My Favorite Images May Not be Your Favorite Images
Show an assortment of images to a group of people and there is bound to be some disagreement on which is everyone's favorite. Tastes vary. So given this reality, how should you go about creating images that come out on top?
There's an enjoyment that comes from creating good images. It's part of the reason many photographers do what they do. At least it's part of why I shoot and I'm betting we're not too dissimilar. But what constitutes a "good image" if not everyone likes the same thing? If you create an image that one person likes, there's no guarantee that someone else will feel the same way.
It would seem that to appeal to the most people you'd need to learn what most people like. Let's hypothetically imagine you construct a list. When you find something that someone likes, you add it to the list. If it's already there, you place a tick mark next to it. As time goes by, you develop an understanding of what you might strive for when you go out shooting. If you find something with a lot of tick marks next to it, you fire away with your camera.
But in the end, this becomes a futile exercise. By paying increasing attention to what everyone else likes, it's all too easy to lose track of what you yourself like. And with what is right there in front of you — in the real world, not on your list.
There's a great deal that has been published on how to compose great images. I've written a number of times on the topic here at Earthbound Light. Up to a point, all this can be very useful. But carried too far it can become another form of list, just like the hypothetical one I described above detailing your exploration of what people like. Just a bunch of things with varying numbers of tick marks next to them.
The only real way to get better images is to shoot to please yourself, not everyone else. Your favorite images may not be someone else's favorite images. But if you take the best images you can as you see things, your joy of your craft is itself conveyed by your images. And when this happens you'll find that you've succeeded in creating images other people like without any added effort.
No matter how much you figure out about what other people like, there will remain a separation between you and your objective. The only person you can be truly intimate with what they like is you. And that's important.
If you try to please everyone else, you end up watering down your efforts and generally achieve good but not great results. If you try to please yourself, you may or may not be able to please others, but at a minimum you'll find you enjoy what you do more. And when that happens, you're well on your way to pleasing others too.