To impress someone else, means to literally put an indentation on someone else. To make an impact on someone else — to affect them emotionally, to make your viewer think, or to also puzzle/confuse your viewer.
Impressing others vs impressing yourself
I think in order to impress others with your photos, you must first impress yourself.
To impress yourself with a photo means:
You look at your own photo, and the photo affects you.
The photo affects you emotionally, punches you in the gut, or sparks some sort of idea within you.
For myself, I am not easily impressed by my own photos. There are a lot of photos that I shoot which I like, but very few photos which have had a lasting impact in myself.
Generally speaking, I must let my photos marinate — photos that have survived the test of time are generally the most impressive photos.
I think the secret is to distance yourself as far from yourself to your own photos, until you forget that you shot them. Then you can judge your photos more objectively, with more scrutiny, and to be less compromising with yourself.
Do you want to impress others with your photos?
Now this is the question which interest me:
Why impress others with your photos?
Reasons to impress others with your photos:
- To build a legacy: Put your name into art history
- To build fame: To become recognized as an artist, to gain certain external rewards while you’re still alive (money, influence, power)
- To build self-esteem: Some people gain more self confidence and esteem when they are praised for their photographs.
Ultimately whether you want to impress others with your photos or not is up to you.
1. Building a legacy
For myself personally, I would like to build a legacy for my photos. I want my photos to last (preferably for at least 100 years).
Obviously I cannot reap the rewards of my legacy after I die. So why have a legacy?
To me it is simple:
I want to empower and encourage the future generations of photographers and artists.
2. To build fame
Legacy is something after you die. Fame is something when you’re still alive.
Now— is fame good? I think so.
Fame is good because fame is power. Power through influence, and power through your ability to make an impact in the world.
If you make more impressing photos, you will obviously become more famous.
But the tricky thing with fame is this:
To become more famous is a combination of your hustle and hard work and luck.
You can be the smartest, most talented, and hard-working photographer — but if you aren’t given any opportunities, if you don’t create your own opportunities, and lady luck isn’t on your side — you’re not going to become famous.
Furthermore, I think becoming famous is around 90% marketing skills. And marketing is important. Don’t be like Vivian Maier — dying before she was able to become famous. We have John Maloof to thank for promoting her work.
Lesson: You must self-promote yourself if you desire to achieve fame while you’re still alive.
3. To build self-esteem
For myself, I like to build my self-esteem independently of others. But the truth is many of us gain self-esteem when we are praised by others for our photos.
If you make photos that impress others, this will definitely build your self-esteem and ego— which might be good if it encourages you to be more productive and prolific as a photographer.
What makes an impressive photograph?
There are certain ingredients which make an impressive photo.
First of all is the aesthetics (how the photograph looks). This is determined by the light (temperature of the light, natural or flash), the sensor or film used, the color/tones/hues of the photo, and the composition/framing of the photo.
Aesthetics is also dependent on your post-processing. For example look at my laughing lady photo below (left is the unprocessed RAW photo, the right is processed in Lightroom with a preset):
I think it is evident that the right (processed) photo is more impressive, because the added contrast adds more punch, impact, and power to the photo.
Thus, remember — how you process your photo is essential.
The more surreal your photo, the better. Why? Most of us disdain reality (reality is boring). If the camera has the ability to TRANSFORM reality to make it more interesting — then your photos will be more impressive.
Thus the tip is this:
Don’t strive to make your photos “true to reality”— strive to make photos that don’t look like reality!
3. Open ended photos
When your photos are more open to interpretation, they are more impressive.
Why? It allows the viewer to use their brain to interpret the photo. This makes them more emotionally invested in the photograph. They will be more likely to remember your photo, and meditate on your photos.
4. Sensational photos
Like sensational news, we are attracted to sensational images. A sensational photograph is an image which is uncommon — we feel strong sensations when looking at these photographs. They might display touchy subjects like race, class, and what we perceive as injustice.
For example something that upsets us: kids with guns.
Or photos of people who look uncommon to us — people who look like “characters” (more unique looking human beings):
5. Eye contact
Generally I think we humans are most attracted by photos of other people. Furthermore, when we make a photo that has eye contact, it makes the users/viewers of our photos more engaged.
From the viewers perspective of your photo:
The viewer feels like the subject of the photograph is looking directly at them!
Ultimately all photos are subjective.
My ultimate tip:
Strive to make photos which impress you.
The more you impress yourself with your own photos, the more likely you are to impress others with your photos!