Happy New Year! I hope you had a good Christmas. As I type, it’s mid-December and I am looking out of the window and seeing a stormy winter’s day, perfect for photography.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 6:00 pm
There is nothing wrong with shooting pretty sunrise shots.
There is nothing wrong with shooting pretty sunrise shots.

Yes, I absolutely stand by that. Good photos rely on good light and we don’t usually find that at lunchtime during the summer. Picture the moody, low-angled light of winter. See the boiling clouds with light reflected rain-drenched ground, it makes for the perfect landscape shot. Saying that, I don’t mind the negative space produced by clear blue skies in photos either.

As I’ve mentioned before, shunning the clichés in photography is a difficult thing to do. With more than 1.2 trillion photos shot every year it is inevitable that lots of photos will be taken of the same scene at the same time. Head down to Bamburgh beach at dawn and it is crowded with photographers all attempting to get very similar pretty sunrise shots of the castle.

Herein lies a problem for photographers. We, like any artists, want our images to be both appreciated and unique. In contemporary amateur photography, the most common wont is for photographs to receive more ‘likes’ online. Our audiences enjoy aesthetically pleasing pictures even if they look like thousands of other similar images that have come before. Photos that are more challenging to understand and appreciate are less common, less pleasing to the untrained eye and more difficult to achieve technically.

This creates a paradox. The more a photographer grows in their art, the less likely they are to produce images that attract the masses. Their appeal is restricted to a more discerning audience. The number of ‘likes’ becomes superfluous and a poor measure of quality. This again changes if the photographer acquires a reputation when they will acquire greater numbers of followers and likes through their celebrity status. It may be a good thing that Instagram are removing likes from their site.

Things work differently for professionals. Our photographs must fit within expected parameters. When shooting portraits, publicity photos for holiday cottages, for magazines, product images for businesses or a wedding shoot there is a degree of restriction about what I can do creatively. I cannot provide my clients with artistically experimental images or photos shot with my homemade pinhole lens; it’s not what they are paying for. That’s why I enjoy personal photographic projects too. I am not saying don’t go out and capture pretty sunsets and sunrises. I urge you to take crowd-pleasing shots. Study and repetition of what has come before is an opportunity to learn. But experiment and push your boundaries.

Speaking of learning, I am producing a new series of online photography lessons. They are completely free, and each lesson covers one easy step to try. The lessons are progressive, aimed at helping you learn photography. You will find the lessons here: http://bit.ly/ivorlessons