Why do I take photos?

Well, the simple answer is, ‘for fun’. Right, job done, feet up with a mug of coffee and a bit of cake now.

… OK, it probably deserves further exploration, of what it is exactly which makes such an activity enjoyable to me personally. I don’t doubt that there are at least as many potential answers to this one as there are photographers, so what I write here is strictly confined to my own experience.

What is it that I actually enjoy? I’m no gear-head, so for me, the joy is in capturing something which I consider aesthetically pleasing in some way: Our monkey-brains seem to seek out patterns and textures; at least mine certainly does, and having those spring out at me as I walk around towns or wild-places is too good an opportunity to miss, particularly when set off by some appropriate light. Throw in the chance to learn some new techniques, from pin-hole cameras for solargraphy to post-processing ideas on Photoshop, and there is a lot to keep me occupied, and hopefully, able to come up with fresh work.

‘Fresh work’. Does that mean that all of my photos are different? Well, I certainly shoot a variety of subjects, but for my more creative work, I like to think that I am now developing a certain style of my own. Of course, this varies, but I like to think that I can produce work which brings out the subject in a way which adds a little something to it, but in a subtle way. Does that make it art? I think since its invention, photography has been seen as the poor-relation to painting and such – a view which I certainly do not subscribe to – but I am certain that this still continues today. Why else would someone paint one of my photos and then sell if for a huge sum of money (of which I saw not a dime; full story here): If I took a photo of a painting, I would expect it to be worth pretty much nothing! That’s as far as I will go in an exploration of what ‘art’ is just here, or I may become guilty of committing philosophy.

Back to what makes it so much fun to take photos. I think there is another part to the process: It is one thing to see patterns, textures, or any other subject as you are walking around, but how many people have taken a photo of a nice view, gone home and looked at the image, and thought, ‘this is crap’, or words along those lines? Come on, truthfully? I have, for sure. Why did it fail? It was a lovely view as well! Well, don’t forget that the eye-brain combination can zoom in on something which grabs the attention, pan seamlessly along, adjust for varying colour temperature, cope with a huge range in contrast, ignore those annoying power-lines you have just seen across the shot, and a host of other things. So, for me, the trick is learning what it actually is in my field of vision which is grabbing my interest, and why. If you do this often enough, it seems to become second nature, and I find myself strolling around noticing the world in a slightly different way. Or maybe I am simply seeing what is really there. Whatever, it is a knack which can be acquired, no expensive equipment required; just eyes and brain.

Sometimes, a good photo is simply a matter of seeing what is really there

Sometimes, a good photo is simply a matter of seeing what is really there

Having made yourself think a little more about what you are seeing, then it may tempt you to reach for a camera (or phone, if that’s what is to hand), and start shooting. However, in these days of every computer allowing us access to a full digital darkroom, whether it be the ubiquitous Photoshop or something else, such as Pixlr, this process – and the mindset behind it – does not stop there: I will often be looking at something of interest, and not only deciding how I will frame it and photograph it, but also what I may do in terms of post-processing (which may be nothing; possibly a few minor tweaks; or running it through Dynamic-Photo HDR to create an interesting effect, if used with restraint and subtlety on appropriate images).

So, it is rather nice when you can view a scene or subject and it either appears in the camera as you envisaged it; or once you are home and editing, it then comes out how you wanted it to. And I am much better at both these things now. Of course, there is the third category of successful images: Where you get home, load up the photos to the computer and see something amazing which, quite frankly, you had either failed to notice at the time, or which has exceeded your expectations completely and utterly.

That’s it then, a way of seeing the world, and trying to interpret the image in front of your eyes, via the brain, into the camera, and then through the computer. Well, for me it is. You may have your own ideas, and if so, please feel free to share them. And one final thing I enjoy about taking photos: When it can bring in some money, because I also enjoy having food and being able to pay bills! But that’s a whole other story …

About Chris Senior

Photographer, wit, travel-junkie, MSc student and practising eccentric! Prog rock nut and baker of tasty cakes.
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