I was looking at a photographers pictures recently trying to figure out what kind of advice I should give and having a difficult time of it, because I felt like they had perfectly decent pictures and they were a perfectly decent photographer, but I felt nothing for the images.

I recently re-watched the Johnny Cash movie, Walk The Line and even though it’s such a cliché for artists, it still sent tingles up my spine when the scene occurs where Johnny goes in to make his first record and runs into what must have been the most prescient record producer in the world, who delivers the mother of all lines to Johnny. Here’s how it  goes in the movie:

Hold on. Hold on. I hate to interrupt… but do you guys got something else?

I ‘m sorry.

I can’t market gospel.No more.

So that’s it?

I don’t record material that doesn’t sell, Mr. Cash… and gospel like that doesn’t sell.

Was it the gospel or the way I sing it?


Well, what’s wrong with the way I sing it?

I don’t believe you.

You saying I don’t believe in God?

J.R., come on, let’s go.

No. I want to understand. I mean, we come down here, we play for a minute… and he tells me I don’t believe in God.

You know exactly what I’m telling you. We’ve already heard that song a hundred times… just like that, just like how you sang it.

Well, you didn’t let us bring it home.

Bring… bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying… and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song… people would remember before you’re dirt… one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth… one song that would sum you up…

you telling me that’s the song you’d sing?

That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day? About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it?
Or would you sing something different? Something real, something you felt?
Because I’m telling you right now… that’s the kind of song people want to hear.
That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash.

It has to do with believing in yourself.

I hear the train a coming, it’s rolling around the bend and I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when…


That’s how I feel about photography right now. I want to see something real. I want to see something I haven’t seen a hundred times before. I want to look at pictures that make me feel something.

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  1. As a photographer, I feel the same way about my own work on a daily basis. But, that is the excitement.

    Much of the work I do for clients is the same ol’. Unfortunately, the best of the same ol’ ends up in my portfolio.

    I’ve advanced through many stages in my twenty year photography career, each beginning with new insights, concepts and ideas that I start to apply to my photography.

    I’m a busy photographer. It’s a never ending process.

    Currently, taking the time to create work that I feel really reflects my abilities at the highest level have become a priority. I believe this will take the next twenty years.


  2. > I want to look at pictures that make me feel something.

    How about my pictures of Notting Hill Carnival (see website address) ?

  3. Great post Rob. As a photo editor myself, I know just how you feel.

    So many of the images being made today are images that any one of hundreds of photographers could make now and have made in the past.

  4. indeed a great post
    and while we’re at it
    the same counts for music, painting, writing etc etc.
    wish I had more time to take photographs
    instead of shooting all the time.
    they just keep me too busy to go out there
    and then when I finally have a few spare moments…
    it is all too daunting to come up with something that falls into the discussed category, of truly new……………
    so back to shooting


  5. Good morning, what a beautiful thing to read when one is just waking up. Yes, APE is my morning cup of coffee today. Thank you.
    I am taking a sculpture class with Ed Inks. In his first lecture yesterday, we talked about art as prostitution (when you do exactly what you’re asked for money no matter what, without soul) and masturbation (when you do what you do just for yourself, without caring about the viewer). There’s a happy medium. I think photographers, we tend to do much prostitution and masturbation, conceptually speaking. Ed continued: “If you want to do art for yourself, go ahead, but keep it to yourself. People are allowed to masturbate, they just cannot do it in public.”
    I am very excited about studying with Inks.
    Peace, Isaac Hernandez
    “Making art is not like taking a shuttle to a known destination” Rauschenberg

  6. I don’t make pictures so YOU can feel something. I make pictures so I can feel something.

  7. *applause*

  8. I hear you! Realness is what makes my favorite photographers and photographs. To see a picture and forget for moment about everything but that picture and really feel for a second what is going on in that cropped view of time is what makes a great photograph.

  9. […] Rob Haggart, who runs a pretty good commercial photography blog, had a post today entitled “Here’s What I Think of Your Photos“. It’s a fair treatise on the power of photography to make you feel something emotional […]

  10. Nicely put and very true!

  11. Nice post.
    We make photographs because we want to.
    We sell photographs because we have something someone else wants what we have. It can be a finished photograph or a style.
    I try to approach every assignment with the idea that I am making photographs for myself first. If the work isn’t honest to me, how can I justify to someone else?

  12. Wow, great post. You’ve made me really think about my style and the way I shoot. I want to make pictures that make others feel something. Thanks.

  13. HA – the reason why all portfolios you see look the same is because photo editors need to be SPOON FEED. No one is willing to take a chance on a new guy (unless he is your friend and you have a cushy assignment in maui)
    Original, interesting photography is usually met with the same response….. “yeah, but do you have any shots of cute girls smiling?”

    editorial photography used to mean something, now its all about friends giving friends work.

  14. Exactly what I’ve been trying to make my students understand.

  15. To me, a big part of getting that expressiveness is getting to know the people you shoot and their stories and then catching them in one of their own moments. I see my job as capturing emotions, blending into the background as much as possible.
    One of the most powerful shoots I’ve done to date was of a woman who had lost two of her children in an unbelievable car crash. She and her remaining daughter met me in a park and I observed through the camera as they laughed and played and loved.

  16. Does that pay well to make “good” photography? Because, last time I’ve checked, the “good” pictures made by “good” or “very good” photographers wasn’t in the magazines anymore…
    I don’t want to be cynical, but when editors will be like you, pigs will fly!
    Nobody cares about great “soul” photography… it’s a shame, but I never meet anybody able to tell me:
    “hey man, shoot with your heart, you’re gonna sell more pictures…”
    I’m not a great photographer, not at all, but I sell more than other “great” photographers.

    P.S: be kind, bad english, I know.

  17. Gerald wrote was I was thinking. I guess that explains why stock sales are down ;(

  18. To some of the above posts:

    I think the point Rob is making is to be true to yourself. You don’t have to shoot to impress Rob or any other photo editor.

    Just be true to who YOU are. The point is to not shoot to please anyone but yourself and you will succeed.

  19. it’s easy (IMO) for a photo journalist to make you feel something. I’d like to see commercial shooters elicit the same “feel.”

    it seems sometimes like anything remotely polished or well lit gets shunned by the elite of photo snobs these days. i feel like in order to get acclaim these days a photo has to look like a 15 year old with a point and shoot took it.

    • @David Bean, I absolutely agree with your comment. The sort of work I would love to do would be both commercial, and emotional, but in order to do that, we have to work for brands who actually care about making a personal connection with their market.

      I also believe in making photographs as beautiful as we can, so clearly, technical production is quite important to me.

  20. and i know that photography is about capturing a moment rather than being technical. but to me the technical is losing too much ground these days.

  21. FINALLY! A post to chime in on! Funny, I’ve got that whole scene memorized and have used it in just such a situation, too, Rob. Hell, I’ve even tried to get my hair to look like that…

    From what I’ve seen on this very board, too many shooters are getting caught up in their equipment, acetate pages or no acetate pages in their portfolio, reps or no reps, flickr taking their work from them, digital backup, blah, blah, blah.

    Strip it all down, folks. Buy a roll of Tri-X (remember that stuff?), dust off that workhorse that got you through photo school, leave the equipment in the closet and go out and shoot with nothing but your SOUL in mind and then send me some shots.

    Quit whining about everything and how housewives with digital point-n-shoots are taking paying jobs from you. At the end of the day, your talent will carry you. Or it won’t.

    One of my favorite shooters I work with has one film camera, no equipment, no rep, I give him no direction other than an address to arrive at and he nails a job with three rolls of film. He shoots every job like it’s his last.

  22. All right Koudelka is a great photographer, but even if the pics are real, he’s from the same I-m-a-legend planet as Nachtwey or Burrows. I agree with you David, I shoot for me… not to impress x or y.
    But the point is, if the system (or the industry, whatever you call it) asks for low quality/price picture, even if you shoot for yourself, you gonna end up crazy by doing best seller meaningless pictures instead of high quality pictures you can sell to nobody.

    Doing great pictures requires you can afford to do it! It requires lot of money, time and commitment… exactly what the magazine don’t give to the photographers anymore.
    I think it’s ok to look at the best pic all the time, but it isn’t when you suppose that every body is doing so-so pictures because they want it… most of the time, they just can’t do more.

    oh by the way, great blog, I’m a big fan.

  23. Well, yes, maybe Koudelka is a bad example since he purposefully avoids doing editorial work and advertising in in order to maintain a certain raw relation to the world and his vision, his ‘rage’ to see(!) Cartier-Bresson advised him to not take on jobs because he had seen too many talented photographers trade their vision in for money. Since this is an editorial photography forum, the interesting question is of course how to do new and exciting work that the editors haven’t all seen before and to get them to take it and publish it? But this is harder to do within the confines of an assignment. Often, it is one’s personal work that is going to be the strongest and most original.

  24. Magazines and Newspapers are not exempt from delivering the same to their readers. I feel the same way about magazines I thumb through on the newsstand and decide not to buy because half the shit in there is one google click away.

  25. A great topic and one I’ve thought a lot about myself recently.

    I’ve spent the whole summer shooting for only me. Will the projects find a home when we’re done? I don’t know, but I don’t let the thought consume me.

    I go out everyday and only concern myself with my voice and the voice of my subjects. Is it idealistic? Damn right, but I’ve never been more content with the work I’ve been doing. I’m not taking a picture and in the back of my head wondering if an editor will be pleased with it or the fact that I might not be shooting enough verticals. The passion is the only thing fueling my creative energy. It never felt better.

    What’s the point of shooting if you’re just shooting for editors or awards? You’ll never be happy. We all know the best person to shoot for is yourself. We need to be putting a bit of ourselves in every picture we take. Sure I usually fall on my ass, but atleast I know I’m happy with what I’m working to create.

    It’d be a miserable life to create a body of work that wasn’t who you are. I wanna see you in your pictures I don’t want to see a polished turd you thought I’d want to see.

    There’s a great quote I like to call upon from a Business Week article when I feel myself getting in a creative rut. It goes like this:

    You remember 1/3 of what you read, 1/2 of what people tell you, but 100 percent of what you feel.

    Give me images that make me feel something.

    Rambling off.

    ps: If you care to have a peek here’s one of the projects I’ve been working on this summer that’s for me and only me:


  26. So I’m confused (fine art student…be kind), do I NEED to fill my portfolio with smiling 15 year old girls?…or the two cut-up-and- bloody-as-all-hell women playing tennis with light bulbs to get in?

  27. Your not a blind man seeing for the first time, you’re a photo editor. The only cure for this is to close your eyes for some time. We all take breaks away from our work, I’m a student, you’d think I would be the last person to fall out with photography. Wrong, I struggle every day to enjoy my photography and most days I fail. All the better for when that one, awesome photograph comes along.

  28. Someone asked me recently, what inspired me? The only answer I had at the moment was a very selfish reason ‘I shoot for me, I’m just lucky that others happen to like it!’ since then I can’t think of any other reason other than the one. I shoot for me.

  29. “I want to see something real.”

    I’d love to *shoot* something real. It’s getting harder to find real these days. Too much unreal passes as real, thus blurring the line.

  30. We’re photographers, everything we shoot is real or else we wouldn’t be able to shoot it.

    I’ve just read through everyone else’s comments and all I’m seeing is ‘Aim for the STARS!’ and ‘Follow your hearts true desire’. This isn’t a flippin’ Disney film, many pro’s shoot for cash, day to day business is putting food on the table. Inspiring photography is hard to come across regardless of how high the standards are. Working with photography builds an immunity to photography.

  31. @3 Very true and if anyone can shoot it the job is usually awarded based on price. However what are we as photographers supposed to do when client after wants the same shit?

    Last year I put my foot down and fired all but a few clients. Although I found new clients that get excited about my vision I found that I have to take the jobs that get the bills paid more then I like.

    So does the shit ball start at the advertisers? Are rags too scared to publish anything fresh because they don’t want to loose ad sales? Or is it that there is really nothing being done thats really fresh?

    Personally I think both. In my experience it always seems like about every five years art work gets complacent and it all becomes SSDD and the clients mostly need a heartbeat and a camera.

  32. Wow, what a great parallel! I’m going to try to keep that in mind as I go forward. It’s easy to get into the habit of just creating “good” work – photos that are technically sound and visually appealing. But where’s the heart? Where are those images that connect with the viewer on a deeper level?

  33. I know how you feel and I think the rush to digital has been responsible for making photography a lot more homogenous because these days everyone uses what is effectively the same film stock with same lenses. All the technical diversity that film gave you with different film stocks, developers and such like has been flushed down the toilet.

    The archane processing and printing secrets that photographers and labs kept hidden, are now photoshop actions that spread over the internet like a virus. The internet and digital photography make it very easy pick apart a photographers technique and copy it. Any one can find a picture they like and plunder the exif data for clues or post it on a forum and ask ‘How do I do this?’.

    Originality has never been so difficult achieve and so hard to maintain.

  34. Its taken awhile, but I guess we’ve all finally been properly trained.

    As photographers we know exactly what is expected of us. Regardless of how hard we try, that knowledge always creeps in and taints our vision. It keeps us in line. It keeps us from straying to far from the herd.

  35. Amen to Stoner. My Photographer has been awarded almost all of his largest national clients by this instinctual shooting practice. He prefers Hp5 to tri-x! But sometimes it takes him four rolls.

  36. @31: The shit ball starts with art buyers and creatives who don’t trust their own taste. They go with safe, and safe means what’s been done before.

    @21: Word. I assume you mean the Boogster himself. Met him at Powerhouse Books a few months back. Really awesome guy and a great shooter.

  37. Much of my marketing has focused on “good enough” photography is not “good enough” any more.

    With so much noise and so many web sites you need to stick out, make a statement and be remarkable (thank you Seth Godin)

    I tell my students that if they want to make it in photography, they need to bring something new to the table. Of course, easier said then done. But, with todays technology, “good enough” and average is easy to create.

    Yes, they often hire us based on a unique look and then direct the shoot towards and purchase the safe images.

    So, do I stop trying to be creative and create new looks? Of course not, but once established, I can see how easily it is to give up, fit into the mold and collect the checks.


  38. Ahhhh – a nerve was hit. Here’s my thoughts on your thought Rob:

    If you can no longer find good photography it’s time to move on to another profession because – even though I’ve been shooting for 35 years, I’m captivated daily by images I wish I had taken; images that speak to me and make me wish I felt what the photographer felt when they took the shot.

    My guess is that you are hoping to find photographs that satisfy assignments AND stir your soul. Yeah, well, one has to wait longer and search harder for that.

    It’s like decision by committee – a photograph that must appeal to large viewer segments will, by definition, NEED to be something broader than what stirs an individual soul. Think of it as creative dilution.

    There are those rare shots though, and as a guy who makes a living making photos for other people, it’s what I’m endlessly chasing. I love those moments that satisfy my client and my soul; just like a Johnny Cash hit record.

    Much easier said than done and ever more easily lamented about its rarity.

  39. Say it loud!
    Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing!

    Too true that.

    When I was an assistant the one thing I quietly learned one day was that the one thing that kills all good artistry is when the craft that a photographer naturally acquires as he/she progresses overpowers and belittles the imagination. It is so important to preserve a piece of yourself as you were in the 60 seconds before you first picked up a camera. That part of yourself is the part of you that will continue to ask questions and say “why don’t we do it like this?”

    And it’s that part of yourself that is the hardest to preserve and the most valuable to your future.

  40. Oh yeah – and the other thing is, the more you see the less feels new: Obvious but still hard to shake.

  41. Chris @ 40 – damn, I wish I had written that.

  42. I am a commercial photographer by day, and a musician the rest of the time. I love them both, but am realistic about their differences.

    Photography is commerce.

    Music is entertainment.

    At least to me they are. Music, when done from the soul, will stir hearts, give goosebumps, convey suffering, joy, sadness, elation, on rare occasions, within the same song.
    If you substitute photography for music in that description, well that sounds like photojournalism to me.
    I actually agree with you as far the same old same old pics being seen over and over again. I do think, however, that for many photographers, shooting from their soul as you say, making every picture they take be a testament to themselves just before they die lying on the road…well that could be career suicide. There has to be middle ground found if the job is commercial photography. Back in the early 90’s when I was an assistant, I worked for someone who’s name will not be mentioned. He was the “it” guy at the time. He had a definitive, unique look and was in demand. After a while he started to believe his own hype. He decided he knew what soul meant in a picture, and that he shouldn’t waver from what he believed in, and would make only the pictures he deemed worthy.
    He is no longer a commercial photographer.
    This got kind of long. Sorry. The long and short of what I’m saying is, infusing some of your own self into the making of pictures commercially can be a very good thing. Too much can alienate. If a photographer feels like they are not getting enough of their character into their commercial work, they might be able to satisfy it with personal projects.

  43. You can have what you want:

    1. Get married every afternoon
    2. Get divorced the next morning

    You will see photography in a fresh new way daily.

  44. I don’t know about you guys, but this internet thing has slapped me in the face. I remember before all this technology came along, it was a special treat to go to the bookstore on a Friday night, and see what photo-art books had come out that week. The point being — I didn’t really see that many images in a week’s time. But now, my God, by the time I eat lunch, I know who’s shooting what, I’ve seen BehindTheScenes YouTubes on the job, I know what hotel they stayed in, and I’ve seen twenty outtakes from the main chosen shot. And then multiply that times about twenty, and you get the full impact on what the internet brings to your brain. It’s good, isn’t it, this technology?

    The other thing, under the heading of “what’s real”, is the absolute invasion of Photoshop stripping, and massive post production. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t believe anything any more — I just assume, from the outset, that the heads have been swapped, the Liquify tool has carved out the perfect set of tits, all the moles and wrinkles have instantly evaporated, and this one “real picture” that’s in front of me is actually made up of five or so outtakes from the main chosen image. It just does something to your head, (I mean my head). It’s like a weird disillusionment, where you don’t trust or believe anything.

    Take that post from Photoshelter today, about that Zibert guy, and the Monte guy, that did the Adidas campaign — you watch the videos, and you see how much post is involved, and you just want to throw up your hands, and say Fuck It. You ask for “real” and you’ve got to compete with scaffolding, soccer stadium rentals, and several hundred extras? And the while the Zibert guy nailed it on several fronts, I thought the other images were very average, when you think of the money spent and the time invested.

    It just seems like you’ve got to come to the table Big, nowadays. There ain’t no Middle Class any more — there’s only the 5D Guys, and the Heavy Hitters. You’re either at The Shutters, or you’re sleeping in the rental car.

  45. @39 Soo true! I look at images all the time and see some that blow my mind and can’t help but envy that I didn’t get that shot or think of that concept! LOL silly but I know that it’s that feeling that we all want to fill…it’s an amazing rewarding feeling to have your client in-love with the same image you happen to be proud of as well.

    @45 I do share this feeling sometimes…the forever climb on that slippery mountain which just never seems to allow you to reach the top!

  46. Neil Young recently said that “a song can’t change the world anymore”. He was comparing the power of commentary and expression now versus commentary/expression back in the day, back when he (and Dylan and The Stones, even the Sex Pistols and The Clash and so on and so forth) were coming up. Things seemed so different then, more possibilities.

    I believe that Rob’s post doesn’t speak so much to what he, personally, is seeking but more to the general malaise that besets this time (now) and this place (the first world). It seems to me that here and now we’re stuck, mired, in/with a culture that has morphed from one of possibilities into one of cynicism and just plain tiredness. We’re tired of just about everything.

    I can only hope that it’s a generational thing, that the weather holds out long enough for the next generation to come up and rock our world.

  47. @ 39. Bruce DeBoer: Oh, I wasn’t saying that I can no longer find good photography. I see pictures every single day that I love and get excited about. I was trying to find a way to convey to someone the difference between a picture that is well made and one that has feeling.

    Also, I think there’s more to real than just photojournalism real. Even a composite that’s believable or gives you real emotion is real to me.

    @ 45. Thomas G: I see too many middle class photographers with no studio, studio mgr., agent, producer making it work to believe that’s totally the case.

  48. I agree with Cliff in response 10 above, and this whole post in general. Lucky for me I have a 3 year old that makes me feel all kinds of things every day. Seeing certain pictures I take of her make all those feelings rush back in an instant.

  49. very inspiring post. thanks!

  50. Rob, ….. this piece is excellent timing.
    Many thanks!

  51. @48 – Rob, I knew that – it was rhetorical. It’s clear to everyone how you feel about photography.

    As far as I can tell, every response has be on target in one way or another.

    The best shots I see reveal the human condition in a simple clear fashion. I don’t care what technique you use or how many frames are similar, if it reveals a strong emotion and causes the viewer to share it, then it’s successful. It’s a hard target to hit, however.

    It’s almost as if we have to abandon the pressures of “make it fresh” punditry. Look for what stirs your soul and capture it – PERIOD.

  52. Meaning you NO disrepect, instead of waiting for it, why not go out and make it?

  53. I forgot all about that scene and dialogue. What a great analogy it is for the way you feel. I understand what you’re saying …

  54. So, perhaps you can give us a few links where we can see work that would be a worthwhile example of what moves you, is fresh and real. As far as what I’ve read and seen of the responses so for, it doesn’t appear that anyone really can grasp what you’re talking about without examples. Seeing is understanding. Maybe.

  55. What a popular topic.

    The other part of the the equation is what happens when you sing from you heart and you are not sure if people are willing to listen. My breakthrough came at a workshop with an icon in the field. I was a great student – shot in a wonderful personal way and only later discovered that a person that we all love has trouble finding a place in the market as well.

    You can sing from your heart as we should and still work to find a market for that vision. It doesn’t happen by itself.

  56. @35: Thanks, Wendy – that’s the right (and rare) way to go!

    @36: You’re absolutely right, TNess: Boogie is not only an amazingly talented photographer, but he’s absolutely fearless. A few years in the Serbian army makes corrupt TJ cops look like kids’ play when they “detained” us and took Boogie’s film and all our cash. Good times…

    And I’m also talking about Adam Wright. Both of these guys shoot with and from their hearts. That’s it. For these two photographers, the project has to interest them and they have to be able to get emotionally involved. If they don’t see that in an assignment, they’ll walk away. Now, that can hurt both assigner and assignee, but those are the choices they’ve both made and they’ve both published insanely successful books.

    What does that say?

  57. Rob, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on ANP Quarterly.

  58. I make pictures Because I Felt Something.

  59. “One Google click away”, that’s brilliant. I must, we all must keep that in mind when shooting. Wouldn’t you say?

    Thanks, APE.


  60. I wonder if Boogie has ever submitted a ‘folio to Magnum? He should.

  61. @45, Image manipulation isn’t anything new, we started it a hundred years before Photoshop, it’s just as real as the rest of photography. A camera does not truly render reality, the lens and settings etc all take away from reality.

    On another note the internet isn’t going to go anywhere, this discussion wouldn’t happen at your local library.

  62. Great post Rob

    Being a fan of all things creative I had to chime in.
    After 20 years in photography, I can tell you I do because it’s who I am and that I find meaning in it.

    A couple of years ago, I made a conscious decision to make work that could sustain my family and touch the lives of others in a positive way. If couldn’t do it, I would get out of the business all together. A truly bold endeavor.

    This path in the beginning was a lonely one to say the least. I forced myself to only show work that I felt strongly about. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time or mine. I stopped caring about trends, who’s shooting what and how they did it. The world didn’t need more of the same and it would bother me when someone would say, “your work looks a lot like________”. At times, I thought that I was crazy and or arrogant for charting this course. But the path that I’ve taken has begun to bear fruit.

    I’m doing less and less bread and butter work and it’s not a direction that I want pursue. I don’t kid myself for a second, there are a lot of people who can do it and the competition is fierce.

    I the client side, I strive to work with those who share same core values and are champions of creative work. It’s much easier to get your vision across when you have a passionate ally in your corner.

    I truly believe that as a means of survival, we must differentiate ourselves and that playing it safe has become the new dangerous.

    PS Keep up the good work Rob, I think you’re onto something really great here.


  63. yeah feeling something – listining to music and dancing makes it certainly the art which is more directly connected to feelings then any other art. I’m not sure if a comparision to photography will get us far though.

    Photography is more a postmodern medium based on references if you try to make it too much in what you feel or in what you believe something kitschy usually results.

    I would argue that a Wolfgang Tillmans or an Araki or a Nan Goldin are in the category of “real” and something you can believe in. Especially all their early works. Maybe the early works of Antonin Corbin (although we are already in “feelings for advertising” territory here I would say)

  64. I had my “Cash” moment at a portfolio review about a year ago. The experience totally redirected my style of imagery. As a result, not all the calls coming out of NYC lately have been stockbrokers. Better yet, is when they ask me what the hell I’m doing in some place like SC – then its up to me to convince them I’ve got indoor plumbing and I’m not married to my sister…

  65. @ 40, Absofooginglutely, it’s theoretical bullion like that which makes me feel like I’m just wasting my time in school chasing a BFA under the direction of “dead-in-the-water” photography professors…and that maybe I should just put all my camera shit, my “what if…” mindset and a couple of granola bars in a bag and head out on a derive for awhile.

  66. BTW, That music producer happened to be Sam Phillips.

  67. Loved this post. Great reminder. Love the blog, fyi.

    I’ve seen innumerable blogs that attempt to diagnose the problem, that (even) do an amazing job of pointing out the problems, gaps, and down-road hiccups.

    I’d SO love it if you could spend some time to illustrate what photos you consider “real” and move you.

  68. i loved that scene.
    great post.

  69. What do you think about my pictures?


    I just took an amazing workshop at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (www.cpw.org), called “Art vs Commerce: Finding the Balance”. I had just been about to break down and make a ‘lifestyle’ portfolio of images that I thought potential clients would want to see, and just keep my ‘fine art’ portfolio separate from that work. I’m so glad I was steered away from that kind of limiting thinking! One of the main points that the photographer/teacher of the workshop makes is that it can be so much more beneficial to only show the work that reflects the purest version of yourself, rather than put yourself among the other 90% of photographers who are doing a lot of the same things as everyone else. If you stay true to yourself, you won’t be for everyone, but you’ll be for the right creatives that will benefit from your style. Maybe it sounds idealistic, but I can’t seem to bring myself to show anyone the more commercial work I’ve done (because it just doesn’t represent who I am, as a photographer), so I pretty much have no other choice. Hopefully I can keep it that way.

  70. Tough to be a photographer nowadays.
    Have your own style ? it won’t fit anywhere
    Don’t have a style ? it will fit so well everywhere but nobody wants it neither ;-)

  71. I loved your post, Rob! It immediately made me think of a book I read in Art School way back when. JD Salinger’s, Seymore an Introduction. In it they are talking about writing, not photography. Seymore say’s to his brother Buddy, “keep me up until 5am only because all your stars are out and for no other reason” As creative’s of any field, it is about achieving your personal best, of putting your soul into your work. It does not matter if you do photojournalism, commercial photography, or even wedding photography, if you are doing it with all of your heart and for yourself, it is felt by those who see it. The problem, at least for me, has been that life has gotten in the way, I need to make a living, other competition, industry standards, family stresses etc… I stop making work that is truly my best because I am trying to please someone other than me. Thank you Rob for reminding me what it is really about!

  72. I love that part of the movie… think about it often.

  73. It is difficult to keep up the passion and inspiration in your photography when most newspapers want standard imagery to fit fixed column width around adverts.
    Don’t fall into that trap…

    I am new to the UK editorial industry and believe strongly in shooting for yourself, even if no-one but you see’s those images.

    I previously wrote an article on my website about shooting for yourself – if anything to remind myself of why I take pictures.

    Check it out: http://www.mattkirwan.co.uk/technique/category/shoot-for-yourself/

    Hopefully it will inspire someone else.

  74. I like the scene in “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” when their target practicing and Sundance can’t hit anything. He says to Butch, “Can I move? I’m better when I move.”

    Butch says, “What the hell ya mean move?” Cassidy then drops down and rolls on the ground while shooting and hits everything.

    He did well because he did it HIS way and not the way he thought someone else wanted it.

    Unfortunately photographers often do things the way they think others want to see it. Of course their images have no soul.

    As a creative person we all need to bring our vision and style to the job. This includes everyone from designers and illustrators up to the almighty art director (last year I worked with one art director who is…well…he’s in the Navy now).

    Sing with soul — and don’t forget to reload!

  75. The most dynamic photographer I know right now not only shoots for herself but is truly interested in the subjects she’s shooting. With every assigment she makes a sincere connection with the topic or the person. For her it’s not about lighting or the perfection as much as the experience. It is the experience that is conveyed that I feel gives her photography a pulse and breath. I’ve seen so many photographers make it strictly technical and that’s akin to processed pop music, each artist barely distinguishable from another.
    As a photo editor my greatest joy was matching a photographer with a story that would not only be visually successful but also allow them to stretch their own sensibilities. It’s not always possible, sometimes it’s 5 mins with some CEO that treats the shoot like a visit to the bathroom. Hopefully more of the time it’s about making a picture that you connect to and thereby connects to the audience.
    thanks rob!

  76. This quote I pulled from one of the yahoo stock photography groups might offer some insight into why so many pictures leave you feeling empty:

    “Let’s not loose sight of something VERY important; stock photography isn’t about taking “great” photos, it’s about taking marketable ones. Making sure your images are market driven rather than “great” or just pretty pictures that you feel like taking will do more to ensure your success than any camera purchase.”

    I guess success is subjective. For me, I’d rather sell less and photograph things that interest me first than sell a lot of photos of stuff that I’m not passionate about. If I want to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge then I’m going to give it 100% regardless of how many people shot it. If I want to shoot teenagers smoking drugs then what is what I’m going to do to the best of my ability. Shoot first, ask questions later and your soul will repay you when you are laying on your death bed.

  77. […] couple weeks ago, Photography Director Rob Haggart wrote a blog post entitled “Here’s What I Think Of Your Pictures“. It seems to have struck a chord with a number of people, myself included. I am a […]

  78. I’m a relative newcomer to the world of photography, so I can hardly be considered (and I hardly consider myself) to be an authority. I’ve only been shooting DSLR for a year. At the same time, I’m not ignorant or naïve. I guess I could say… I may have been born yesterday, but I was up all night.

    What has kept my passion fresh was my decision to remove commercial enterprise from my photography. I simply don’t sell my photos. I give them away all the time, but not every time they’re requested because I don’t want my photos exploited or politicized.

    This has freed me up to shoot the things that I want to shoot, as opposed to taking every gig possible just for the exposure or the money. Wanting to shoot something versus having to shoot something is certainly expressed in the finished product. Since making this decision, Karma has paid me back ten times. I’m a better and happier photographer.

    I know this isn’t the solution for everyone. But when dealing with a true crisis of faith like the one described above, it may be just what the doctor ordered.

  79. Hello sir…nice point of view..can i repost this blog and will acknowledge you for this.. :D

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