Well, I don't think your instructor wanted you to follow Robert Capa's example literally. "Hmm, I might get my head shot off maybe I'll leave the Rolleflex in the landing craft"
Jnanian provides an excellent example of photographs that do not play it safe. I would do well to follow your instructor's advice. Though I am truly ashamed of the photos I took in high school photography, they never would have fortold my ongoing interest.
So even if you don't follow your instructor's advice, even if your photos from this class remain safe. It doesn't mean you won't have a future...
Well there are a few places that I've waundered around in that would definately not be considered safe, however my guess is that isn't what he was talking about.
My bet goes with, if you are absolutely comfortable or certain with how your image is going to turn out because you've essentially taken the same image a hundred times, then you are playing it safe. There are many ways to test the boundries. I'd say to pick one that might be of interest and that is going to require you to learn something new. If all your photos have been still lifes of oranges, switching to apples isn't going be it. Try an unfamilair process, camera format, subject matter, compostition, etc. Have it be something that challenges you.
instructor, eh...well, it looks like you're forced to give him what he wants if you want a passing grade.
if you care about the class, then suffer--find out what he means first--just tell him the truth, that you do not understand what he means and ask him to clarify, with examples if possible.
THEN--do what he says, get the grade and go BACK to what you WANT to do--never let ANYbody tell you what's good and what's not--that's YOUR call with your work.
HOWEVER--when you are being paid by someone, its THEIR call--and being graded is just like being paid. If the customer (instructior) don't like it, you dont' get paid (passing grade).
You've had your fun, now it's time to "suffer." Just like other photogs that must do junk work for money to fund their REAL work that they like.
A 'safe' photograph is one that you think someone else will like.
You need to make photographs you like.
Don't stop taking "safe" photos, unless you want to.
Start taking "un-safe" photos as well.
And I agree - ask the instructor to clarify what the instructor meant by that. The ensuing discussion might lead to the most important lesson of all.
I think your instructor wants you to desist from shooting still life picture of large secure metal lockable boxes :D.
Lots of speculation here - some possibly accurate - as to what the instructor meant. An instructor's job is to COMMUNICATE to a student, avoiding ambiguous terms. The student, if he/she is serious in wanting to learn, should ask for clarification if instruction lacks clarity. In this instance, there is the possibility that the instructor's "style" was simply to test the seriousness of a student showing talent, in anticipation that the student would want to delve more deeply to understand. So, to me, I think a serious student would somehow (whatever it takes) contact the instructor for clarification, even requesting face-to-face discussion if that's possible. A good instructor would at least provide (in class) his phone number and/or his email address for students' use if needed.
Take in a still life of dog excrement and title it Worthless Vague Instructor Comment.
Your instructor has given you nothing to work towards. Make an appointment during office hours and ask him to fully explain his comment.
Ah, I am pretty sure that the instructor means to take more creative risks. If you don't know what that means then this will be a great assignment! I have heard writing instructors make similar admonitions.
It is too easy ... and "safe"... to take the kinds of photographs that you know will be accepted by most of the people who see it. One of the common ways that photographers fall into that rut is outright mimicry of shots that they know will be accepted. Another way is to conform to compositional "rules" such as:
-rule of thirds
-the more sharp detail the better
-unwanted distractions should be dissolved into blur
-shots should be level i.e. vertical lines should be perfectly vertical
-don't over or under-expose
Just try to take some shots that nobody has ever seen before. Make your instructor say WTF?!
Thanks for all of the feedback.
I have made another attempt to contact the instructor.
In reply to this email, the instructor stated to start taking pictures of things that "talk to me in some way".
This has me even more confounded, as that is what I thought I had been doing all along.
I do not think they mean for me to break the rules of composition, as they have been pushing the students to follow those rules all semester.