In August 2011 I joined an online photo community known as Blipfoto, after hearing about it on the radio. The premise is very simple: post a single photo a day, taken that day. No old shots, no photos taken by anyone else, just the one pic per day. And it’s changed the way I look at photography. In fact it’s contributed in a large part to my starting this photography degree.
There are a few non-photographic reasons why I love Blipfoto: it’s a great way to record your life without writing a diary; it’s a very friendly and engaging online community where I’ve made a lot of virtual friends; it’s become a hobby I can share with my wife, since I introduced her to Blipfoto last year and she’s taken to it like a duck to water; last but not least, it gives me something to focus on each day, other than the stresses and strains of work!
But here I want to focus on a few key reasons why I think Blipfoto is really helping me as a photography student – and why I’d recommend everyone with even a passing interest in photography to give it a try.
Practice makes perfect
When you’ve committed (even just to yourself) to post a photo every single day, the obvious outcome is that you take more photos than before. You always have a camera with you. The more photos you take, the better you get – especially when you augment this practice with some study and gradually work out what mistakes you’ve been making. I can’t imagine doing this photography course and only ever picking up my camera just to do coursework, or to go on a specific photographic outing, or to record a special occasion – I do these things as well, but there is always the bedrock of taking at least one photo a day.
Inspiration from others
Another side-effect of daily photo posting is that you see the always interesting, often inspiring, occasionally awesome photos that other people post. I’m exposed to dozens of interesting images every time I go to post my own photo. While I subscribe to a few photography journals, I think Blipfoto is probably where I get my most regular dose of inspiration from others.
Sometimes the inspiration is in the form of a photographer who specialises in a particular type of image; I follow Blippers who only do wildlife, or landscape, or macro, or portraits, or mono. From these photographers you start to see elements of what makes a good photo in that particular genre. Other times the inspiration is quite specific in a subject or technique and to be honest sometimes my reaction is simply: can I recreate that? The fact that the vast majority of Blipfoto members are enthusiasts not professionals means that I’m more inclined to believe that it’s within my capabilities to emulate them – often looking at pro photos in magazines can lead to a sense of inadequacy along with the awe!
Judged by your peers
The more I see other people’s efforts, the more it makes me want to raise my own game. I did a similar photo-a-day challenge for a while a few years ago, only on Facebook and so only visible to my friends. Looking back now, they are laughably mediocre. Sharing pics with your friends, you think you can get away with a snapshot of your shoes, or your lunch.
On a photographic community of thousands, where people post amazing shots every day, I’ve felt a need to take it more seriously, to make an effort to post something visually interesting. On Blipfoto people can leave comments, award stars, mark photos as ‘favourites’… this leads to an element of competition (if only with myself) where I’m always looking at how many views, comments etc I’ve had! The feedback isn’t the most important aspect of being a member, but it does help to keep driving you on. You do feel the need to maintain the standards set by your peers!
See the world differently
I recently introduced another OCA photography student to Blipfoto and she used a phrase that I will steal here: “your photographic brain is on constant alert”. This is so true! I’ve started to see things I’d never have noticed. Once you treat the world as fodder for potential blips, your photographic eye is always open. Necessity is the mother of invention: I work away from home and often arrive somewhere at about 11pm not having taken a photo all day… it’s amazing how you can then see the beauty in a plug point, a pair of cufflinks, a stairwell… So it starts by forcing you to be creative, then over time this creativity becomes more natural.
These are the reasons why I think being a Blipfoto member is helping my photographic study. Anyone reading this should give it a try!
My journal is at http://www.blipfoto.com/RobT.