Why and How: Defining Your Photographic "Why"

Do you know what all successful photographers have in common, besides having 10 to 15 years of photographic experience? They have a strong photographic “why”.

Thanks to their purpose, these photographers more easily feel motivated to create new series and new photographic collections.

Perhaps you have not tapped into this source of inspiration yet?

If you have not done so already, then it is high time you do, so that you can live out your passion with renewed fervor.

This is what I am going to explain to you in this article.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

Abstract conceptual photo of a landscape of Petrified Forest in Arizona. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Abstract conceptual photo of a landscape of Petrified Forest in Arizona.

The Little Story of This Article

When I began practicing photography professionally in June 2003, I was more focused on my desire to seize opportunity than my desire to become an entrepreneur.

Two years earlier, I had arrived in the United States. At the time, I was giving scuba diving lessons as a freelancer.

I also used to take underwater photos. I animated photo workshops for a diving center. One of my trainees who was a lawyer inspired and encouraged me to establish my own company to sell photos and to eventually apply for a green card. At that time, I only had a visa.

Thus, with great luck, I started my career as a professional photographer.

After three years of hard work, my professional situation had hardly improved. I was still at the same point that I had been three years prior, and I was noticing frequent periods of discouragement. I decided to follow a marketing training course in photography which lasted several months.

Technically, my pictures were good. I was working with several magazines, but I was struggling to make a name for myself. I could not stand out from the crowd. I was stagnating, and this was frustrating.

One of the first things I learned was that even if I could be particularly good at photography, I was not remarkable. To be remarkable, one must have a designated path, a purpose which propels them towards confidence and success. This purpose was missing in my life. I did not know why I had chosen photography.

I had not defined my photographic “why.”

When I made this discovery, I was skeptical. I did not understand what this notion of photographic “why” could be used for. And yet the trainer insisted heavily. He made me practice different methods to define my purpose.

After a few months, I finally understood its interest and its power.

Still today, every day, in moments of doubt, I repeat it to myself like a mantra. Without it I would not be where I am today.

I will explain why you need a strong photographic “why” if you want to create interesting pictures. You will understand how it sustains you in your photographic profession. You will see why it allows you to stand apart from other photographers.

Every Good Photographer Has a Photographic "Why"

For me, a good photographer has the following qualities:

  • He creates consistent and coherent photographic collections.
  • He has a clear and well-defined photographic vision.
  • His work is relevant as time passes.
  • He knows how to reinvent himself to newer and bigger audiences.
  • He is pugnacious. He will make sacrifices for greater excellence.
  • He understands that photography is a true medium of expression.

A good photographer is not necessarily someone who is well known and talked about in magazines or shows. A good photographer is not necessarily a media figure.

I have met many good photographers in exhibitions, festivals, seminars, and workshops.

Once the presentations are over, I always ask the presenter or author, "Why do you practice photography?”.

Although the individual is often surprised, they always answer me. That is when I realize that I was not wrong: they are quite good at their work.

All of them have a valid, deep, and well-defined reason for practicing photography. This is a sine qua non. All good photographers have a photographic why.

Definition of the Photographic "Why"

You will not find in the dictionary, a definition of the expression "photographic ‘why’". I have created it from scratch.

The photographic “why” defines the personal reasons why you practice photography. It defines the meaning of your photographic practice.

By definition, the word “meaning” is:

« The reason or the purpose of something, that which justifies it. »

The word reason means:

« That which explains or justifies an act. »

Combining the definitions of meaning and reason, I can say that the photographic “why” explains the meaning behind your practice of photography. Your photographic “why” gives the reason why you are a photographer. It justifies why you chose this medium of self-expression.

In my opinion, the definition of the photographic why is the most important act for you. It is a foundation on which you can construct the building of all of your photographic practice and work.

Due to my experience, I sincerely believe that without a clear photographic “why”, a photographer cannot last in time.

Defining Your Photographic "Why"

Defining your photographic “why” allows you to better direct your creativity.

When you choose to make a new photo project, you will do so by marking your route correctly. You will avoid becoming lost in your photographic meanders.

Once you have defined your specific goal, you can select different objectives that will help you achieve it.

For example, for my photographic “why” relating to nature, I do not diverge into portrait photography or architectural photography. I always stay focused on what I have chosen and defined from the beginning.

As I focus on my goal, I specialize more and more. I am getting better all the time. I am strengthening my foundations and my skills.

You can have similar results. Your photographic “why” will allow you to perfect yourself and strive for the excellence you are searching for.

Defining your photographic “why” will also allow you to stand out from the crowd and create photos that are different from the others.

I am not saying you are going to create better pictures than other photographers. I am just saying you are going to be different. You will be noticed. You will be appreciated for your unique work.

Indeed, the more you specialize, the more skills you will acquire. The more you will progress. Your style will assert itself as you become different than your peers, and this change can be remarkable.

Defining your photographic “why” will help your photographic creations to last as time passes.

Defining a photographic goal with time-scaled objectives will allow you to think of long-term consequences. You will produce consistent, coherent, and timeless products. This is your legacy.

Defining your photographic why will also give you a lifeline to hold on to when you are in doubt. Since you have chosen a creative activity, there will be many periods of doubt. Some challenges will be difficult to overcome.

With a clear and precise photographic goal, you have something to fall back on when you are in doubt. When you are struggling to understand the meaning behind a project or when you are struggling to decide, you must consider your photographic “why”. This will help you to find the answers, address an issue, and move on to the next one. Everything will fall into place as you progress.

Defining your photographic why allows you to gain confidence in yourself.

These few reasons should help you to clearly define your own photographic “why”.

Before I give you some methods of defining your “why”, let me give you some examples.

Some Examples of Photographic "Why"

 

I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos