The Importance of Looking at Photos as Well as Shooting Them

Chris Gampat Film scans from pinhole and personal 2014 (2 of 17)

Think about why you got into photography. You were probably inspired by someone else or you liked what you could create. Then you went about researching how to become better. To that end, you probably ended up studying the work of specific photographers, looking at them, etc. That went onto looking at the work of photographers in Flickr, 500px, Instagram, etc. All that time, you were not only looking at images and building your own understanding of what pleasing images look like, but you were trying to figure out how you could do that too.

This act of looking at photos, internalizing them and pondering over them is something that is so incredibly important to a photographer’s growth. The biggest reason: you never stop learning.

The ways a photographer actually learns involves not only experimentation, but also by being inspired by others. This is isn’t necessarily theft of ideas or photos, but it’s a known fact that the entire art world influences one another with creative ideas being formed, repurposed, remodelled, modernized, and remarketed. The only way to truly get original ideas is to find a way to specifically translate your own creative vision and influences into something that is incredibly, specifically exact to your liking. Even then, it’s not a guarantee.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 90mm f2 first impressions photos (12 of 13)ISO 2001-1500 sec at f - 2.0

There are artists in this world that refuse to look at other art, listen to other music or even gain some sort of outside influence beyond what’s in their head. And that’s common for every photographer to want to do this at one point or another. Musicians do it–they take acid trips in the middle of the desert to gain influence and ideas for records.

Photography though–like other art forms is about passion. Sharing that passion and translating it into something that you truly love is tough to do unless you learn from others. So while you try to cut out influences, you also should try to incorporate it into what’s know as your own creative photographic style. Think of it as your own photographic signature–when anyone sees that photo they’d be quite positive that you took it. It’s not a watermark, it’s in the feeling that the image gives off.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm Xt10 review photos (7 of 27)ISO 16001-1000 sec at f - 1.4

As you start to look through the work of pros and more established photographers, you also tend to see this. Chase Jarvis has his own look. As does Zack Arias, Jeremy Cowart, Ben Von Wong, etc. But you’ll only get yours by finding a way to truly channel these ideas in your own specific and highly personal creative vision.