Has Instagram ruined or helped photography? Like anything, it depends on who you ask. In my case, the question speaks to high quality photography – not the everyday snapshots which abound ad nauseam.
It used to be that I could pack up my camera and travel near or far and take original photographs. Even if I was shooting iconic scenes or structures, I could do it in a way that made the image mine.
Now things have changed. Everywhere I go there are people taking pictures with cameras or phones. If I go to a well-known site, there will be 50 or 100 tripods set up in a row. Some of the results will make their way on to Instagram and some of the results will be very good. The one thing I can count on is that if I line up with them, I won’t get anything original anymore.
I found myself getting a bit depressed over this. I wanted the shots I took to be unmistakably mine. I wanted them to convey what I saw and felt at the moment I clicked the shutter. It occurred to me that if that was my intent that first, I needed to identify what I was seeing – how I was seeing it – what I was feeling – and how could I convey that?
Tall order. But it has led me down new paths of photography and has resulted in unique photographs – in fact, the most exciting photographs I have ever taken.
It became all about perspective. Not in the usual terms of perspective – but in new terms which gave different results. Traditionally, perspective in photography is about camera level – is it eye level – ground level – up on a ladder – or?
This perspective was more total in its content. It was about what was happening. What was the atmosphere – motion or still – my intent? Everything around my subject came into play. I found if I introduced camera motion with a long exposure, I would get interesting/exciting results.
Another way to photograph in an urban area was to look at my subject from a reflection. That way I could add altered reality to what I was going to shoot. Framing my subject in a different context allowed me to see it in a whole new way.
A simple street photo became very untraditional.
Plain windows sharing advertising on a reflecting window across the street take on more interest.
And sometimes, just the reflection itself becomes the subject on its own.
Another interesting perspective is multiple exposure. Taking a good look at a single subject from a few different angles is one way to accomplish it.
It’s also interesting to add camera motion to multiple exposures. An entirely different look and feel shows itself. It’s especially fun and challenging to build these kinds of shots in-camera and not rely on software.
Unexpected results occur when you take some random photographs of a specific area and merge them into a single composite. Everything is related but in a unique way.
An unexpected bonus came from this path. I found all kinds of interesting subjects that I had totally ignored in the past. I was busy looking for that perfect shot – you know – the beautiful, breathtaking image. Now I find breathtaking images all over the place. Common sights seen in unexpected ways net fascinating photography.
Here I worked on capturing the Empire State Building into a meaningful image that differs from what I usually see.
When I get one of those shots, it sends me out looking for more – and they are everywhere!
Experimentation has given me new insights in how I might want to capture subjects. It has given me new paths to explore. In the exploration, I have discovered new ways to see things and my own personal horizons have expanded beyond what had become a bit too ordinary for me.
The New York City skyline has been shot and shot and shot. I wanted to shoot it too.
These new horizons have been exhilarating. Every time I think I can’t possibly come up with a new approach, I find myself seeing some of the same old things in unexpectedly new ways and I figure out how to capture them.
What I have outlined above has been part of the journey I have been on with my photography in more recent years. For awhile I felt guilty when I went places and only took these non traditional photographs. But not anymore. I let all those people on Instagram do that.
PS – you’ll find me and my posts on Instagram too. Please stop by for a visit.
Please visit www.roxanneoverton.com — where you will find more photography and information on my instructional and travel series photography books.