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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reactive Or Proactive?

The new travel photography paradigm

Only one letter separates the words "take" and "make," but their meanings are worlds apart. A picture-taker is merely reacting to a situation, waiting for a stroke of inspiration to gift him or her with a picture worth shooting. A picture-maker, on the other hand, is more proactive, looking into a situation’s potential and creating or finding, either through research, shoe leather or talent, the less obvious but more telling photograph.

A picture-maker is more inner-directed; a picture-taker is dependent upon circumstances beyond his or her control. One of the reasons travel photography has been such a popular pastime is that when you’re thrown into a foreign culture, almost anything you point your camera at is exotic and different. It was picture-taking at its easiest and most fun.

But to really reach the next level in your travel work, you can’t be satisfied with easy exoticism. Merely going to a far-flung place and taking snapshots isn’t going to work anymore because, thanks to digital photography and the Internet, everybody has been everywhere and has a camera, even if it’s only in a smartphone. So these days, everybody is a travel photographer.

Anybody can go on a photo tour with a DSLR or a good compact, and given the right conditions and a good leader, come back with professional-looking travel photos. But many of those photos are, unfortunately, no longer worth a dime a dozen, literally or figuratively.

Due to tremendous oversupply and diminishing demand, coupled with the explosion in the number of photo tours and location workshops being offered, the old travel photography paradigm of exotic snapshots fails to impress many people these days because so many more people have “been there, done that” and millions more have seen it on the Internet. So you’ll no longer win photo contests, make stock photo sales or land assignments with these types of pictures. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are more sophisticated and niche audiences out there, and more portals (albeit, many of them unpaid portals) to reach them. These portals and their audiences have an insatiable appetite for new, different, more personal and in-depth explorations and stories of the places we visit. So the demand is there, but it’s for something that calls for a bit more work on the part of the photographer.


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