What Do You Photograph? And Why?

Smoking Lava Fields. Aerial photography by Alina Oswald.

“What do you photograph?” The question or any version of this question might come up in casual, informal conversations. Oftentimes that’s a conversation starter, once someone learns that you’re a photographer.

As photographers, we might ask ourselves a similar question.

“What should I photograph? And why?”

Sometimes what we want to photograph and what we end up photographing in order to make a living could be two different things.

Other times we do end up photographing what we’re really passionate about, and make money while at it. But what we (want to) photograph might not entirely be “approved” or accepted by most or some people. The question is: do we really need that approval? …That’s for each one of us to decide.

And, yes, there are times when we think we want to (or have to) photograph one thing, to cover certain stories, and when that finally happens we realize that it’s really not for us.

So, what to do, what to do?

People silhouetted by live lava. Big Island of Hawaii. Photo by Alina Oswald.
People silhouetted by lava glow. Big Island of Hawaii. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Do both, if need be. Take on the kind of projects that help pay the bills and those that feed the muse. After all, as creatives, we need both–paying the bills and keeping the muse happy–in order to continue our work.

Myself, as some of you might already know, I’m passionate about the stories that I get to cover–mostly HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ related stories, portraits, and editorials, and also nature (severe nature whenever possible) and the environment.

The “why” part of the question might be more complex, though. Why do we photograph what we photograph? Why do we choose to cover the stories we cover?

Because they pay the bills. Because we’re truly passionate about covering such stories. Because they keep our spirit alive.

So, what do you photograph? What subjects or stories do you cover, and why? Feel free to share your thoughts.

As always, thanks for stopping by,

Alina Oswald


  1. As an amateur photographer with chronic illness and pain, I photograph whatever I see (wherever I go), and when I’m housebound, I still photograph whatever I see every day……the birds through my lounge room window, the beam of late afternoon light indoors, or the sunset seen at the top of my steep road. But I am always looking for the detail that most people don’t usually see.

    I’m always looking at the ‘ordinary’ and trying (often unsuccessfully) to see the extraordinary. I’m usually looking at the everyday things to practice, practice and more practice at capturing subject, size, form/shape and light. I can’t remember what it was like BC (before camera). Somehow every single sight is interpreted by my brain as though I had a camera in my hand. Even on the local bus, I see the outdoors as a composition. Perhaps that’s because I live my life Mindfully and focus on the day, not the past or the future.


    1. Hi Vicki, and thank you so much for your note! Powerful! I love it, in particular your advice to look for details and “focus on the day” and believe, too, that photography helps us do just that.

      Thank you again for sharing! Appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

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