Maybe you’re like me when you find yourself rushing to complete a project or maybe you’re frustrated. The Muse is lost and you feel scared. The pressure increases and you fall back into a visual auto pilot of sorts. Visual auto pilot might be best explained as falling back to something you do well or even great. It is living in the safe zone and not pushing yourself and your vision to new levels. This is really easy to do but it can be a really bad habit. I confess; I have done it more than I should. But then, doing it once is more than you should.
When you do this, you get good images but not great images. For me, visual auto pilot is shooting a classic tight portrait of someone–a Steve McCurry-ish image. Honestly, I don’t know why I love photographing faces so much, maybe because I love people. My very first photo that spoke to me was a picture I shot of my Dad reading the newspaper. I must have been only 10 years old but it said something to me. It was a black and white photograph of a man I loved and admired. It showed a man of confidence. It was intimate. I grew up looking at images of our family in our personal photo albums and many were tight close-ups of family and friends. All seemed so personal and intimate. Maybe this is why I love shooting portraits.
However good the reason is, it is a bad habit to shoot the same thing the same way over and over. Some might call it style. I call it lazy. I have to push myself to step out of the box – pull back and include the context in the image. This is so important. I think the story is much easier and frankly better told “wide”. Sometimes I feel I lose the intimacy of the moment but that’s not necessarily true. Intimacy can be achieved in other ways. We all need to step out of our own boxes and turn off the visual auto pilot. For me, it almost always means picking up the wide angle and go shoot life–wide! Widen the frame and include more of life. Actually, it often becomes a much more visually interesting image. These days my go-to-lens is my 16-35mm. Certainly I shoot with other lenses but when I view the world through my wide-angle, I realize the world doesn’t need another Steve McCurry. It does need a Matt Brandon. It only needs one of each of us and it needs you. Go out today and shoot something in a new way. Make it yours. Step out of your box, stop shooting safe and on auto pilot. Stop trying to be someone else and be who you are!