimes that is a very good thing.

Anonymous said...

Family photos are certainly part of what I meant, but there are times when want to make pictures, but juist plain don't want to be serious.

George's example of the flower garden photos is perfect, as we have a wildflower garden where I work and often take my point-n-shoot over to play around. If I were to do so with my SLR, I would feel internal pressure to be the "artist" and work the scene. With the small Olympus, I don't feel that same pressure. I consider it to be something therapy, where I can shake the cobwebs from the part of my brain that control my shutter finger.

Anonymous said...

When I am frustrated with my photography and feeling directionless, there is nothing like just taking the camera out for the sheer joy of it. Afterall, isn't that why we got into photography in the first place? Then, this method takes the pressure to "must succeed" off me and allows me to get back to "fun". And sometimes this was the barrier all along to my creativity!

--- jerry grasso