Last week on “The Grid” we were doing our popular “Blind Critiques” episode (where viewers send in their best images for us to critique on-air, but we don’t give the photographer’s name — we just to through and review their images).
Anyway, in this episode we ran across this series of shots sent in by a photographer; they were scenes of some interestingly lit buildings in an office complex/entertainment area, most notably a “Hampton Inn” and the buildings nearby. While the shots were technically correct (exposure, composition, sharpness) they were just find of “nothing” shots. We were actually struggling a bit to describe precisely why these shots were so lackluster, when I viewer (JWPhoto) sent in this very insight comment that I think absolutely nailed what was happening in these photos. He said:
“These are ‘Hunting Shots.” This photographer is hunting for a photo, and these just say “Is this it? How about this?” Nothing that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and says “Here! Look!” –JWPhoto
I knew he was right, because I’ve been there myself so many times when I’ve been standing in front of a scene that looks really great while I’m standing there, but then once you put the camera to your eye, and start taking photos, you’re not seeing images that look as cool as the scene. So your start hunting. You start “working the scene” to find a way to express what you’re standing in front of in a way that people viewing your image will hopefully think, “Wow!” too. That process of working the scene — that’s really good, and it’s what we should be doing — working, hunting, experimenting to uncover that image.
So, where did this photographer fall down then? He never “found” that shot, yet he sent in his “hunting photos” as examples of his best work to be critiqued. He sent in the photos he took before he ever found a really intriguing shot, or a really unusual angle, or composition, or some other unique thing that would make anyone look at his image and think something more than “Well, it’s properly exposed.”
I posted the episode above, and if you scrub over to around to 1 hr, and 20-seconds mark, you can see the critique of this photographer’s work, and why we were struggling so much to put it into works (which is where JWPHoto can in and really gave it context and meaning).
It’s OK to have “Hunting Shots.” We all do. I have thousands. But it’s our job as photographers to be good editors of our work, and to not add those hunting shots to our portfolios. Every time we go hunting with our camera, we shouldn’t expect to always come away with a prize. It’s unrealistic. But our job and our challenge (and what makes all this so much fun) is to keep hunting until we do capture that prized image. When you get it, you’ll know.
The hunt is on! :)