The scourge of the “beautiful place”

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This post is meant to be provocative, so don’t take it too literally.

But please, please, pretty please: stop going to beautiful places to take pictures!

First of all because 99% of us will came back with the same picture, preferably often without even moving from the most obvious & crowded viewpoint.

And then because it’s way too easy! Where’s the fun in that?

The key in being noticed in the overcrowded photography scenario of today is “contast”. If what you do contrasts with what anyone else is doing you will be noticed. If what you do is “shooting the n-thousand effing rocky beach at sunset with an ND1000 filter to smooth the waves out” you won’t gain that a cursory look from all but the more illiterate – visually speaking – viewers out there.

Being able to capture the interest of your viewers has more to do with the way you express yourself – either visually or in writing – than the place that you’re taking pictures of (or the plot of the narration you’re writing about).

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Speaking of narrative: have you noticed that a lot of it follows the simple-but-effective plot rules of the “hero’s journey”? But, somehow, every good movie or book still feels different. That’s the author’s ability: to put under a completely different light a well known structure.

The same applies to photography as well. Our best work happens when we manage to show in a different perspective a common place.

Besides, as David duChemin* ¬†aptly put it in one of his podcasts, you won’t be able to create good work the first time you get to a new place. You will have to put in the work, instead, and this could mean days, months or even multiple trips across the years to the same place.

*If you don’t read anything else on his blog, at least just read this. It’s a life lesson in just four short paragraphs:
We bounce

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Not everyone has the kind of support that will let him do this – a magazine, a foundation, family money. But at the same time everyone can “be a traveler in his own place” and dig deeper than any journalist or traveler there only for a short time could ever do.

So, please, forget about the beautiful place, and start taking pictures of your neighborhood instead. What? You are a landscape photographer so you don’t take street pictures? Even better. Then start taking pictures of places you know well. I can assure you that you will come back with MUCH better photographs than going for a week in India or hiking in the Scottish Highlands. And if you really have an itch to explore new places, at least do so for real. Be original! Step out of the viewpoint! Don’t serve us the same picture over and over.