Back in the dark ages when I used to write the editorial for our summer issue, I’d often implore working photographers to take a break during the Christmas holidays… by taking more pictures. But for themselves this time rather than for clients. Many pros were happy to put the cameras away on Christmas Eve and not go near them again for several weeks or, if they’d had a particularly good year, maybe for a whole month. It was just too much like hard work to lug them out purely for pleasure… and then there was the rigmarole of processing and all that film stuff.
If you can remember those days, you’ll also know that the digital era has made it a lot easier to take pictures whenever the urge occurs. More than likely you have your work cameras and your ‘play’ camera. Right now my D-SLR kit is tucked up in its roller case, but next to me on the desk is my mirrorless camera, ready just to grab and go. And, since we’ve had a particularly colourful spring in the garden with blossoms galore, I’ve been snapping away at every bloom which has appeared over the weeks. I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with these images, but it’s a nice little portfolio and, really, does it matter if the only outcome is that I’ve just had a bit of fun (and some frustration trying to make honeybees co-operate!)? As it happens, I probably will create a little AV with some suitably springy music and bore a few friends with my endeavours, but I started out simply as a reaction to the welcome appearance of colour after a particularly dull winter. That’s all it takes and, of course, the beauty of digital capture is that you don’t have time to overthink it or, indeed, be put off by any ‘logistics’. And, incidentally, apart from a bit of a crop here or there, and the occasional tweak in Levels or Brightness/Contrast, there’s no post-camera chores to dampen the enthusiasm either.
So my – ahem – Christmas message is still pretty much the same. Keep taking pictures, but different ones and, if you haven’t got a play camera, it’s time to get one (Dear Santa, etc., etc.). A change is as good as a holiday here… and even better if you make the change while on holiday. Your play camera doesn’t necessarily have to be something new, but I’d caution against dragging out that 4x5-inch field camera you last used in 1978… there’s a good reason why it hasn’t seen the light of day in all this time. You really don’t want to work that hard at playing… and immediate results are always a good motivation to keep going with whatever little project has got you going in the first place. Actually, I’m a bit reluctant to use the word “project” here because it implies some sort of formalisation and what I’m suggesting is entirely free form… you see, you like, you shoot, you like. If it leads to anything else, great, but the main objective is to recharge the creative batteries by doing something completely different… and this means, unlike any commercial job, starting out with absolutely no plans at all. Without getting too New Age woo-woo, it’s a case of waiting until the spirit of photography moves you… and then going wholeheartedly with the flow. And a small camera really helps here too (no, put that smartphone down… it’s a work tool anyway). Recently I’ve taken more fun pictures with my little mirrorless camera than with anything else… but, though I say it myself, they’re not snaps. I’ve got a couple of lenses and, perhaps more importantly, I still want to have all the technical functions that I’m likely to need because, in the end, it’s still about achieving the results that I’ve envisaged… even if I am doing something different. It may be an impulse, but I still want something to show for it… after all, this is part of the fun too, and undoubtedly an integral part of photography no matter what or how you’re shooting.
It’s about getting back to what got you taking photographs in the first place – before there were any ideas about turning it into a business and the inevitable change in emphasis that this brings. Rewind to that initial enthusiasm, enjoyment and excitement… take pictures just because you want to for the sheer pleasure of it and nothing more. You will see things differently. Guaranteed.
All of us at ProPhoto wish our readers, advertisers and friends a very happy, peaceful and photographically rejuvenating holiday season.
Paul Burrows, Editor