Clarity and confidence.
I really do believe that those are the two most important things that photographers lack early in their careers. The absence of those traits is what leads to the creation of bodies of work that don’t have a cohesive style and photographers that display a lack of direction in their decisions made.
Discovering both clarity and confidence comes only after you have a solid understanding of what your creative interests are; and figuring out what truly interests you is something that’s shaped over time, through practice, patience, and constant curiosity. And even with that, you can expect your focus to change as you grow and discover new things about yourself and your art. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why having a clear understanding of your creative interests is so important.
Creating For Yourself
When you’re aware of the things that move you as an artist, you’re able to create work that is meaningful and unique.
For example, let’s say that you don’t have a clear understanding of what truly interests you. Your decisions in the field on what to shoot are probably based off of what you think other people will like the most. Instead of searching for subjects and scenes that move you, you end up worrying about creating work that will please other people.
When you know what direction you want to take your work, and what you really want to get out of the process, you can free yourself from any outside distractions or thoughts and put your full attention on the image creation process. Nowadays, with social media madness and the constant search for acceptance, it can be tough to fully commit to your true interests, as sometimes, they might not be what grab the attention of the masses. Once you can accept and move past that realization, you can start the process of creating a unique body of work that means something to you.
Take some time to discover which images in your portfolio truly interest you. What are some of the traits of those images? Are they detail shots? Intimate scenes? Heavily or subtlety processed? Try and do this with an open mind, and don’t base it completely off of the response you’ve received from your audience. It’ll quickly become clear what type of work brings you the most satisfaction.
Satisfaction As An Artist
When you have a solid understanding of your creative interests, you’re the one in control of your satisfaction. You’re the one who decides when an image is complete, and when it’s one that you’re happy to add to your portfolio.
When you’re lacking a solid direction, it can be easy to get tunnel vision and strictly focus on the worthiness of your images. Obviously, we all like good feedback, and it feels exciting when our work connects with and receives praise from an audience, but you need to be careful. You always have to keep in mind that certain types of images — most notably dramatic sunrises and sunsets — resonate with a broader scale of people due to the fact that they’re easily digestible.
People who don’t have a strong interest in photography probably aren’t going to take the time to truly connect with your images. If you create only what you think people will like the most, your portfolio will quickly be shaped by outside sources instead of your own vision. This is where having a solid and confident direction is instrumental in developing and enjoying your journey.
Keep reminding yourself that a response from the general public shouldn’t dictate your images worthiness or your satisfaction with your craft. Reflect on what interests you the most and the reasons why you photograph. It can be easy to forget the importance of things like amazing experiences, friendships, and personal growth.
When you immerse yourself and feel confident with your decisions and direction, you’re more likely to be open to new opportunities and ideas as you discover things along the way. If you let your direction be dictated by outside sources, you’re likely to get stuck in a routine of making similar choices and creating images that all look the same. You need to be curious and prepared to fail. You have to accept that growth as an artist involves taking risks and making changes.
If you keep creating only one style of image because it’s what got the best response in the past, then you’re setting yourself up for an extremely boring career. Instead, you need to embrace your creative direction and seek out images that fall in line with your true interests, yet at the same time help push you creatively and build your unique body of work.
This isn’t something that happens overnight, but the sooner you follow your own path, the clearer the results will be. Over time you’ll start to notice subtle and stylistic choices and a trend towards a specific subject matter.
Constantly think of ways you can further develop your creativity. Seek out images and conditions that interest you and don’t be afraid to render them in a way that isn’t as common as you’re used to. Follow your true passion and growth will be unavoidable.
Just remember that you’re the one who decides how you create your images and what’s most important to you. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your creative interests, take some time to sit down and reflect on your career and think of the subjects and styles that move you the most. Don’t be afraid to make unique choices. In the end, being satisfied with the outcome of your images is your choice to make.
I’d love to hear about some of the struggles and successes you’ve had both discovering and following your creative interests.