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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Weddings & Other Family Events Talk 
Thread started 14 Apr 2010 (Wednesday) 19:03
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Originality: is it overrated?

 
bnlearle
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Apr 14, 2010 19:03 |  #1

I posted this on the blog today...

http://bobbyearle.com …rrated-for-photographers/ (external link)

I've actually never once, not even for a day, in my 7 years of shooting thought or worried about being original. I've never tried to be original, either. I also, all to often (imo), hear other great photographers constantly nagging other photographers to "be more original, damnit!" I hate when I hear it.

What do you guys think? I'm curious as I've found in my comments and some emails that there are a fair amount of photographers that agree -- and I thought photographers would strongly disagree with me (assuming what I'm saying would lower the bar of good photography).

Bobby

UPDATE: Just so it's clear -- I'm NOT talking about the bride and groom overlooking our great/original shots. I'm more specifically talking about how to achieve (or not to achieve) originality.

As the blog post goes further into, I believe that STRIVING for originality -- just so you can be original -- is the last way to get there. Where if you merely strive for truth or sincerity in your photography, you have a much better chance at striking "original" gold.

Bobby

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Peacefield
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Apr 14, 2010 19:43 |  #2

It depends on your definition of original.

If we mean the term to suggest that we're always inventing and creating a style that no one's ever done before, I'm not so sure very many really deserve that label. Musical artists like Johnny Cash and The Beatles can reasonably lay claim to being original as they pushed their art, indeed even their entire industry to new places. Yet, though their styles were unique, we know that they actually built on a long musical heritage. Only that last 10% was truly original. Photography is obviously a creative profession and we should always be challenging our vision. But even those who can do it are really only bringing that last 10% and placing it on top of work done by others that served as earlier influence and inspiration.

I like to think of the term "original" in a different way; one that suggests flying in the face of convention. It's about people who don't pursue a market but pursue the art for which they hopefully find a market. When you consider the most significant names in just about any art: music, writing, radio/TV personalities, comedians, etc., the very best typically do it for the art. Consider someone like George Carlin. His act was his act. If the market moved and demanded something happy and flowerey, he wasn't about to change to satisfy it. He did what he did, and if the market did move, he'd either perform to an empty room or stay home. That's an Original.

In a far, far, far humbler sense, I like to think I bring some of that. I'm only in the infancy of my career at this, my prices are still rather modest, and I'm not inventing anything new. BUT. in the face of where the market is headed, I'm deliberately swimming against the tide. I'm doing more traditional images, I'm doing more posing, etc. Ulitmately, I'm shooting the types of images I'd want in my album if it were for me; I'm shooting for myself. Happily, there's a market out there for what I'm doing, albeit a small one. Just as happily, it's also vastly underserved. But if this market niche were to dry up on me, I don't suspect I'll suddenly make a change to some new approach. My style is my style and I like it. If it stops selling, well, then I guess I'll stay home that day, too.


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mathogre
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Apr 14, 2010 20:10 as a reply to  @ post 9996595 |  #3

If you're doing wedding photography as your livelihood, I would imagine that getting "original" would help to quickly shorten your career. Imagine the thought of doing a wedding with a Lensbaby or shooting it in IR. Both would be cool. Once. Maybe it would be cool twice, but I doubt you'd be hired a second time for such avant-garde wedding photography. Most people want something very traditional to remember their wedding. Getting "original" for someone's wedding is likely a quick way to become "irrelevant" or "unemployed".

Originality has its place, but then so does tradition.


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Jimconnerphoto
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Apr 15, 2010 19:08 |  #4

originality gets them to book, consistency gets them to buy.
Many shots that I feel are fantastic looking and original, even when the bride and groom oo and ahh are not the shots purchased.


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Pigsy
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Apr 15, 2010 19:29 as a reply to  @ Jimconnerphoto's post |  #5

Yep, I have to agree.
We all would do well to remember that brides and Grooms are NOT Professional Photography Judges.
I also struggle with the dilemma of "should I try and reinvent the wheel" at every wedding, and it's taken me a long time to realise that Wedding clients really don't want us to do that.

Sure maybe on a shot or two in each wedding they may possibly appreciate something a little bit "out there", but in general, they know what they're expecting. After all, they've seen it for years, starting with their parents album, then their older sisters/brothers album etc and more recently in their friends weddings etc. If we try and force them away from the style(s) that are regarded as traditional wedding imagery, they won't like it.

In conclusion, it aint the place to be trying to introduce new forms of imagery. Sure, use it as a bread and butter income, and let's practise our wowser new ides on flowers, kids, abstracts, but not an industry steeped in tradition and standards.

Just my 2c

Jim..


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bnlearle
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Apr 15, 2010 19:58 |  #6

Just so it's clear -- I'm NOT talking about the bride and groom overlooking our great/original shots. I'm more specifically talking about how to achieve (or not to achieve) originality.

As the blog post goes further into, I believe that STRIVING for originality -- just so you can be original -- is the last way to get there. Where if you merely strive for truth or sincerity in your photography, you have a much better chance at striking "original" gold. :)

Bobby

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dgirl33
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Apr 16, 2010 02:18 as a reply to  @ bnlearle's post |  #7

I fully agree. Really, when it comes down to it, no one is really that original anyways. Someone, somewhere has probably already tried any creative idea I get. The most original people are usually just the ones who have figured out who they are as people, are okay with it, and are not trying to 'be' anything but themselves...and they're generally a tad bit crazy;) Sincerity is where it's at.

Although, as a wedding photographer we are working for our clients. They hire us based on our portfolios. If each wedding we shoot is so entirely unique from the last one and our style is always pushing the envelope they're not really getting what they expect from our portfolio. Different is not always better from a consumer standpoint. When art simply serves as a form of personal expression you have the liberty to recreate yourself with every work, but most people don't want to be surprised when they receive their wedding photos, imo. They're expecting what they saw when they hired you. It's part art, part business.


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Jimconnerphoto
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Apr 16, 2010 10:56 |  #8

I didn't actually read your blog post. I assumed your question was what your thread title stated.


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digitalphotocandy
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Apr 16, 2010 11:06 |  #9

dgirl33 wrote in post #10005036 (external link)
Although, as a wedding photographer we are working for our clients. They hire us based on our portfolios. If each wedding we shoot is so entirely unique from the last one and our style is always pushing the envelope they're not really getting what they expect from our portfolio. Different is not always better from a consumer standpoint. When art simply serves as a form of personal expression you have the liberty to recreate yourself with every work, but most people don't want to be surprised when they receive their wedding photos, imo. They're expecting what they saw when they hired you. It's part art, part business.

I agree, but then with most weddings there are a few minutes to try something new, to go out on a limb and create a portfolio piece that that particular couple might not like, but that the next one will. That's how we've grown and changed over the years. But from a portrait sales standpoint, you can take a million creative images, but the ones that ALWAYS sell are the B & G full length smiling for the camera.


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Apr 16, 2010 11:12 |  #10

mathogre wrote in post #9996680 (external link)
Most people want something very traditional to remember their wedding. Getting "original" for someone's wedding is likely a quick way to become "irrelevant" or "unemployed".

Agreed. People want to look good. They don't give a flying f--- about originality. Maybe another photographer would, but it might be the first fight experienced by the happily married couple.

Since this was posted in a weddings thread, some of the answers have focused on this aspect of originality. Speaking more broadly, I don't think one can train oneself to be original. When the attempt is made, we see a lot of random images in the vein of handing a kid a camera and telling him/her to go out and take pictures. It's also the sort of thing that beginning photography students do. So you get lots of images -- usually black and white -- of stop signs and utility wires and things reflected in puddles.

I think the harder you try to be original, the more it will elude you. You'll end up with a lot of poorly though out images that, if you're lucky, some rich person will decide is fine art. I do think, however, that one should be experimental in pursuing a vision that is self-edifying. If you find your eye and your art becomes compelling enough for others, they will deem it "original".

I also think it's an ongoing process. If you get to the point where you think you've "arrived", then you start dying at that very moment.


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RT ­ McAllister
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Apr 16, 2010 12:19 |  #11

I'll become "original" when the scripted weddings themselves become original.

Honestly, 6 full catholic ceremonies in a row can get pretty damned monotonous. (At least from a 2nd shooter's perspective). I swear, even the same guests are showing up now. Especially the one with the screaming toddler I've been hearing each week.




  
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Apr 17, 2010 10:33 as a reply to  @ RT McAllister's post |  #12

Very "original" thought. Ironically.

And very liberating, indeed. Very good read. Thank you, Bobby.


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images ­ by ­ Paul
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Apr 17, 2010 11:52 |  #13

I think that clients want to see a combination of the traditional and original. Brides want to see that their images aren't like anyone else but don't know that they also want the traditional things.
The kiss at the alter is a traditional shot but can be captured in a number of different fashions. That goes with almost every traditional shot. What we, as photographers, see as original is different than what a client sees. The first kiss, that is in black and white, from a different angle and is 3/4 instead of full length could be viewed as original but is it?
On the flip side, you have Doug Gordon from NY who's approach is that a bride comes into his studio and sees an album that she likes. Well if she books him, that's exactly what she gets. The same poses, angles and coverage. That is what his "flow posing" is all about. 40 or 50 poses in a particular sequence that can be done in about 10 minutes. And he does them exactly the same for every wedding. His feeling is that if you give them something different than what they saw, it's misleading. Is that original?




  
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dche5390
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Apr 18, 2010 04:34 |  #14

Do whatever it takes to bring home the bacon!


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Peacefield
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Apr 18, 2010 05:44 |  #15

images by Paul wrote in post #10012559 (external link)
On the flip side, you have Doug Gordon from NY who's approach is that a bride comes into his studio and sees an album that she likes. Well if she books him, that's exactly what she gets. The same poses, angles and coverage. That is what his "flow posing" is all about. 40 or 50 poses in a particular sequence that can be done in about 10 minutes. And he does them exactly the same for every wedding. His feeling is that if you give them something different than what they saw, it's misleading. Is that original?

Once again, it comes back to the definition of originality. Doug's weddings are certainly not very custom, and though the individual poses themselves are not that original, his idea to lace them together in a way that allows you to produce many looks very quickly is original. Or at least, so he claims it to be, and many purchases of his DVD's and card decks apparently agree.


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5D3, 5D2, 50D, 350D * 16-35 2.8 II, 24-70 2.8 II, 70-200 2.8 IS II, 100-400 IS, 100 L Macro, 35 1.4, 85 1.2 II, 135 2.0, Tokina 10-17 fish * 580 EX II (3) Stratos triggers * Other Stuff plus a Pelican 1624 to haul it all

  
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