The Internet and Photographer insecurity

The creation of a global internet community of photographers has many advantages. The sharing of knowledge and information, the opportunity to see the work of others and exhibit your own, and the chance to make contact with other photographers all over the world to discuss ideas and techniques.

However, I sometimes wonder what impact this has on a newcomer and also the effect it has in influencing peoples choices, both in terms of the pictures they take and the equipment they purchase.

There are now so many websites, forums and blogs out there that its often difficult to navigate your way through it all. If you are also a little unsure of both your picture-taking skills and equipment handling, it can be easy to be influenced by those who seem to have greater skill and knowledge. It can also generate insecurity in your choices, replacing satisfaction with doubt.

A few examples to illustrate.

I look through images on flickr quite often. Occasionally I will come across a picture that has enormous amounts of positive comments, has been nominated for this and that and received "awards". Some of these images are inspiring, some are good examples of a style but some are downright terrible. It happens on forums also. There are some photographers who post pictures and a flood of "we're not worthy" posts follows. Again, a lot of these are ordinary at best. This genuflection is often accompanied by a mutual admiration society series of embarrassing "Your picture is great" "Well so is yours" "I've always admired your work" "Its you who has inspired me" exchanges. Its a real case of the kings new clothes. A kind of cosy, back slapping, masonic like, fraternity of photographic mediocrity.

When I was taking my first tentative steps in Photography I devoured photographic magazines, where I was introduced to the likes of Ansel Adams, Bill Brant, Eugene Atget, and Henri Cartier Bresson. I and I'm sure many other photographers were inspired by looking at their images. Now its "nikonstreetartist" from texas who gets all the plaudits.

The same is true of the photographic pundits. "So & so said this", and "so and so thinks this is a better camera". There are posts devoted to the sayings and pronouncements of these "photographic worthies". Again everybody gets on their knees like Wayne and Garth and every word from on high is treated like the Ten Commandments.

If you've been around for a while and have some confidence in your choices, then you can see these things for what they are. But what if you haven't and you're not? The number of posts of the "I can't decide which of these two cameras to buy" "I took this yesterday, is it any good" variety are numerous and never-ending. As are the inappropriate responses. There's one particular self-styled photographic "guru" who chips in with the same "I'm not interested in this, I use such and such and find it suits my needs" response over and over again. So how are people supposed to respond? "Oh yes since you have pointed out to me my pathetic attempts I will immediately do and think what you do" Not!

A few of my own guidelines I've used to help promote self-confidence and banish guilt and doubt.

1. Trust your own judgement more. Instinct exists for a purpose. If it lets you down you'll soon know & you can adjust accordingly.
2. Think more about pleasing yourself rather than others. If we shoot pictures that we enjoy looking at, the chances are that others will enjoy looking at them to.
3. Its really useful to understand how cameras work, and the technical aspects of photography, but the more test charts you shoot won't necessarily make you a better photographer.
4. People should earn YOUR respect, don't grant it just because others do.
5. If you feel like buying a set of red cameras with matching camera bag just because you like the colour, then go ahead. Its your money.
6. If you genuinely need help, take a cross-section of opinion and weigh it against your own. Feel free to reject advice you're not happy with.
7. Just because someone gets a lot of attention and approval from others doesn't mean that they should get yours.
8. Just because someone is insulted and reviled doesn't mean that they are wrong. (Small plug for Ken Rockwell)
9. Don't contribute to threads to promote your own agenda and to "show-off" in public.
10. Don't praise other peoples work just to get them to praise yours.
11. Develop your own "eye" and don't change your way of working, just because others work in a different way.
12. Treat all photographic "rules and practices" with suspicion. But be prepared to use them if they are the best solution.
13. Be prepared to make mistakes.
14. Be prepared to stand your ground when you are convinced you are right, but be prepared to admit you are wrong if its proved otherwise.
15. Have faith in your abilities, or faith in your ability to improve.
16. Its not a crime to own more than one camera.
17. Its not a crime to want to own and use the best equipment.
18. Opinions are like a*******s, everybodies got one.
19. The Internet contains vast amounts of useful information, it also
contains some of the most appalling drivel ever created.
20. If you live in a (relatively) free country you are free to make your own decisions and choices, within obvious moral and legal constraints, so exercise that freedom, but do so responsibly.

As ever this a personal commentary and is not intended to criticise others personal preferences.