Picture: Sunset over the green east bay hills looking toward Mount Tamalpais in distance, from Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California
I admit to sometimes being surprised by the reactions to some of my photos. In this case, it started innocently enough; a client licensed an image. The photo was open in Photoshop. I like sharing my photos on a social media and a few photography sites, so I think, “Great, I’ll share this one.”
My over-riding impetus with using these sites is simply to share my work. It’s not a matter of seeking fame or validation, but rather a simple belief that (most*) photos are meant to be seen; not kept hidden away from view in a file cabinet or hard disk drive.
Now I personally don’t like playing numbers games with photos, whether that be in the number of views, votes, favorites, likes, +1, rankings, etc. Photos should either elicit a response, in which case the may be deemed as being ‘successful’, or they fail to elicit a response. But does that latter result make an image a failure?
It’s hard, if not almost impossible to avoid the psychological correlation between numbers to the sense of success or validation of an image (or a person).
So, with the exception of social media ‘celebrity / superstar’ photographers, i.e. not ones who shoot movie stars, but rather those who have hundred of thousands or millions of fans / followers, since I don’t think their big “numbers” means their photography is any ‘better’ or ‘more important’. (In some cases maybe yes, but in many cases, not.)
I love it when a photo I share gets lots of response. It feels good. And that’s OK; it’s a natural reaction.
However, sometimes I post an image which I think will be warmly received, only to have it greeted with the sounds of chirping crickets. I certainly try not to let that register as a disappointment or failure. In some of those cases, I’m left scratching my head, wondering what I see in an image that others aren’t seeing? Why don’t they get the same reaction I have? In my opinion, it’s an impossible question to answer because we’re all individuals with unique life experiences. So rather than dwell on it as a failure, I simply move that image into a category I call ‘Personal Favorites’, which is not the same as “My Best” – but rather an “I don’t need anyone to like my image(s) if I like it,” category. After all, we create photos for our own inner reasons, right? It shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks about a photo we’ve taken, especially if WE like it. Period.
On the other hand, I also like to post images that I call “‘tweeners.” That is when I post an image that I think is a nice shot, but I’m not 100% over-the-top in love with it, or do I think it’s what I’d call a Portfolio Shot. The reason I love to post those types of images on these sites is exactly what happened with this image; it connected with people in a huge way that I just wouldn’t have seen or even guessed about had I not shared it in the first place. It’s that surprising, unexpected popularity or reaction to an image which constantly reminds me of the other side of the coin, that viewers see things in my photos that I sometimes don’t. They ‘Get it.’ I just wish I knew what that ‘it’ was.
The above image isn’t even listed in my East Bay & Diablo Valley Scenics Special Collection gallery on my web site. Now that I’ve seen how people react to this image, I’ll certainly have to correct that the next time I update the gallery. Also, ‘buried’ on page three is this image from the same evening, which I personally liked a bit more, and thought it might be nicely received when I posted it to some of my online venues. Nope; crickets. For this image (above), I almost expected an equal level of crickets chirping, but instead was greeting with a chorus of virtual applause which completely caught me unexpectedly off guard.
Now, if you’ve managed to read this far, I’d love to know if you’ve encountered similar instances with your own images? If so, by all means, please feel free to share a story and a link to the photo in the comments below.
* OP ED Note: photos of Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus, and the Kardashians bad behavior antics should be kept locked up & hidden away… forever.
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Image ID#: lmo-2206<
Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.
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