Photography Isn’t a Team Sport!

Cooperation among photographers is wonderful, but when teams form around brands, genres or other parts of photography, this limits creative exploration.

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Can photography be a team sport? In some ways, yes, it can be. It’s very often a solitary activity simply because it takes a lot of thought. We walk through settings and new locations, thinking, and visualizing as we try to compose new images. But it can be a team sport in that photographers can very easily work cooperatively on projects.

After all, how nice is it to get together with a bunch of your photography buddies to go on a trip to some great new locale? There are opportunities to brainstorm new ideas together, and other photographers can offer critiques that help you improve your work. They offer viewing experiences, too, and those are creative inputs that help keep your own mind active and creating new things.

In that sense, photography can and should be a team sport. Then, you’ve got people of a similar mindset as you with whom you can exchange ideas. This is one of the best ways you’ll find to hone your creativity — by working with others, to one extent or another.

While that kind of team interplay is a wonderful thing, there is this whole other side to the “team” aspect of photography. And this side is where I believe photography should not be a team sport. The longer you’re a part of the community, the more you will notice that there are all these little entrenched camps that people form around certain things.

Brand purism a prime example of one of those things. There are the people who will only use Nikon gear, or who will only use Canon gear — whatever brand they happen to prefer. And they won’t entertain the idea of using anything from any other brand. Some of these people look down on others who use things from different brands. To them, all other gear is inferior.

Another example is people who confine themselves to a particular genre. To them, minimalist photography is the movement of the future and thus, the only real way to create art. Others may say that things like portraiture, landscapes, or some other niche that they happen to prefer are more “artistic” than other types of photography.

These are the kinds of teams that aren’t necessarily a good thing. Where gear is concerned, who cares what anyone else is using? It should be up to the photographer using it. If he or she is satisfied with the results, then who are we to say that their gear is inferior to whatever brands we happen to prefer?

The same is true of those who claim that some genres are somehow inherently better than others. All art is valid as art, for one thing. And secondly, photography is all about exploration. So why would we limit ourselves to only one small part of photography when we could be free to explore whatever our hearts desire? Teams can be wonderful when everyone is working together to create something. But following brands or eschewing certain photographic niches? This is where forming teams actually becomes detrimental to our art as a whole. Keep an open mind, explore what you enjoy, and avoid joining groups that may prove limiting to your creative ventures.