Photography has been an ever evolving art for me.  It can be a fun end and of itself but as you get older, busier, and hopefully wiser the fact that we all have limits of time an energy becomes more real.  To do one thing means to let something else go undone.  When you start thinking about what you “should” be spending your efforts on processing pictures at 2am in the morning starts to slip down the list.  Trying to reconcile the desire for “photography” with the limits of reality has sometimes been a challenge that has lead me to a guiding principle “Shoot With a Purpose.”

 

“Shoot with a Purpose” really is nothing more than asking yourself  “Why am I taking this picture?”   Before you push the button.  Coming up with a good answer may require you to think deeper and learn more than you first thought.

 

“Shoot with a Purpose” really is nothing more than asking yourself  “Why am I taking this picture?”   Before you push the button.  Coming up with a good answer may require you to think deeper and learn more than you first thought.

Before taking a shot I try to visualize what I think the shot will look like.  But then I have to ask myself  “Why am I taking this picture”.   More often than not the answer is  “Because it is a good picture”.   Maybe the lighting is nice, or the colors brilliant or it has some other attractive element.  That’s all fine but what am I going to “Do” with this picture?

Am I going to print it out and hang it on the wall?

Is it going to go on a website?

Will I put it in a digital photo frame?

Am I going to sell it to someone?

Am I going to enter it in a contest?

Do I already have better pictures of this?

Do I really need a picture of this?

Can I learn something from this picture?

In short

How is my life going to be better for the effort required to take, review, process and store this picture?

 

If I don’t have a good answer to these questions often times I don’t take the picture and move on to something else . I defer to the ancient wisdom of the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi  “Do nothing which is of no use”.   It may seem simple but it goes much deeper.

 

If I don’t have a good answer to these questions often times I don’t take the picture and move on to something else . I defer to the ancient wisdom of the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi  “Do nothing which is of no use”.   It may seem simple but it goes much deeper.

I once had a student who I was instructing on the basics of photography.   He had “achieved” the objective of the assignment.   He had taken hundreds upon hundreds of pictures (easy to do with DSLR’s).   His problem was that because he perceived digital as being “free” he just snapped away hoping for success without putting thought into why one picture was better than another or understanding into why some pictures achieved the goal while others did not.

 

I once had a student who I was instructing on the basics of photography.   He had “achieved” the objective of the assignment.   He had taken hundreds upon hundreds of pictures (easy to do with DSLR’s).   His problem was that because he perceived digital as being “free” he just snapped away hoping for success without putting thought into why one picture was better than another or understanding into why some pictures achieved the goal while others did not.

 

It got me thinking about another bit of ancient eastern wisdom from Sun Tzu which goes something like:

If you know your enemy and know yourself you win every battle you choose to fight.

If you know your enemy but not yourself for every victory you will suffer a loss.

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will loose every time.

And

Those who enter into battle first and look for victory afterward will probably lose.

Thinking about those passages (and those are very loose translations) I couldn’t help but think about how it applied to my student.   He snapped away without really knowing what he was looking for or how to get it.   By sheer numbers he succeeded, but only through and overabundance of resources (time and effort).   We all begin there I suppose, but the question is are you happy there or do you want to get better?

 

Chances are that you could stand to learn more about some aspect of photography, be it shooting under certain conditions or the limits of your equipment or skill (knowing your enemy and knowing yourself).   Take the shot anyway, but afterwards be sure to follow up on it in a timely fashion to learn what you can.   Then the next time you ask yourself the question you’ll have a better answer.

 

Chances are that you could stand to learn more about some aspect of photography, be it shooting under certain conditions or the limits of your equipment or skill (knowing your enemy and knowing yourself).   Take the shot anyway, but afterwards be sure to follow up on it in a timely fashion to learn what you can.   Then the next time you ask yourself the question you’ll have a better answer.

 

Chances are that you could stand to learn more about some aspect of photography, be it shooting under certain conditions or the limits of your equipment or skill (knowing your enemy and knowing yourself).   Take the shot anyway, but afterwards be sure to follow up on it in a timely fashion to learn what you can.   Then the next time you ask yourself the question you’ll have a better answer.