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How to keep images fresh

Photography is probably one of the hardest industries to break into and make a living out of it, especially now with so many amateur’s having access to the same quality of equipment and post processing software as the professionals.

One way to make your work stand out from the amateur images is to constantly develop your style and craft your images. I have been going through a lot of my older images lately for a project I am working on and it is quite interesting to see how my style has changed over the years and also I have seen a pattern emerge when it comes to my subject choices. Looking back through my images, I have realised that subconsciously I have about a two-three year cycle where I get really focused on one subject and then change my focus to another subject while maintaining a signature style across all the images.

When I first moved to New Zealand, I had just finished working on a photo documentary focusing on travel and portrait project in Nepal. Since New Zealand was new to me, I continued focusing on the travel images spending just about every weekend and holiday exploring the country.

After about a year of constantly traveling I started to get bored with shooting just travel and landscape images and started to focus more on portraits. This is when I started to do a bit of work for some magazines shooting a bit of fashion and lifestyle portraits as well as doing modelling portfolios. When I transitioned to the portrait work, I had to refine my lighting skills since doing travel and landscape images, I was usually just relying on natural light or a speed light usually on-camera.

Though I did enjoy working with people and being more sociable, it was pretty obvious that I was not a fashion photographer. If given the choice between heading out to the beach or getting dirty on the local trails or spending the day in a studio on set, the fresh air and adventure would win every time. So being in Auckland, I found myself spending quite a bit of time shooting in/around water- sailing, surfing, kitesurfing, wake boarding. When working particularly with surfers/wake(kite) boarders I found the directing skills I learned during my portrait period enabled me to control the shoots a lot better than my previous attempts at shooting athletes.

I still love getting wet and shooting water sports, but from a photographic standpoint, after a while most surf shots do look similar and it is really hard to find a fresh angle to shoot from. So after awhile I gravitated away from the beach and the surf scene and got involved with triathlons both shooting them and racing them. Again, particularly with the swim leg I was able to utilise the skills I developed shooting from the water in the surf to shooting in the open water of a swim. Part of my training and interest in triathlons developed from my background as a cyclist and mountain biker and as I found myself spending more time around those kinds of events and athletes I naturally started shooting the events and athletes.

In the last year, I have moved out of Auckland to Rotorua which is a world class mountain bike destination and have been doing lots of shooting here. So far mountain biking in particular has offered me the most diversity as far as shooting goes. I regularly have to incorporate the lighting skills developed from my studio days since a lot of times the light in the forest is quite dark and by adding a light to the scene really makes the rider pop. Also the sheer diversity of the different types of terrain the trails go through make for interesting images.

Also I have found that since I have become a father, I have been shooting a lot of images of my son and am now getting more interested in shooting portraits again, but instead of focusing on models and fashion trends, I am more interested in shooting “real” people and capturing their personalities and documenting the relationships in families.

It might be a side effect of my ADD that I can’t stick with one subject for more than a few years. I do take my hat off to those shooters that can stay excited about one genre for their whole career. But for me, I have found that as soon as the images I am shooting start to feel boring and repetitive I need to change things up. But at the same time the skills I have developed while shooting the various topics have improved all of my images.

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