As a nation of photographers, we shoot the things we love. And what do we love? In people’s homes are refrigerators and photo albums filled with a nearly endless picture parade of kids, grandkids, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends and even flowers. Look at Facebook albums and you will see the same. Nearly everybody cherishes capturing images of people and things they hold dear and the technology that makes this possible is wonderful. But when it comes to improving as a photographer, the five thousand snapshots taken of Missy and Jr. do not help.
Why is that? Because very often we cannot look an image of the thing we love without that image generating some emotion that is outside the artistic merit of the photo itself. This is especially true if we, ourselves, took that picture. Snapshots are pregnant with the memories of that moment. Perhaps it was Freddie’s 6th birthday party on a beach and he smiles big showing off his missing teeth. Perhaps it is Katy’s wearing dress that reminds you that she is growing up fast. These kinds of pictures generate emotions that only exist with you, and people that have associations with those subjects. It is too easy to transfer those feelings of the subject into feelings about that image’s quality.
I am not saying that all the hundreds of millions of snapshots taken every day are worthless or that we should be ashamed of hanging poorly shot photos on our fridge. Photographs, even poorly taken, are wonderful things that uplift us. But if we want to take the next step in producing quality images, we must look to photographing subjects that are emotionally neutral to us. To grow as artists and professionals we must be capable of critically viewing our images, and sometimes in a very savage way. We need critics to tell us that our picture is terrible without us feeling that they are calling our baby is ugly.
If you love shooting your kids, keep doing it, but remember, it doesn’t help your photography skills. Start shooting other peoples kids and it won’t take long for you to see how much worse your pictures will look and you will improve.