Shooting inanimate objects isn’t something I’ve done much of since I started with my vintage lens and film photography. I just always found shots with people in them more interesting.
Perhaps this was influenced by my location, as spending most of my time in Shanghai meant there were always plenty of people around that I could use in my photographs. This spot of Shanghai UrBex was a real rarity.
It’s good to vary what you shoot though, and I did notice a few shots with nobody in them when I got some Kodak Ektar developed. Five proper images, and one first-of-the-roll.
I think most of them came about because I was trying to get through the roll. Regardless, they’re here in this short piece, along with some thoughts on why varying what you shoot – and do in life – is a good idea.
Why you should work hard at what you’re good at
I’m a big believer in the idea that if you want to be successful at anything, whatever success means to you, it pays to focus as much as possible on what you’re already good at.
If you’re bad at maths, there’s no point working hard to only reach the same level as those who are naturally better than you. If you put your energy into what you’re good at instead, you can become exceptional.
The best example I know of this is the Chinese snooker player Ding Jun Hui. In a country obsessed with formal education, passing exams and getting rich, his dad recognised his talent and took him out of school at age 11.
He’s since won multiple millions of dollars over his career. It’s hard to imagine him finding an income like that had he studied hard and done his homework every night like everyone else.
So with all that said, if you excel at a certain type of photography, why do I think it’s a good idea to vary what you shoot?
Why you should also stray from what you’re good at
One reason I think working hard at maths to only become average is a waste of time is that you’ll probably never benefit from being any better. Not unless you begin a career that requires it.
That doesn’t mean you should never stray from the narrow confines of exactly what it is you’re good at and what you most often do, though. I’m sure playing pool or bar billiards will help a snooker player with his game in some way or another.
And looking wider than just cue sports, playing chess or practising yoga could well help them with the mental and physical sides of snooker too.
This applies to your photography. I usually shoot people on the street, but I’m sure the class I once had doing studio portraits helped me understand light better. Doing more landscape would help me compose better scenes overall and sports may help with my anticipation of a scene.
Looking wider again, this time beyond just photography, I should probably watch more movies and look at more paintings. Intentionally studying both would help me understand light and composition a lot more.
The other reasons you should vary what you shoot
That’s quite a nice first of the roll shot there, isn’t it? You can read all about what these are and why they happen in this guide here. Back to the topic at hand though…
To bring this full circle, playing snooker probably won’t help me become a better photographer. I’m also terrible enough at cue sports that it would be a waste of time trying to reach any kind of competitive level.
Shooting these inanimate objects was worthwhile, though. I’m not sure they helped me to improve the photography I do with people in it, but that brings me to another point.
This is only six shots from a whole roll, but I liked doing them. I think they’ve whetted my appetite for doing more too. And that’s another reason to vary what you shoot. That you might find you like something you’d never tried before.
Finally, I must say this. Only doing things if they benefit your main passion is great if you’re blindly ambitious and it’s the only thing you want to do in life, but I don’t think that’s a healthy way to live.
And that brings me to the last reason you should vary what you shoot, or even how you spend your free time. To do stuff just because you like it. Enjoyment, leisure, and giving your brain some downtime are all benefits too.
For all I know, Ding Jun Hui really does play chess or practise yoga. Maybe he’s into photography. If there’s a happiness-related benefit to what you do in lieu of a progress-related one, carry on. Mix things up and grow.
And don’t worry if you’re still bad at maths. There’s a calculator on your phone you can use when you’re playing snooker. Not that I ever need to use mine. One. One. One. One. One…
Before you go, because this is a film photography essay, I need to add that this Ektar 100 35mm film seems well suited to shooting inanimate objects, with its bright colours, fine grain, and low ISO.
If you enjoyed that post, why not take a look at these others to stay inspired for your own film photography creation:
And if you think others will enjoy this post on a varying what you shoot too, help them find it by giving it a share. 😀