The Subject in Photography
Put your camera away for a minute, I want to talk to you about something important, in fact, I’d rather not talk about cameras at all if that is OK with you as they don’t really matter as much as you would think, you really only have to press a button.
What do you most like to take photos of?
Is it something a lot of people are interested in or just you?
Are you passionate about this subject?
It can’t be something you ‘sort of’ like, it has to be able to effect you emotionally if you hope to be able to show other people how you feel about it.
Finding such as subject is very hard and most people don’t think they could find something that would fit the bill.
Have a look at some old family photos, you have found the subject that most people specialise in without knowing it.
Finding an external subject you will be happy with is much harder and requires at least five years before you even know if you are on the right track. Having people suggest topics of photography can be helpful when you are just starting out, but if you are several years down the road, it can get irksome as it is hard to adjust to taking photos of a new subject if you are used to something else.
How you interact with the subject is very important. Landscapes and static, non-living subjects are easier to deal with if you are not good with people. Animals can be difficult as they won’t do what you tell them to and you have to be good with dealing with them and their owners.
Dealing with people is beyond the scope of this article, but if you are regularly taking photos of people and talking to them you will get better at it. If you are shy it is best to start off with only a few people you know well and then move on to others when your confidence builds up.
When taking photographs of people, the individual photographs are less important than maintaining the relationship you have with that person. It is hard to get everyone to like every photo you take, so be prepared to compromise.
There is a point after you have taken thousands of photos of a subject that you are bound to develop strong feelings toward it, this is natural and nothing to be afraid of. You don’t need to worry about this until a few years after you start taking photos though, when you start getting into the hundreds of thousands of photos you will be dealing with this regularly.
Taking photos of a certain subject may also allow you to meet people who you would otherwise not be able to get to know as there is nothing really connecting you apart from the fact you are taking photos of something you are both interested in.
Sensitivity is important when dealing with your subject, just follow the usual ‘do unto others’ line and you will usually be fine. It can’t be helped that some people think they are better than others and will cause you no end of trouble, you just have to deal with it sometimes.
It is up to you how you deal with your collection of photos on a subject. Some people hold onto theirs tight, which unfortunately means not many people get to see them. Other people share everything and like to give out copies to the people related to the subject involved.
If you don’t occasionally get fed up with your subject and give up on it for a time, then you haven’t chosen the right subject. Yes, this does include sending all your friends “I QUIT!” messages in relation to your subject.
Building a network of contacts will help you with being able to take more photos of your subject. Personally, I started out with photographing only two bands and my network has since expanded to over 600.
If you gain respect of enough people, opportunities to photograph your subject will come to you as more people hear about your work.
Have I chosen the right subject?
I have not finished with my photography yet, ask me again in a couple of decades…
Thanks, Tim Chmielewski, 16th June 2009.