Photograph What You Know

Lines in Four Directions- Angie McMonigal Photography-4509
After posting about Finding Your Vision a few days ago I was thinking a bit more about how to determine what it is you like to photograph and how to most effectively express yourself and your vision through those images. The key, I believe, is to photograph what you know. For some of us this may be easy to determine, I know architects and engineers who photograph architecture…seems like an obvious choice given their existing knowledge. And they often excel at this genre. For others with a strong interest in nature or gardening, landscape or macro photography makes sense. Many street photographers seem to have an innate ability to understand the human condition, perhaps because of certain things they’ve experienced in life.
My point is that whatever your life experiences, interests or career choices have been they can give you clues as to what direction to follow. These experiences and choices define who you are and how you perceive the world. The more thoroughly you understand your subject matter and yourself the more unique your vision and ability to express that through your photography becomes.
While this took me quite awhile to figure out, perhaps because my career choice wasn’t one I was exactly passionate about and because knowing where I fit in/where I was comfortable took me longer to determine than some. What I’ve come to realize is that, while I may not have loved my career choice, it was very detail oriented and indicative of my nature…this certainly comes through in the way I photograph. For the longest time I was painfully shy, always feeling overlooked and like the outsider looking in, particularly where I grew up, but once I moved to Chicago it felt very much like home…interesting what being comfortable in your surroundings can do. These perceptions, emotions and traits finally came together for me and allowed an understanding of my unique way of seeing the world. Generally photographing my surroundings, the city and its architecture, in a detailed way, noticing what is often overlooked.
The point is to focus on what you know, whether that’s a particular subject matter or emotion…or even better, both.

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