Chris Johnston Photography

Why Taking Photographs Isn't About The Image

This morning I was watching the comedian Michael Jr. on YouTube. He said that his career took a turn when he realized that his purpose wasn't to get laughs from people but to give laughs to people. This statement made me realize something about my photography. My job as a photographer is not to take pictures that make me feel good, but to use my photography to make the person I'm taking a picture of feel better about themselves. 

At my last job, one of my duties was to shoot headshots for all new employees. While I was there we decided to redesign the website and take a new headshot for every employee in the company; that's over 200 headshots. For 3-4 days a week, for several weeks, I photographed headshots 6 hours a day. When I wasn't shooting them I was editing them.  

Now, I feel the need to make something clear at this point, I've always enjoyed shooting landscapes and wildlife more than people. Maybe because I'm an introvert, maybe because I can be socially awkward at times, maybe because I have low self confidence, I don't know, I was just never comfortable photographing people I didn't know. The shift came from me when I realized the reason I was uncomfortable was because the focus was on me.

When I focused on them and making them feel good, I had to spend so much energy watching their body language, listening to what they were saying, watching their expressions and listening to their tone of voice, that I didn't have time to worry about how I was feeling. This morning when I heard Michael Jr talk about the shift in his career I realized that I had the same shift in my photography when I was shooting those headshots. 

This sparked an idea in me. I need to think less of my photography as a business and more of my photography as a ministry. My job is not to create beautiful images of people, although that is what's going to happen, my job is to make them feel the best about themselves and in that process a beautiful image will come out.  Now don't get me wrong, this is still a business and I need to make a profit and feed my family. It's just that I finally discovered the why behind the what I'm doing and that makes everything else clearer.