Opinions are everywhere. We all have them, and some of us (like me) publish them online! Especially here in the world of photography, when you get right down to it, most of the things that are written or recorded about photography are opinions.
“This camera is better than that one” is a viewpoint from someone who feels a particular camera better serves their purposes than another one. “Composition should be done this way” is an opinion from someone who feels this way when the truth is, compositional rules always have wiggle room—and sometimes there are times when it is appropriate to flagrantly break them.
Here’s the crux of the matter: If most everything boils down to opinions, which opinions should you believe? What should you trust? The answer to that question is easy to say, though it may not always be so easy to follow. At the end of the day, where opinions are concerned, you need to go with what you can prove.
When you’re consuming materials pertaining to the more theoretical side of photography—like opinions on which techniques are the best, how to approach composition, how to handle color, and various other things we can tweak—or when you’re reading about things like attitude and our approach to creativity.
Long exposures, for example, may be the in-demand technique right now, or tomorrow, it might be something else, but if these techniques don’t speak to you, then you don’t have to follow popular opinion. Compositional rules are somewhat the same. It’s good to learn them so that you learn not only how to use them but also when and how to break them—but at the end of the day, these rules are just popularly accepted opinions of what usually works and what usually doesn’t.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read these types of opinions. By all means, read all the opinions you like and broaden your horizons in so doing. But approach opinions not with the idea that they could be right or wrong, but whether they offer you anything of value. Does the opinion inspire you, point out something you feel you could be doing differently, or give you some sort of new perspective on things? Keep what works for you and discard the rest.
There are some opinions we can prove as verifiable fact, at least to ourselves. Take opinions on camera models, lenses and equipment as an example. Here, you’ll find the prevailing opinion is that “the latest and greatest is the best.” This isn’t so much true among fans of vintage equipment, but it is a prevalent attitude among modern digital users.
Here, you can prove for a fact whether the latest and greatest is best—for you. Rather than reading the opinions of viewers that say “this is the best camera and everyone should own it,” instead look at its specifications. How much does it cost? Does it do everything you need it to do? Is it missing features you could really use? Does it have lots and lots of features you’ll never use, but all add yet more money to the cost? For some, that upgrade might indeed be the best, but for others, it might not suit. This is one of those cases where you need to go beyond opinions and analyze the facts for yourself. Opinions are a wonderful thing, capable of exposing us to new thoughts and new ideas we wouldn’t have had on our own. There are so many that it can be overwhelming figuring out what to take from all of these opinions—but follow your heart where needed, and prove what you can when you can.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.