I had a conversation the other day with a photographer/visual artist, about a piece I am planning on sharing. It’s essentially a screen video of me creating my final Red & Black piece. We talked about how much of what you do you should keep to yourself. How much info should be shared with the general public? This doesn’t just apply to photography, it applies to life in general. With the increasing popularity of social media we get to know more about people’s lives on a daily basis. While there are some people I have on Facebook who I wish would share less detailed information about their lives, it’s generally interesting to see what people are up to. Twitter gives us access to people’s lives who we wouldn’t normally have access to. I follow a wide variety of people on my Twitter account: photographers, people in the fashion industry, actors, models, athletes, and friends. I am able to write messages to these people and they are able to access my profile, and from this technology I’ve had some pretty cool things happen. People have found my work who wouldn’t normally have. All these platforms are ways to share information with many different people in a matter of seconds. As an example Lady Gaga has (at the time of me writing this) 10,396,538 Twitter followers, think about that. That’s roughly 1/3 the population of all of Canada. She can send out a tweet that will eventually be viewed by all her followers, and reach all those people within a matter of seconds. Think about the ways you had to reach that many people before social media existed…. good luck. But how much information is too much information?
In talking with photographers I’ll often ask where an image was taken, more out of curiosity than anything else, and the response I usually get is “I can’t tell you”. When I ask why, they often can’t give me a straight reason, although I know the reason, I just ask to see what they’ll say. It’s like they’ve discovered the fountain of youth and don’t want anyone else to stay young with them. They are inevitably afraid that I will “steal” their location and go shoot it and their idea won’t be original anymore. First off, when was the last time you saw something that had never been done before? Sure there are some photographers who are doing things that are fresh, but as a general rule, it’s all been done. I’m guessing the first person who discovered HDR photography is pretty pissed that secret got out. Although if you think about it, Ansel Adams and photographers before him were doing a primitive form of HDR with their photography & darkroom techniques.
So how much is too much sharing? I’ve always been very open with my photography, anytime anyone asks me questions about my images, I’m happy to answer them. I had someone email me, they said “I’m sure you don’t want to share your secrets, but do you mind me asking what lighting you used?”. I happily responded with a 2 paragraph answer with my lighting placement, lighting power, exposure, etc etc. I’ve always been the type of person who likes helping others, and if I am able to help someone with their photography I am happy to do so. Chase Jarvis recently broadcasted a live photo shoot for free, and he has been a consistent voice in the community of sharing and openness in photography. I find it inspiring, and he talks all the time about how important it is to share information. Photographers in general are very proud, they want to be unique and different, which is great, but don’t let it get to a point where you close all your doors. If you’re worried about people stealing your ideas, or copying your style then you should never show your work. People will figure it out eventually, even if you don’t tell them.
SARCASM ALERT: always keep your work to yourself, you wouldn’t want anyone finding out how it was done. You’ll find great joy in no one ever seeing your work, and you will grow exponentially because of it. end alert
Share your work, share your ideas. You would want others to do the same for you…. wouldn’t you?
One thing is for sure though: when I finally perfect my flux capacitor, and install it in my Delorean, I’m not telling anyone how I did it. I want to be able to time travel in peace. Sorry everyone, but that’s one thing I’m keeping to myself… I have to go now… I’ve said too much already.
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