Why Intent Matters

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You are planning a photographic trip. It could be the coast of Dorset, a road trip around Iceland or the townships of South Africa. No matter the location, there is one thing you can be sure of. Other photographers like yourself will have been there before and a quick search on Flickr will reveal a panoply of images of your intended location some outstanding, some great, others mediocre and some plain dreadful. You have to ask yourself, why exactly is it that you have decided to go there. This is not such a ridiculous question as it sounds. Let me explain …

Perhaps you have already studied some of these available images and want to create something similar. Nothing wrong with that, but hardly creativity in action. Maybe you have seen a series of images that inspired you and you believe that you can improve on what has gone before. Admirable, but make sure you have thought through how exactly you intent to make your images stand apart from those you have already seen.

More challenging you want to set aside the images that have already been taken and stamp your own creative identity on your output, finding new and innovative ways to elicit an emotional response from your images. This is certainly the most challenging of options, and one which will undoubtably require the most creative input. Before you start packing your equipment and boarding the plane, boat or however you intend to get to your intended shoot location you need to stop and ask yourself the following. Have I created a clear enough intent in my own mind and preferably expressed somewhere in note form that can guide me throughout my image capture journey and help me develop a body of work that goes some way to fulfilling my ambition to develop innovative and thought provoking imagery?

If this sounds like additional preparation above and beyond the usual trip planning. You bet it does. But done with a great deal of creative thought and driven by your passion for outstanding photography, it will pay handsome dividends. It is not without reason that the Royal Photographic Society insists on a statement of intent from photographers wishing to apply for its ARPS distinction. It is proof that the photographer concerned has truly considered what it is he is trying to say, why he wishes to express himself or herself in this way and what he or she hopes will be the reaction to their images.

Remember, photographic intent is not just a nice to have, it represents a vital creative phase that occurs well before the first shutter is ever pressed and should drive every decision taken from the first moment you set foot at your location.