I’ve been reading a bit lately about how some of the different photographers whose work I follow approach their craft. For a group of artists whose work I uniformly admire, it strikes me just how different their working methods are, sometimes even being just about the opposite of one another. Some in the group study their subjects and plan their trips very carefully, others just show up and react to what’s there. Some are incredibly technical in managing their camera work and image processing, others are surprisingly hands-off and embrace getting unexpected results. Some do not look at the work of other photographers or artists, others study such work very closely. In trying to reconcile these differences, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.
First, the process really isn’t that important, it’s the final image that matters. When I see an image that takes my breath away, my reaction doesn’t depend on, for example, whether the image was captured digitally or with film. Rather, I’m captivated by the subject, the light, the composition, or whatever it is about the image that I find moving. A good image is a good image. Rarely, if ever, does finding out more about the process change my opinion as to how much I like the image or not. Technique need only be good enough to execute the desired image, no more, no less.
Second, there’s many ways to produce fine results in photography. Just because one artist does things in one certain way, doesn’t mean you have to do things in that way. The proof of this is in the fact of so many artists working in such different ways, and all producing admirable, high quality work. The better approach is to know yourself – how you learn, how you work, and what works best for you. Certainly be open to learning how others approach their craft, but only adopt such methods if they make sense to you or complement how you work, and certainly don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s just one way – a “right” way – of getting things done. There’s many paths available to get to the same destination.