Why do I shoot what I shoot?

On the surface of it – I don’t know!

In his blog post called “Image Autopsy” Canadian photographer David Veldman writes that “every now and then, all photographers should stop and ask themselves: ‘why do I shoot what I shoot?’”

Good question… I have some idea of an answer but I cannot articulate it just yet…

He says that he has been guilty of shooting thoughtlessly, but no more and goes on to say that that after understanding why he takes images, he can reverse engineer the process, and take more images with purpose and intent.

This is the second time in the last few months that I have read something which has made me stop and think about my photography in a more reflective way. The other day I was reading Kent DuFault’s guide called “The Art of Seeing”. He opens with the question “what would you like to achieve with your photography?”…

Another insightful question, which after so many years of taking photographs I do not have an immediate answer to…

As an academic, reflection is something I do often. I reflect on my research, I reflect on the development work that I do, I reflect on my own learning… just about everything really… why then is it so hard to reflect on my photography? My gut reaction is to say “because its meant to be something fun, something different to work!” But actually, I think deep down I know that is more than that to me. Yes, it is a hobby that helps me to relax and be creative, but I would also like to ‘do’ something more with it, that is the crux of the matter.

Back to Kent’s guide for a moment. He provides some suggestions for discovering your own way of seeing so that it becomes something conscious:

  • Bookmark and study 20 images from other people that immediately catch your attention (in less than 5 seconds): what are the consistent elements across all 20?
  • Now identify your top 20 images that have the most likes, shares, comments from a social media site (for me this could be my 356project or ViewBug I guess)
  • Sort this list from my favourite to least favourite photo
    Are there any elements in your own photographs that echo the elements from step one?
  • Then identify your top 20 best images, disregarding other people’s thoughts
    Now from these three groups of images, cross reference commonalities between them – these will be the clues to “your way of seeing”


Kent points out that “discovering your way of seeing may not happen all at once…. As you begin to have self-discovery through the process, try to apply that knowledge whenever you are creating new photographs”. Application of what I have learnt – again something I do in my working life…

So where to next?

I’ve set myself the task of really thinking about these two questions over the next week or so: why do I shoot and what would I like to achieve with my photography? Then, I shall move onto trying Kurt’s suggestions and applying what I’ve learnt.

So a mini-project! I shall of course be writing about my journey as I go along.

2 thoughts on “Why do I shoot what I shoot?

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