One of the annoying things about social media (among others!) is that pursuit of perfection can quite quickly lead to sameness; sameness of the things that have been proven to work and therefore equate to what perfect means on a social platform…
What could be more boring and lacking in creativity? And surely it’s the creativity that pulled so many of us towards a platform like Instagram where for the first time we could express ourselves in a picture. But what expression is to be had in a photo that looks so very similar to the one next door and next door again? Of course there is an art in itself to photographing the same thing again and again (like artist Louis Wain and his cats and William Wegman and his Weimaraners dogs) but essentially the recreation of so many similar visuals in order to garner likes is driving us down a less creative road, no?
Can we blame the algorithm? In part. The way it works is to push to the top the most popular, ie. what works. And what resoundingly works more and more in more of the same; part of the problem is our own predictability here and following the crowd – so remember to like things that are different or haven’t had that many likes but still appeal to you. Be generous with your likes as this is how we can tell the algorithm what we want to see, remember!
Don’t get me wrong, I love to perfect, and as well as being a perfectionist in some aspects (not all though, I’m a great believer in ‘It will do!’) and repeat a certain type of image. And there is definite creative pursuit and satisfaction in that. But surely there has to be the mix of the new and experimental to keep us moving forwards and learning?
I suppose Instagram is used in so many different ways and photos that ‘work’, for both brands and blogs, are in many ways the sensible and most efficient way to go. But there has to be room for creativity and exploration in there somewhere… To try out something new. It might not ‘work’ but you tried and maybe you liked it so much you’ll stick with it or (importantly!) maybe you learnt something, or you’ll move on to something new. And maybe that means not being so perfect all the time.
Outfit posts are quite case in point. For me they are part of the content I create, but not being behind the camera I tend to get them done as quickly as possible and not spend that much time on their execution. No doubt to my detriment! But overall I’m pretty gung ho about them. However, I realised after a while that picture in your back garden weren’t necessarily going to cut it and a certain outdoor ‘street style’ look is what ‘works’. And I definitely went through a phases of fretting for not having the prettiest, cleanest backdrops (where I live in Hackney is a bit of a crazy mix!) although perhaps not enough to go location scouting or go out of my way to shoot in the ‘pretty places’ like Notting Hill or South Ken. On the few occasions I’ve shot in those areas I’ve felt a little bit like a fraud; like I was pretending to be part of something I wasn’t. I tend to shoot where’s convenient, depending on what part of town I’m already in for meetings or events. But perhaps the overall presentation of my blog suffered as a result, who knows?
These days I shoot mainly with Jay and we trade, doing pictures for each other, which we’ve got down to such a fine art we can shoot each other in a matter of minutes with no need to check out the results! We know there will be a few in there that are usable… Yesterday was a case in point. It was raining and my camera battery was flashing red but we managed to get in these shots for me and shots for Jay’s Instagram really without giving it too much thought – which framed our discussion on the need to shake off the perfect over a delicious plate of pasta.
So let’s stop trying to be so perfect – in our photography, on our Instagram. It doesn’t matter if the crop is off, or lines not straight, let’s try and instead take a picture that captures that moment, a mood and movement. We talked about how even your very tool can change how you shoot and how your subject responds. The bigger the camera, the more unnatural, the more unposed. The smaller and less intimidating, all the way down to the phone is where you get the most relaxed, real pictures because no one’s feeling on edge. Which is why so many of my most favourite pictures have been taken on my phone, because the pressure and expectation is so much less. A small camera or phone can even avoid interrupting the moment wielded in the right way…
So shoot fast and free and worry a little less about the perfect. Usually I would avoid the rain, cars, passersby and To Let signs but yesterday I embraced them… 🙂
Coat | Gap
Jumper | Elwin London (in sale)
Shoes | Veja via Smallable
Bag | Staud
Sunglasses | Quay Australia
*Some items in this post gifted for review