Your Photos Are Boring

Sorry, someone had to say it.

Your photos are predictable. Your insights are recycled. You don’t bring surprise with you when you come back from working on location.

That’s why people are ignoring you.

Which used to be fine, because people used to not be able to find other photographers. You could just sit back on your past work, or your agent, or your portfolio. But that half-price sale on attention is now over.

The only path left is to lean out of the edge and become interesting, noteworthy and yes, remarkable.

If the above words don’t sound like mine, it’s because…[click the 'continue reading' link below]

…they’re not. They’re the words of marketing guru Seth Godin remixed with a couple of choice photography terms here and there. But they got your attention I bet. They certainly got mine. I took them to heart. This sort of brutal honest point keeps me on my toes. Reminds me to innovate, create, differentiate. There are a million photo gigs out there and, more often than not, getting that phone call requires that we first suck it up and do some remarkable work.

[I've done this little word play trick before and it was equally evocative... Read it over here. Thanks Seth.]

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50 Responses to Your Photos Are Boring

  1. Annet June 23, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    Always thought Seth had to innovate, create and differentiate himself … but in this (your) context he's pretty cool ;-P

  2. Brian June 23, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    Thanks for the kick in the ass… I tell that exact phrase to myself all the time.

  3. Keith June 23, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Where can I get that print :)

  4. Anonymous June 23, 2009 at 7:07 am #

    New thoughts are an extremely rare thing; which also makes them valuable. I want to do something valuable. Seeking to add value to where I live is a good thing. It is not an easy thing. Constantly seeking, leads to innovation, which leads to originality; adding value. Which means I get to live in a better world. Striving, seeking, enjoying living…this is life. Thanks Chase, cheers, Noah Birch

  5. Ilan June 23, 2009 at 7:14 am #

    The digital age, turned photography into 'pixel's junk yard'.
    Just go over Flickr, which is the biggest photo data base out there. 99.99999999% of the photos are exactly the same. Even those considered 'Interesting'.

    • Nat Thompson June 1, 2010 at 10:06 am #

      Yeah this is true….I remember the first time I visited the site..going ahhh what a let down. But some really good shooters still post on there.

  6. Christopher Hall June 23, 2009 at 7:15 am #

    Good stuff!

  7. Eugene June 23, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    I knew this sounded familiar, haha…As a frequent reader of Seth's blog, I really enjoy reading what he has to say.

    Good work on transforming his words to reflect on photography.

    The only thing to consider is this: suppose you're trying really hard to differentiate yourself from the masses, you think you're doing a good job, but you aren't getting the feedback. Or maybe you are, and it's from the critics. What should you do? Seth has a great point in this post: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/03/ignore-your-critics.html.

    In particular, my favourite passage is: "You should ignore your fans as well. Your fans don't want you to change, your fans want you to maintain the essence of what you bring them but add a laundry list of features. You fans want lower prices and more contributions, bigger portions and more frequent deliveries."

    I am curious to hear what you think!

  8. paul hagood June 23, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Our photos are only boring if WE'RE bored…it's boring when we imitate others, try to calculate what will be interesting or sellable, what others will praise us for.
    It's boring when we try to make our photos look like the ones in the magazines (sheesh…why does Outdoor Photographer ever pay for a cover photo – they all look the same, over and over!), and it's boring when we're aiming to please to ghost of other photographers dead or alive.

    When I take the risk to make images that please something deep inside me, I'm happy, and often I come up with something non-boring.

    At the same time, I've found it really helpful to get good critiques to help me see what I don't see – the slips in framing the shot, or the composition dis-harmonies, etc.

    Baudelaire said the greatest sin was to be bored. I suppose the corollary is that the second greatest sin is to be boring…
    Paul

  9. Derek Shanks June 23, 2009 at 7:26 am #

    Every time I go out to shoot, I walk around, drop down to the ground, scale atop of things looking for innovation and never one to rely on the tools that I can buy, but I use the world around me and the resources I can find to create something different in my images. It is tough some times as the world is more saturated with cameras than ever before. How does one not be boring? By being yourself and bringing your vision to the shot and looking beyond all of the obvious opportunities.

    Cheers!

  10. B5 June 23, 2009 at 7:31 am #

    YE$, that's right my main man Chase & Seth! I keep saying that to myself and it works very well! I'm my harshest critique, but also the greatest fan!
    :-)

  11. mcmullensmith June 23, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    Yesterday I was telling a fellow photographer about Seth's recent post on dominoes, how so many people try and topple the big domino and eventually give up. Knock down the small dominoes first and build momentum, eventually you will topple the big guy. I'm toppling the little dominoes, patiently , one by one.

  12. Rockhopper June 23, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    I do this everytime i go on a job, I am my worst self critic.

    However the problem is keeping it alive when its a boring shoot and you are doing the same composition again.

    Thats when you have to tell yourself that mantra.

    Rich

  13. JB June 23, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    And this is exactly why photography should be for yourself, IMO.

    I feel sorry for professional photographers.

    There's a finite number of *distinguishable* ways to take a photograph, given a specific set and subject. That number may be in the many thousands, but it's finite. Based on the client's needs, that finite number is usually extremely limited to another much smaller finite number of ways.

    99% of the professional photographers do not have the vision or creativity to even be *aware* of the majority of those finite possibilities in the first place.

    Lose-lose.

    And the weeding out process (of those professional photographers) continues.

  14. Annet June 23, 2009 at 8:13 am #

    If you accept and absorb the world as Wonderland, the first step to creation and invention has been made …

    … my 50 cents.

    Walter Benjamin's vision on boredom:

    “Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.”

    Today I decided to make the winning photo of Chase's contest, grabbed my iPhone and walked to a boring supermarket, near my place in Amsterdam. Looking at people and seeing them as actors in my adventure, the objects around me starting to tell stories. Everything came to life, and then there was this white, ugly, abandoned couch …

    … I think the shift from technique to experience in nowadays photography is an enrichment of life.

    It makes you more aware of the rustling in the leaves.

  15. Tom June 23, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    Good point. Did it make you put down your iPhone?

  16. Susan May Tell June 23, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    One person's boring is another person's compelling. Chacun à son goût.

  17. Bruno Axhausen June 23, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Coincidences are amazing. Just wrote a post for my blog on how the huge amount of already existing photos shouldn't make you stop taking pictures, but should make you feel free to explore "uncharted territory" instead, and then I find you writing this post on a subject quite similar?! (http://climbingphotography.blogspot.com/2009/06/big-picture-why-do-i-still-shoot.html) Wow… thanks for giving this topic another spin, I'll think about it further! (I hope you don't mind me linking to your post)

    Cheers
    Bruno

  18. Anonymous June 23, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    CRAP is still crap and there is LOTS of it out there now that "everyone" is a photographer because they have a camera – digital of course.
    There is so much garbage it's incredible. Hey, just read the sites on Alltop photo news.
    And, what's scary is that this pure crap is actually getting some attention! Scary stuff.
    To each his own I suppose.

  19. stevejonesphotography June 23, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    UrbanoModa – Photographer Steve Jones

    Each of us that cherish photography need not develop in a trendy style for one person in particular, or make what’s good or bad or follow trends. Photography is sensitive to those that love it and like it therefore at times we all receive constructive feed back in life or our photo work. Some good and worth listening to, some with no thought process ^. Some of us are born with rudimentary skills, geometry and composition homed into our brains, therefore its not just art, its creativity from the natural ability which Chase and the team have possessed for many years.
    Studying Bubishi and martial arts for many years helped me learn two things valuable in life which I feel people should digest “an idle mind is a demons workshop" and “an empty vessel makes the most noise"

    Looking forward to new CJ projects.
    Regards
    Steve

  20. Valeriy Veduta June 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    "The only path left is to lean out of the edge and become interesting, noteworthy and yes, remarkable."
    Seth Godin

    "Like no other"
    Sony

    :)

  21. Lon Britton June 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Lots of folks haven't worked on developing an eye for creativity while it comes naturally for some. Creativity exercises are abundant for those who want to improve their "eye"…then go practice.

  22. Anonymous June 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    He is only somewhat right. I agree that as a photographer you need to develop a certain style to be recognized.

    However, he is American and as per usual he does what Americans do best and that is think that the world operates like they do. True in the US art directors and clients like to hire photographers based on a certain style or because they had a lot of media attention. It's a certain look or the name they are buying at the end of the day.

    Reality though is that if you want to make a living in a smaller market out side of the US you better don't look to unattainable because the 3 or 4 jobs you will book per year won't be enough to pay the bills.

  23. Aimee Greeblemonkey June 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    I like your twist on this.

    And while I agree with Ilan that Flickr can be a digital wasteland sometimes – even in Explore, I try to think of it as everyone being in different places. Maybe I don't like someone else's work, or maybe they don't even consider it "work" – they are just catching snapshots of their lives – but there are also TONS of talented people over there who inspired me to be a better photographer every day. It's all about the journey.

  24. Eric Broadhurst June 23, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    Don't know why but this made me remember when I was a kid, moaning "I'm bored", "I'm bored"

    My mom always used to reply:
    "Only boring people get bored"

    Sorry… Thats not really relevant. Just the first thing that came to mind.

  25. Anonymous June 23, 2009 at 5:57 pm #

    Of course they're not yours, Chase. You don't have the balls to say it because you're terrified to alienate anyone subscribing to your blog. Terrified to truly speak your mind. Terrified of the ramifications.

    Fair enough, you gotta make a buck, but don't be surprised that nobody thinks that you would actually take a chance and say that.

  26. Chase Jarvis June 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    dear anonymous (5:57), out of the laughable depths of irony, tell me again which one of us has no balls?

  27. www.robhammerphotography.com June 23, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    great thing to think about when im out on assignment. thanks.

  28. Shelby White June 24, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    Its about being that purple cow.

    I've been wanting to post that TED video of Seth Godin talk about what is remarkable for a long time but it looks like you've touched on the topic here.

    Anonymous (5:57), post your name at least…talk about not having the balls. Hah. Always annoying…

    …This is a great point/lesson to keep in mind when trying to stand out. At what point did you realize you had work that was worth making a remark/conversation about?

  29. Annet June 24, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    @Tom

    NO! ;-)

    LOL

  30. Andre June 24, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    Damn, damn, double-damn.

    Thank you.

  31. Jay Mitt June 24, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    hahaha! gotta love Chase's answer to anonymous (5:57). Yeah, saying Chase has no balls while posting anonymously is about as funny (pathetic?) as it gets.

  32. fas June 24, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    super stuff, well needed motivation.

  33. Bartek June 24, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    Thanks Chase!

    A cold bucket of water for someone :)

    I hope you see something interesting in some photos. I hope… :D

    Regards.

  34. Annet June 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    http://droombos.nl/chase-jarvis-and-the-rustling-in-the-leaves/#more-549

    thanks Chase, for the inspiration, come back to you with an interesting proposal

  35. ricco June 24, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    yeah Im just about ready to move on from this blog,with the contacts and think tank of creativity that is available this stuff is going "junk food"

  36. johan June 26, 2009 at 4:34 am #

    Hah, its a classic Ken Rockwell ("The toilet photographer") shot. Well, maybe not Ken-quality, but still :)

  37. John Classen June 26, 2009 at 5:14 am #

    It's just after 7 AM, coffee in hand on Friday and the sod of creativity, so easily trampled flat, it about to be turned over yet again. Sometimes I despair (there are only so many ways that one can shoot product – in fact shooting that stuff makes me want to slit my wrists some days!)

    How to be creative…how to be creative…mumbles inaudible things!

    Thanks for another great blog. Btw Chase, I do quote you on my blog (johnclassenphotography.blogspot.com), but always put a link back to the full text on your site, if that is ok.

  38. Jay Fram July 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    Is that an example of a boring photograph? Cuz I kinda like it.

  39. LisaNewton July 3, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    I always think about boring, or maybe rather "interesting" or even "ordinary."

    I love creating art with my photos, but if you're featuring photos about a specific location, don't the photos need to look like the place you're showcasing?

    I hope that doesn't equate to "boring" in my case.

  40. Norman M. July 8, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    funny, i needed to hear that.

    just got turned on to your blog and work yesterday. yo chase jarvis: impressive work and operation.

    thanks for hipping me to seth godin.

    live long, and prosper.

  41. Nev July 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    I love that shot. Its AMAZING!!! That is truly breathtaking and imaginative!!
    You have earned a 'HEART AWARD' from the I HEART YOUR PICTURE group.

    -Anonymous Flickr User.

  42. Tyler September 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    Yep. Seth is great. The key now is to not only have unique photos, but to market uniquely.

  43. Anthony Perez May 15, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    So true, innovation is the key as you manage to demonstrate so clearly.

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