Not all of my photographic work is portraiture...
Much of my editorial photography steers completely away from my work as a portrait photographer and focuses on places and things. In fact, most of the photographs I take in my free time are of these other nouns.
Of course I love making portraits when I travel outside of Tokyo. After all, I am primarily a portrait photographer. To me, there is nothing as special as making a human connection and photographing a new friend. But, the non-human elements that one finds throughout their travels are just as helpful in creating a sense of place as the people we encounter along the way.
It is rare that I take a photograph that could be considered epic. Most of the photographs I take don't even deserve a post on my Instagram feed. But, every time I click my shutter I do aim to document something, even if I am doing the documenting for my future self. In the same way students take notes to assist in their cognitive processing of information, making images helps me form a sense of place and helps me place myself in a new environment.
I take snapshots that will later spark memories. I take snapshots to help me reflect on my overall experience. Yet, the snapshot is not only taken for reflection later on down the line. When I pause to take a photograph, I actively acknowledge my subject and focus all of my attention upon it. When a frame is print or publication worthy, that is just the icing on the cake.
On a recent trip to Thailand, I was admittedly snapshot happy. I loved every second of my time shooting frame after frame of everything and nothing. Snap. Snap. Snap. I got into a rhythm of shooting and moving on instead of pouring over every aspect of the shot, shooting the scene dry, hemming and hawing over my exposure levels until I was grumpy because I wasn't making "the perfect shot."
Professional photographers take hundreds of thousands of photos a year. But most of these images are just snapshots. That's okay. Despite what many pro photographers will say, snapshots are just as important as those grandiose, larger-than-life images all photographers seek to capture and share.
Snapshots are quick, fun, and easy. They don't take a great deal of thought and only require us to focus on composition. But more, snapshots are equally as capable of telling a great story and helping viewers (and their authors) gather a sense of place.
When I got home from Thailand, I quickly imported and backed up all of my files (a lesson any seasoned photographer has learned the hard way). When I started reviewing the frames, I noticed a trend. I had spent much more time photographing non-living nouns than I did making portraits. I usually have a pretty balanced collection of images. But on this trip, it seemed as though I had focused on things instead of making crisp, portraits.
I am fine with taking a breather from portraiture and shooting something a bit different. I am fine with the fact that I shot a massive collection of Thailand snapshots instead of grinding those epic landscape panoramas and exquisitely lit portraits out.
Snapshots are more than what they are given credit to be. Not only do snapshots help to tell the story of a place, they will in some way help me hone my skills with my one true photographic love; portraiture. Years from now, the snapshots will also jolt my memory and remind me of a relaxing trip to one of my favorite countries in southeast Asia.
What do you like to take snapshots of when you travel? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!
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