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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Nature Photography: How To Eliminate The Competition

With the advent of digital photography, it seems like photographers and their images are everywhere.  Some sobering statistics:

  • Based on 2013 data there are 350 million pictures uploaded to Facebook A DAY
  • In 2013 Facebook hosted 250 BILLION images (sure, a good portion of them are my pet cat riding on the back of my pet dog, but many of them are also good photos).
  • Image Shack 20 BILLION images
  • Flickr - 135 million images FREE for use under Creative Commons
  • Salable photos?  In 2015 iStock had 11.3 million while Shutterstock has over 42 million of them.   
  • Microstock too cheap?  How about Reuters 25 million, Alamy 19 million, AP 6 million, Corbis 4 million

Yes, there are images everywhere. So how do you eliminate all that competition?  It can be done in two easy steps.  Here's how:

  1. Ignore them all.....forget about all those millions and billions of images and hundreds of thousands of photographers you think you're competing with
  2. Become your own biggest competitor.  Try to make images that speak clearly and loudly and are meaningful to YOU. And then try to make your next one speak even more clearly

One thing is for certain, and that is that with the explosion of digital photography you could literally be learning new techniques all the time and not spend enough time on any one single technique to master it.  You could literally study so hard that you might never have time to actually make a good photo.

I can't be an expert at Milky Way photography (even if I could find a dark sky where I live), light painting, panoramas, HDR, HDR panoramas, focus stacking, video, time lapse and a host of other modalities and styles.  I can't photograph at Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Southwest or any number of other places throughout all the seasons and at all times of day. I can't be an expert at all those things.  I can only hope to learn the techniques that advance my style of imagery.

Recognize that you can't eliminate the competition.  Moreover, why would you want to?  Their audience is different from your audience.  But if you are true to your vision and make images that speak to you and for you then you will garner an audience that likes hearing what it is that your images have to say.  They will be YOUR audience.

There are 7.62 million people in the world as I write this (you gotta check out that link for real time world population!) and they won't all be interested in my work.  They won't all be interested in your work.  But wouldn't it be nice if a few hundred or even a few thousand really cared about what YOU produce because it also has meaning to them? You can't attract those folks by copying somebody else's work. There is already an audience for that work.  And why would that audience come see you try to copy that style when they can see the original? You can't attract people by trying to do something that you aren't passionate about. It will show.

The secret then, I think, is to make photographs of things that you care about, that you are passionate about, and to welcome with open arms the audience that speaks your language whether that encompasses 5 or 500,000 people.

And, by the way, I am not implying that you shouldn't learn new techniques or visit Yosemite to make photographs.  But do it because it is something you have developed a true passion for, not because you think it is a card that needs to be punched on the way to stardom.

This writing was inspired by a post on photographer Stacy Butera's blog, which got me thinking about these issues.

<Steps down from soapbox :)>

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