They say that the devil is in the details, but I’m not quite so sure. We photographers are trained to handle the details. In fact, many of us rejoice in the details, because a lot of little things are what pulls our creations together and turns them into art. No, the devil isn’t in the details for us.
So where is it lurking? For us, I think it might be within preconceived notions. At least, it’s something I’ve been known to fall into, and I’m sure most of us do at one time or another or to one degree or another.
When I speak of this, I’m referring to things like photography trips. No one wants to waste a photography trip. That represents a lot of time, effort, and probably money, too. And we all have preconceived notions of what we’re going to find on that photography trip. Maybe there’s a building in that location that we’ve been excited to photograph, for example. So what happens when you show up at the location only to find that the building you were going to photograph has been torn down? For those of us who enjoy photographing abandoned buildings, this is something that happens relatively often as derelicts become unsafe and need to be removed. When that happens, there went all the imagery of what you thought you were going to do that day. There went all of your preconceived notions about the kinds of photographs you were going to create.
What happens then? What do you do when your preconceived notions have gone up in smoke? I will admit that at times, the temptation has been to pack it all back up and go home—and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. That’s because when reality differs from the expectations that had you so excited, it’s disappointing. Disheartening. Here I am, but the thing I so dearly wanted to photograph isn’t. It’s easy to feel lost, just as if someone suddenly pulled a rug out from beneath you, and you find yourself sitting on the floor wondering how you got there.
This is where we truly need to be creative—and where we need to have some fortitude, too. A resourceful photographer, one who is determined to create art one way or another, will shrug this off and stay on location. One way to shrug it off is to learn to abandon your preconceived notions of how the day would turn out when you discover that the reality you expected has failed to materialize. Another way to get past it? To always approach photography as something changeable. Sure, you have ideas for how things should go—but you’re also aware that things don’t always go as planned, and you’re mentally prepared to accept that. No matter what, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that there is always something to photograph. It’s on us and our abilities to find it.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.