I’ve struggled so much with photography lately. Why? I have no idea. I keep thinking about whether my photos are good or not and care too much about it.

I don’t do this with music. I know I’m not the most brilliant guitar player, but I love playing the guitar and I keep practising to learn more and develop skills. I enjoy the learning journey and I enjoy playing even if I’m not great. So what is the difference? Why can’t I have this attitude with photography?

The thing is that photography, like art, is so subjective. Who decides what is good? There are lots of variables to examine (technical skills, composition, use of light, narrative etc) and lots of people having different opinions, but can you really decide what is good unless you know the photographer’s intent?

With music, I have my own goals I want to reach, and an idea of what I want to be able to do on the guitar or on the concertina. In photography, I don’t. I just want to become “good”, but without having a definition of what “good” means. And then you have all sorts of experts telling you what is good and what is not. When I try to search online to look at the work of famous and highly praised photographers, most times I don’t even like their photos. Of course it’s confusing!

I need to treat photography more like music, decide for myself what exactly I want to achieve, and work towards that. You know, when it comes to guitar playing, I look at players like Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Bryan Sutton and similar, and I try to learn their techniques because I like their style. I don’t try to play like Eddie Van Halen, because it’s not a style I’m interested in. And I don’t worry about pleasing people who like rock guitar or jazz, because I play bluegrass. So why do I care about what people think is good landscape photography, when in reality I’m more interested in macro and closeups, or gig photography? It seems so silly when I think of it.

If I don’t overanalyse my photos, I actually like many of them! It’s only because of my engagement in photographic competitions that I’ve started picking photos apart and that I tend to think like “what would judges say” and then I doubt everything I do with the camera (or in Lightroom, for that matter). How stupid! I need to set my own standards and just enjoy what I can do with the my camera.

So now I’m going to stop overthinking photography, and will focus on having fun with it (I know I said this months ago, but I didn’t follow it). This week I’ve been out for some pleasant walks, and have indulged in – blackberry photography!


And a few that are not blackberries but still caught my interest.

Linking with Denyse Whelan’s Wednesday words & pics.

14 responses to “Can you compare music and photography?”

  1. Natalie avatar

    Susanne, Your pictures look beautiful to me. In my opinion, beauty (of a photo) is in the eye of the beholder and photos as an art form evoke different reactions from the viewers. If you’re satisfied with your pictures, that’s what matters. I hope you continue enjoying your walks and photography. #WW&P

    1. Susanne avatar

      That is very true, Natalie! And I’ve totally been overthinking photography instead of just enjoying it. I thought I was over it last autumn but it came crashing down again after another year of being involved in competitions (that was the last year of doing it). Now I’ll need to re-learn that it’s all about creating photos that I – not competition judges – like, and to enjoy the experience of being out with the camera and the creative process. Actually after publishing this, I could sort of get some closure on the topic and when I came back to my post later and looked at those blackberry photos I thought “these are really beautiful!” A good sign, I guess!

  2. Min avatar

    Hi Susanne, I know photography – I did a Diploma in Professional Photography back in 2014 and was obsessed with it for a long time. I still enjoy it but don’t partake much these days except for snapping away with my iPhone. Anyway – your photo’s are good and the kind of photos I enjoy too! Don’t overthink it! My love of photography disappeared for ages because I overthought things. I thought I had to make a career of it and that extinguished the love of it because of the pressure I put on myself. I also found that I didn’t like taking photographs for other people. I enjoyed taking photographs of things that pleased me! Mostly nature and I prefer natural daylight photography whereas a lot of the professional work was using artificial light. Anyway – to me photography is an opportunity to capture a moment and be present in that moment. Enjoy it and your music! 🙂

    1. Susanne avatar

      Min, thanks so much for your input. Something in your comment made it “click” for me, I think although I don’t expect to make money from photography I put the same pressure on myself as if I did – and this destroys it for me. And what you say about the opportunity to capture a moment and be present in it, this is the exact reason why I love photography and now is the time to get back to that, stop caring about what others do and just enjoy what I like to do. Writing this post was therapy of sorts (writing helps me get clarity in a way) and the comments add to it!

  3. Leanne | avatar

    Hi Suzanne – I think the joy often gets sucked out of what we do when we start over-thinking it and worrying about what other people’s opinions might be. It happens with blogging, it happens with all kinds of art, and with anything that is more subjective than objective. I think your photographs are beautiful and I love the clarity and light that you capture. I’m no expert – I’m just a believer in finding joy in what you do and not trying to justify it through the eyes of others. I bet the famous artists and writers all had their critics – and imagine if they’d given up….

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks Leanne – I’d say you’re correct that the famous artists had their critics, and probably self-doubt, many times but kept going. And you’re absolutely correct that overthinking kills the joy! Earlier this year I was challenged to stop my overthinking, as I was made aware of how much of it was affecting how much – or little – I was able to enjoy things I do. For the most part I’ve learned to sort of re-route my thinking, but lately I’ve been struggling with it again. Something I read in the context of the comparison trap is very helpful to me – focus on doing your thing and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. You’re spot on with not trying to justify what you do through the eyes of others… thanks for your input.

  4. Joanne avatar

    I think your photos are just lovely! It’s definitely that comparison trap that steals the fun out of everything… I try so hard not to worry about it and just focus on the fun I have taking photos but it can be hard not to compare and wonder how to make my photos better.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks, Joanne! You’re absolutely right about the comparison trap… it kills the joy. And it’s hard to get out of it but I’ll do my best. The key for me is to just do my thing and not worry so much about others.

  5. Denyse Whelan avatar

    Wow. I know creative people who are (can be) perfectionists make life somewhat misreable for themselves. It’s driven into us (I am not saying either of us are) as we grow up and I think we call have a tendency to be like this.

    Creativity cannot be taught.
    It can be felt and seen and heard.

    I believe this is what you (and I) need to remember. I am much better now at ‘process being more valuable to me than product’

    The blackberries were so luscious, I felt I could reach out and try one.

    Thank you for joining in this new weekly link up of mine. Looking forward to catching up with you when you next do so, for Wednesday’s Words & Pics. Warm wishes,

    1. Susanne avatar

      I know, Denyse! It’s sad really. The good news is that after last night’s first in-person camera club meeting since 2,5 years I feel much different about this. It’s like all those negative feelings are just gone and only I feel inspired to get out with the camera! It was like something about talking about photos and photography in a group like that, with real people not through a screen, made me realise how we’re all just ordinary people with this common interest and we’re there to enjoy it and learn from each other. Zoom is great but it prevents a good conversation and dialogue.

      I really like your description of creativity!! We can only learn the tools to create what we want to create.

  6. Debbie Harris avatar

    It’s hard to see your own photography objectively sometimes Susanne, but you can do it with music so maybe you can tell your negative voice to go away! Your photos are lovely and overthinking isn’t helpful is it? It’s great to read your thoughts and I wish you well.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Hi Debbie, I love your hands-on input! Yes, I have a lot to learn from my attitude with music and to apply it to my photography. I had a very pleasant camera club meeting last night, the first in-person meeting since Covid, and being there chatting with real people instead of through screens, sort of took me back to more rational thinking around photography! So I might get back on track now.

  7. Anne avatar

    Hi Susanne,
    This is really interesting… when I first started reading, I thought, well, maybe it’s because photos are more static, and permanent (in a way), whereas music, unless you record it, “disappears” from the air after it is played. While it may live on in the memory of the listener, it’s more… temporary? ephemeral? than a photo. But then I kept reading (as one is wont to do) and found your insights about your different approaches to music and photography fascinating. It’s also interesting to me as a person who does not create anything. Well, other than work-related writing and the occasional blog post. I’m not putting things out into the world for others to see, or hear. To do so requires, in my opinion, a great deal of courage and belief in oneself. I don’t have that. (I also don’t have a creative cell in my body, so there’s that… :>)
    I’m so glad you are taking your photos back for yourself. There will always be someone who doesn’t appreciate your artistry. That’s on them! You do you. (Personally, I love your love of macro – those blackberry pictures! <3)

    1. Susanne avatar

      I can’t imagine not creating anything. That’s one thing that makes life fascinating to me! But also, being creative gives a sort of stress… but also a tool to manage other stresses in life. Very weird and contradictory!
      Anyway, I’m glad you like my blackberry pics! I love them too by the way, no matter how I felt when I wrote this post!

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