Whenever I’m teaching someone basics of landscape photography, I always tell them to shoot the iconic scenes. It’s always worth shooting them at some a point to get some ideas rolling when at any given location.
However, I almost never include them in my portfolio.
This image was technically made “perfectly,” shot at 100 ISO, f/22, and with a standard focal length (33mm becomes 53mm on a Canon crop-sensor, which is found by multiplying the lens focal length by 1.6 - other companies use 1.5x crop factors). The colors came out beautifully, and it was shot at the peak of golden hour.
The Snake River poking through the trees allows a sense of leading lines up to the mountains, and the trees on the bottom half nicely frame the upper portion of the image.
I’ve never seen myself as someone who shoots iconic landscape images, though. While I do enjoy this image, it’s way too “expected,” so to say. It’s the same shot that almost everyone would get at this location. But that’s also why I shot this. It was in the first handful of images I shot at Snake River Outlook, which was my “warm-up” batch. As the night progressed, I started to pick out different compositions and made a few photographs that made the cut.
I consciously made this image knowing very well that it wouldn’t make the final cut. So why did I shoot it? Simply because I wanted to. I have no shame in making photographs for myself knowing that I won’t publish them or include them in my portfolio. Now and then, you need to make those same photographs that everyone else makes. But if you do, and you’re a serious photographer that wants to find their voice, you need to strongly consider a few factors:
Does it represent me as a visual artist?
Will this image stand out or fit in?
Am I only shooting this for potential clout online, or am I shooting this because I want to?
These are the things I ask myself whenever I set up my tripod. I knew this image didn’t represent me fully as an artist, but it does represent me partially. This image fits in more than it does stand out. And finally, I shot this because I wanted to. The final question I ask myself always determines whether or not I will make the image. I do everything in my power to not shoot images just for numbers online. To me, that’s almost narcissistic. If I don’t want to make the image, but I know it will get me followers or likes online, why am I even doing it?
The moment I start making images for the sake of popularity is the moment I need to turn in my artist card.
I’ll leave you with this for today’s post: make images because you want to, not because it will get you numbers. Only then, will you be truly satisfied as an artist.