You may or may not relate to this, but I am at the stage in my photography when selling prints and exhibiting my work are attainable goals. I guess what this means is, I have a photography business. Along with the marketing and recordkeeping stuff, the amount of time I spend photographing and the type of photographs I take should be in line with my business goals. That would be considered good business sense.
So why would I spend several hours photographing something that is an unlikely subject for prints and exhibits? I recently spent several hours over a long weekend photographing dragonflies and for no tangible reason. Practically speaking, the most I might get from a dragonfly photograph is a stock image (among a zillion other dragonfly stock images), maybe one that's artsy enough to consider selling as a print (doubtful), or to submit to a photo contest (a definite possibility). From a business perspective, all those hours spent photographing dragonflies will provide little, if any, monetary return.
My obsession with the dragonfly began one evening when I noticed by chance hundreds of them hovering around some bushes. The evening light was warm and soft and the sun still high enough for good lighting. I came back with the camera and spent almost an hour with the dragonflies.
I couldn't wait to get back to them after that first session. So for the next few days, I spent most of the golden hours available with the dragonflies. I was obsessed with capturing dragonfly images of varying sorts, backlit, frontlit, solid backgrounds, dynamic backgrounds, colorful flowers, multiple subjects in one image, and so forth.
So this got me thinking, why bother? Perhaps there are intangible benefits to one's obsession. Here's where I think we, as photographers can benefit from allowing ourselves to get sidetracked into photographing an unlikely subject.
- Practice time. Compared to not photographing, time spent shooting improves your camera skills, one way or another. If you are a bird photographer, you don't need always need birds to practice your craft and enhance your technical skills.
- Creativity unleashed. I truly believe that as you go from one shot to another of a subject, you begin to develop a sense for that subject. This frees your creativity and provides you play time for experimenting with lighting and composition.
- Learn something. I never paid much mind to dragonflies until now. As with any new subject, I want to learn about it, so I have been researching dragonflies as a result of my photo shoot with them. And there is a joy in that. When it comes to wildlife, I never get over the fascination.
- Teachable moment. Use the experience to teach others and/or add it to your workshop offerings. Photographing dragonflies may not be a priority for a new photographer, but macro photography in general may be. Your experiences simply add to your expertise and credibility.
- Reputation. Submit to a photo contest and/or upload images to a photo community website. The time you spend photographing a specific subject gets known to other photographers. At the very least, you can see their images of the same subject and learn from them. You may not want to be known as a "dragonfly photographer", but let's face it, when you photograph dragonflies, you ARE a dragonfly photographer!
The next time you see something that captures your eye, get obsessed and put that camera to good use.