Don’t worry about that crappy photo you took. It’s gonna be okay. Here’s why.
Over the course of conversation, I showed someone pictures I had taken, some of which were of my kids. This person smiled, enjoying my carefully composed works of art. When my turn was over, this person pulled out their phone to reciprocate.
A flip phone.
I showed appreciation for the photos of their kids. I mumbled a few compliments, trying to mirror their enthusiasm, meanwhile thinking: That shot would’ve been so much better if you moved the camera over here and got down to the same level as your kid. And when shown the next image—”Look at that, she’s so cute,” this person beamed—I was thinking: Sure, your kid’s smiling, but it’s a little blurry; you moved when you took it. You know there’s a delete button, right?
The images I was shown weren’t appalling, but they definitely weren’t works of art either. By some standards (mine, evidently) they might’ve even been a little crappy.
And that’s okay.
I’m not saying the photos that this person was so proud of will grace magazine covers, but did you catch what I was so quick to dismiss?
Emotion. Feeling. Connection.
Those are the things that great pictures are made of. Moving or still. They draw you in and hold you tight, compelling you to linger or continue watching. And their technical quality may have nothing to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong: composition, lighting, color, perspective, etc. are all important. In fact, these may be what first draw you in (especially when there’s not a pre-existing bond to the subject). But in today’s economy of double-taps, swipes, and likes, it’s often something else that makes one take pause and rest a while. And we are inundated with beautiful images.
It’s not enough to make a technically superb image.
Sure, the proud parent knew they weren’t taking award-winning photos, but that didn’t matter. They didn’t care about the image quality. It was the memory of the event, not the depiction that gave the image meaning.
It is the response to the work that gives it substance.
I’ve watched beautiful movies that I didn’t care for because I couldn’t connect with the characters. And I’ve watched movies with bad effects, but absolutely loved, because the story drew me in.
One last little thing: I was a little misleading with the title, artistic excellence does matter. That is part of what first draws someone to your work. From there it’s the emotional response that engages.
Some things have a built-in emotional response. No skills required. The popularity of kittens on the internet comes to mind. For other things, however, that artistic touch is needed to bridge the gap between the audience and your art.
If the work accomplishes its goal of conveying the message, connecting with the audience, and making them feel something, then a stray shadow, slightly mis-framed image, or off-color color temperature might not matter as much as you think they do.
Personally, I tend to think in terms of visuals and not emotions, but I’ve found that if I excel at connecting with the audience and creating that emotional response, my image need not be as flawless as I think it should.
Anyone else find this to be true?
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