I’ve mentioned before that I like taking the sort of photographs that I like. If someone else likes them too then that’s a bonus. Given that I’m an expert on the sort of photos I like, and that I’m a pretty normal, regular guy you’d think I might have an idea what other people like too. The fact is that I don’t.
I have a Flickr site where I upload a good portion of the decent photos I take. Flickr’s great because the more people who look at your photos, make comments and mark them as favourites, the more “interesting” your photos are. The most interesting photos uploaded each day end up in the Explore section of the site. You can see the 500 most interesting photos each day and look at random interesting photos over the last 7 days, month and so on. Generally you find the most interesting photos are also the best, although that’s not always the case – I often find photos and think “what the hell is that doing there?” – but I guess they’re interesting to somebody.
I have quite a few photos that currently show up in the Explore section of Flickr (17 at the moment, with a few inside the top 40 of each day – and I even had one in the top ten for a couple of days). When I see one of mine up there I frequently think “what’s mine doing with all those amazing photos?” – I’m my own worst critic sometimes. Here’s an example:
While doing the Ingleton Waterfall Walk and getting pictures of – wait for it – waterfalls – I spied this simple scene and thought I could maybe make something interesting from it. When I got home I looked at it and thought “well, it’s okay, but there’s no foreground interest” and left it alone. The other day I was looking through my photos, spotted it and thought I’d do a quick process and put it on Flickr. Much to my surprise it’s been very popular! I’d never for a moment have thought people would like it.
Conversely some of my favourite photos that were much more difficult to see, compose and take than the one above have been met with a wall of silence, like this one for example (which is one of my favourites):
My girlfriend agreed with me that the hill photo was okay but not great and she liked the black and white so much that she wants it framed in the kitchen. That’s high praise from her – normally if I suggested printing out one of my photos her first suggestion would be to put it in the toilet!
I guess if you want universal appeal you have to go for the simpler, less arty shots that people can instantly make a connection with and don’t push the boundaries. Still, since I take photos primarily for me, I don’t need to sacrifice art for popularity and can keep doing what I’m doing. But don’t worry, I’m sure the odd shot that you’ll like too will slip through my “Flickr interesting but not John Conners interesting” filter – as I said, I frequently get it wrong!