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When I was a more casual photographer, I shot whatever caught my eye.  This mostly consisted of random moments, people, cats, and daily oddities.  My pictures generally didn’t look like others’, mostly because I was shooting things they missed.  I found an appreciation for scenic and landscape shots, but they too were mostly spontaneous – whatever I saw as I came across them.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Then I observed what others were doing and learned what made a pleasing photograph.  I hung around other landscape photographers, and I began to see what they saw.  My images improved.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But in the process, I feel I’ve been losing some of my originality.  As my photography looks “better” according to the general consensus, it begins to fit a mold of acceptance.  Sure, that vista may be perfectly proportioned, but it no longer holds that unique quality I once had.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Like an edgy alternative band that turns pop, I don’t want to go down the path of conformity.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I believe those who don’t know the “rules” have a lot more freedom to their art.  That usually comes at the cost of popularity, so it’s difficult to resist the temptation.  After all, what’s the point in being different if no one sees you doing so?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

As my photography matures (yes, I am still learning), I constantly have this in the back of my mind.  My daily challenge is to strike a healthy balance between appealing and original – beautiful and unusual.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want to belong to a generic cast.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

While I enjoy group photo shoots, all too often, I witness the inevitable line of tripods in *the* spot – a dozen photographers all taking exactly the same pictures.  Ok, yeah, that’s the position that will endow your camera with the magic that allows you to see unicorns and other dimensions… but everyone else will get that, too.  Just like every other photographer before you has gotten that.  And they’ve already posted it to social media.  With a more colorful sunset.  With more epic clouds.  With an actual unicorn in the frame.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

There’s no denying it’s a beautiful shot, and you’ll probably garner a lot of likes on Instagram.  But personally, I strive to deliberately not emulate others.  I want to blaze my own path and present the world with something different.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The real holy grail for me is to discover a style that is both amazing to look at and incredibly different.  I don’t feel I’m quite there yet, which is why I’ll continue to experiment until I find it.  And until then, I’ll probably still chase those other dimensions like everyone else, but I’ll still critically think about how I can make my mine look at least a little different from everyone else’s.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

And just remember – if you’re new to the art, you have something the pros lack.  Hold on to the individual experiences that have brought you to this point.  Go ahead and learn those rules, but make sure your creativity remains an active player.  Someday, perhaps you’ll find others emulating you.

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  1. Great article. I have been photographing things for years, and you are right on. There is no perfect shot other than the one that moves you. Don’t cave to the group think. Yes, rules help, especially when one begins to understand some of the psychology behind the composition rules. But what I love about our art is that we all see things differently. Use that for your inspiration.

      1. Thanks. I think that we all learn from one another, and our uniqueness makes our work speak for itself. What is the point in all doing exactly the same thing? I agree with your perspective completely.

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