Originality? Good luck with that!

Wildlife photography is a bit different to other genres of photography because, try as you might, you’re never going to produce anything original…everything we do is just a pastiche of what’s gone before. As a street photographer (in a previous life) everything I shot was original…it had never been done before. And that’s simply because human beings, in all their activities in everyday life, never do the same as other humans: facial expression, walking, gait, behaviours, emotions, mood swings, friendships, interactions with others, situations and the world in general. And it seems to me that’s primarily down to the complex environments we choose to inhabit and the way our complex brain functions, spontaneity of behaviour, emotional responses to everything around us etc etc. And it seems to me that we are unique in these regards.

Now here’s the thing: I suggest that other animals just don’t behave the same. Say what you like but I’m pretty sure that birds for example don’t interact with their environs as humans do with theirs. In general terms, with the odd exception, bird behaviour is pretty predictable…likewise, I would suggest, is the rest of the animal kingdom. For sure there are rare examples of animal behaviour throwing a curved ball now and again and surprising us all…but…in general what you see is what you get. And for that reason it’s gonna be hard, if not impossible, to photograph animal behaviour that is a one-off unique shot of a one-off set of unique behaviours. Animals do what they do! The only thing that is ‘unique’ is the photograph of a set of behaviours that has not been seen by us before. Doesn’t mean the behaviour is unique…it’s simply that it’s never been photographed before. And that’s what a lot of us try to do: capture that fleeting moment that’s never been captured before. But you can bet your life that it’s not unique behaviour on the part of the animal.

When we photograph, say birds, we like to show the animal in all its detail probably perched very nicely on some tree/post/feeding station etc. Ask yourself the following: how many photos of robins and kingfishers (in the UK) are available to view on the world wide web? Millions? Quite probably. And it’s down to the technology and readily available modern photographic equipment that makes it so. How many photographs of birds are taken every day? Certainly there are some that are spectacular and not seen before but in general it’s ‘same old…same old’. So we might as well sell all our ‘gear’, stop taking pics of animals and spend more time doing something more productive…yes? Well, no. Not really. So where do we go from here? If you’re happy taking pics simply for your own pleasure and don’t really care what others think then fine. Nowt wrong with that. If you’re a pro then more than likely your target audience will determine the type of photographs you take. Some of my target audience want nice pretty pictures of animals nicely posed or feeding. Fine. If that’s what they want then I’m happy to oblige. But there’s another reason why I take photographs of animals: I too want to capture that fleeting moment, that glimpse into an animals behaviour that’s never been seen before. But I’m not so egotistical to believe that I’m photographing something unique! I know that I’m just taking a shot that few have ever seen before…it’s not unique animal behaviour. And if I like the result then I’m happy. But don’t think others will feel the same. Let me give an example…I photographed a close-up of a large flock of Avocets coming in to roost and managed to capture the subtleties of the way they vied for position, wing action, leg positions etc. and I was quite pleased with the finished shot. No background just a tack sharp image of hundreds of black and white birds captured full-frame. I happened to show the photo to someone who knows little about bird behaviour and even less about photography. Their response was, ‘That’d make nice wall paper’!!!!! How would you feel?

So how can we make our images a little more original? More of this in the next post….

Stay safe my friends and think about how you might get ahead of the originality curve. More next time👍

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