Review some of your holiday photos. Without worrying about the quality of the image to begin with, try and remember your motivation for taking them. You’ll probably identify a range of reasons – from wanting to record a view that took your breath away to thinking ‘I’ll never see the Taj Mahal again so I probably ought to take a picture’.
Of all my online photo albums, the one with photos that I remember the best is from a holiday to the Dominican Republic in 2011.
I remember the sunset on this night very vividly as it was just beautiful. The first photo was taken from a cocktail party on some decking and this is the best of many shots I took. The other sunset photos were just another lovely night. I believe all those people in the sea were looking at some fish or possibly turtles in the water. The fourth photo is of an island we sailed out to on a ‘party boat’ and spent a few hours at. It was absolutely gorgeous and the sea was the most amazing colour. The final photo is not exactly memorable, but I can imagine that the day was so gorgeous that I just wanted to capture it.
These are just 5 out of 125 photos I uploaded to this album and many are just different versions of the above (these 5 were the nicest), or just general snapshots of the resort.
To what extent did you consider the composition, viewpoint or lighting? Did you go back and take a similar shot later in the day, for example? Why did you take a photograph rather than just buying a postcard?
Considering the other photos I took of these same subjects, I think I must have tried my best with composition and viewpoint for these. Lighting was important too as I have other versions of the sunset, for instance, where to sun is just glaring off the lens and you can barely see anything else. I retook lots of shots it seems, and some of them were one after the other, while others were at different times of day. Not sure if I purposely went back, or just happened to be there again and thought I’d take another photo.
For a start, I don’t think I’ve bought a postcard from anywhere for about 20 years. If you were actually going to put it in the post to someone then I see the point, but otherwise, we have phones and cameras with us at most times, even on holiday (maybe more so on holiday!), so it seems silly to buy pictures of a place when I could just snap one myself. Havig said that, we have bought paintings of places we’ve visited. We have a trio of watercolour photos from popular places in Rome, for instance, and we definitely took our own photos of those same things.
Pick out any images that seem to give you more than just a record of place – images that take you right back there. What are the special qualities of these images? Of course, it’s impossible to isolate the technical elements of the photography from how you felt at the time, what you were doing, who you were with, but try and decide whether the images you’ve selected have anything in common. Show them to someone who wasn’t there and record their response.
All the images above take me back to the moment, even though there is nothing particularly pretty about them. I don’t think a single one was planned, or has a considered composition, but I remember each moment quite clearly.
Technically, I don’t see much in common between the photos, other than none of them actually having any technical thought behind them! I think what they do all have in common though is emotion. Some of them were taken because something funny or weird was happening. Some of them were excitement, and one was just relief (the photo of me with my son having a drink by the beach was taken just after we escaped from a very dirty and smelly Tunisian marketplace where we were hassled all the way through!)
Mobile phones and iPads, in some hands, have taken discrimination away altogether. Now there’s no need to worry about wasting film, you can simply snap away and sort the results out later. Do you think it devalues the final image if little or no thought has gone into the photography?
Generally, I think that if you take the time to stop and capture a photo of something then you must have thought about it somewhat and it still has meaning and value, regardless of whether it was taken on a phone camera. What it has done though is allow the non-professional photographer to censor their photos and take them in a way they wouldn’t have before. I remember being a teenager and having one roll of film, and that was all you got (unless you had loads of money to keep buying more). I’d think more carefully about whether something was worth photographing, and I would take one shot, two at most, so as not to waste all my exposures, plus you never knew whether you’d get a great shot, or a totally blurry, out of focus one. There was some excitement involved in picking up your folder full of photographs at the developers and finally getting to flick through them all. I think there’s less excitement now when you look through photographs you’ve taken yourself.
Nowadays you can take an endless number of pictures until you get the perfect shot (as long as you’ve got enough memory space), so in that sense, perhaps the individual snaps do not hold as much value, but the general scene was obviously an important one. Maybe the layman doesn’t try as hard to set up their shot, or consider what the final product will look like first time, as it doesn’t matter. If they don’t like what they see on the screen, they can re-position and take a gain.