Monday, August 31, 2015

"Rules" To Shooting?

Rules in photography are nice, I guess.  They can help rein things in and keep them on target.  Given boundaries, you often get a relatively structured, predictable result.

Nothing wrong with that.  If you are doing work for people, they are often wanting something they know, have seen before or is predictable.  There are those that love to define things, and definitions are good for when you are trying to describe or explain a concept to someone.  We as humans love things in orderly fashion and like to know that things fit in somewhere.

I'd like to concentrate on what most people classify as "street" photography.  Can we really classify what the definition of street photography might be?

While this can make things quite easy as a conversation piece, they sometimes can give people the impression that only those things that fit into those strict definitions are "street".  What makes this even more of a complex issue is that no one can agree on what the definition of street photography might be.  Not only can we not agree on what the definition of street photography should be, there are those out there that try and use different terms for the same damn thing!  Rebranding and rebadging things for the blog clicks or trying to redefine something old as something new to get more followers.

I've seen that done many times in my IT career, where system development life cycle (SDLC) processes and internal process get renamed by consulting companies.  They sell the same thing with a different name and get big money for it.

My thoughts are this.  It is an age old practice for people to find photographers and their work that they like and try to emulate it.  They do their best to understand how to replicate a style.  This is good, it is a learning experience.  We should, though, once you have gotten sufficient skill in the one you are emulating, turn to finding ways of enhancing/improving on what you have learned.  It is the never ending journey of finding your own unique style.

Along with the emulation period, there are also all those rules out there that like composition rules, exposure rules.  If you've read one of my previous posts that deals with ways of improving your photography - I don't like "rules", I much prefer "guidelines".  Use the guidelines to help you, but they are not something that cannot be broken when the subject suits.  Just so you don't think that I'm being a hypocrite, I'm not saying we should rename rules to guidelines.  I'm saying to take the defined "rules" and use them as guidelines.  Throw them out when they do not work for what you are doing.  Don't confine yourself to that arbitrary box.

I say to hell with all those people that tell you that the best lens to shoot street photography are either a 35mm or 50mm lens/field of view.  Why, because HCB did it that way?  Who gives a hoot what they shot with, especially if that focal length doesn't suit your aesthetic or your vision for the final image you see.
There is no best camera, only the one that works for you.   There is no best lens, only the one that works for you.  Some people will be all about telling you that the best street camera is the smallest one that no one knows you are using, others will tell you that a DSLR is the best, or a Leica.  I think you get the point.  What one person considers a favorite, someone else might find it unusable.

I hear photographers all the time complaining that they are tired of seeing the same old shots in B&W and it's too contrasty...yet these are the same people that put these "rules" on what street photography should be.  Talk about sending out mixed signals!

If you want street photography, or any genre for that matter to expand to more/different/better than its current state, the rules or barriers must be expanded/broken down.

At the end of the day, you just need to make sure that you are shooting to the end game of what you are wanting.  Sometimes the gamble pays off, sometimes it doesn't....but you have to decide if you want to be an innovator or just someone who takes pictures.  Either way, have fun doing what you love.  Not everyone has to be an innovator, while others can't stand to be just another person in the crowd.