To my mind, I see three ‘goals’ in photography: Documentation, Journalism, and Art. You may have other goals in mind but for me I’m usually shooting with one of those goals in mind.
The art goal is easy to define. Any picture that you have taken simply for the sake of taking it. Maybe you’ve spotted an interesting texture, a unique geometric pattern or just a vibrant flower and taken a picture.
Defining journalism photography, especially in contrast to documentation photography, can be a little more difficult to put into words. I see the types both being about gathering information, be it about a local disaster or celebration. The difference, for me, is that when I’m documenting something I’m doing it for my benefit and when I’m in journalism mode, I’m doing it for others. Allow me to elaborate.
When I’m shooting in the journalistic sense, I’m trying to capture an accurate representation of what is happening. I’m trying to put my opinion of a situation aside and gather all available information around me through the eye of my camera. When I’m shooting to document something I’m simply gathering information that I care about.
The lines between the goals are blurry. You can certainly be shooting for two, or three goals at once. If I’m, for instance, shooting a local parade I will get some shots of each items that passes by; I’ll gather an accurate image of what is happening in front of me. I’ll shoot many images of marching veterans and fire equipment that passes me, because I’m more interested in that, but I will shoot very few images of the local Girl Scout troupe, because I don’t really care about that. I will also likely try to find a few interesting angles that that illustrate the orderly column of people and vehicles coming down the road.
You can also hit on multiple goals in a single shot. Most journalism shots will also be documentation shots and if you put some thought and effort into the framing of the shot it can certainly fall into the art category. The more goals you can load into a shot the more interesting it will be for the viewer.
Many of my shots though are not meant to be interesting to the viewer, or at least not today. Many of my shots are documentation shots that you can look back on next year or thirty years from now. Before I do any work at my new house, I’m sure to get a good view of what things look like beforehand. I try to document my progress on things I’m learning to do as well, such as gardening. My shots from last year’s garden, and notes I made, help me make decisions about what to do this year. It also allows me to compare this years variety of plants against last years to figure out which one actually grows better for me. All of these sort of shots are important. They are not likely destined to be blown up and displayed on my wall but that doesn’t mean they weren’t worth taking.
Well.. there you have it. My current ramblings on photography for the whole of the internet to ignore. You’re welcome.