Zack Arias is an Atlanta-based editorial and commercial photographer who specializes in portraiture, music and street photography. Despite a failed initial attempt at a professional photographic career, he returned to become an accomplished and respected photographer. The lessons from his initial attempt at a photographic career provided him with a wealth of lessons and wisdom, which not only helped him to succeed the second-time around, but is also helping others to achieve their own dreams for a creative life. He is the author of Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers. He also teaches workshops as well as produces a popular blog and YouTube Channel, the latter which offers honest critiques of photographers and their work. You can discover more about Zack and his work by visiting his websiteor his 500px account.
Emilio Banuelos has worked as an editorial photographer and consultant for newspapers in Mexico, Panama and the United States. His documentary work earned him fellowships from the Poynter Institute, The Marty Forscher Fellowship for Humanistic Photography and an award from EnFoco Inc. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Emilio teaches documentary photography for the Academy of Art University, and has conducted workshops for the University of California Santa Cruz-Extension, the University of Coahuila and Black Boots Inc. You can discover more about his work by visiting his photo website or the site for Black Boots Ink.
Susan and Neil Silverman forever seek "the Image, the Light and the Moment" through their camera lens. Together they teach workshops, photograph a multitude of subject matter: people, nature, landscape, weddings, travel, commercial and industrial sites. Their work is represented by stock agencies both national and international and has appeared in a variety of publications including the cover of Outdoor Photography,, Elle Magazine, Sierra Club, Microsoft, Pacific Rim Magazine, Cure Magazine, der Spiegel, Tamrac International Catalogue Cover, Nikon World, The Wooden boat, Sierra Club, Nikon International Catalogue, and Proceedings among many others. You can find out more about them and their work and workshops by visiting their website.
Valerie Jardin is a versatile photographer who shoots interiors and architecture where the details tell the story. She also photographs food and loves working with culinary artists on location. Portraiture work gives her the opportunity to photograph people in their environment and capture their true personality.
She also has a passion for street photography, writing and educating other photographers. Her articles appear regularly in the Digital Photography School online magazine and she teaches workshops including a street photography through the street of Paris. You can discover more about her and her work by visiting her website and blog.
I was talking to a friend yesterday who mentioned something that he heard the photographer, Vincent Laforet said.
"Look for pictures that other people don't make."
It's a simple statement, but one that is full of insight.
I was thinking just along these lines when during this past weekend I had some students in my Digital SLR Bootcamp make pictures of a bandshell in the park where I teach the workshop. I encouraged them to not only make photographs from eye level, but to really play around and try different perspectives, focal lengths and compositions. I asked them not to settle for just one or two photographs, but to fully exhaust all the possibilities.
Some of the resulting photographs really surprised me. I saw in their pictures perspectives and points of view that I had never seen myself, even though it's a location that I have visited countless numbers of times. In their photographs, these students were really revealing to me the limits of my own vision.
I know what makes a good photograph or at least I think I know most of the time. So, when I photograph a scene or a subject, it's easy to compose a shot thinking that this is the definitive interpretation of it. But is that really the only possibility?
I saw photographers taking risks, making choices that they were not sure would work or not, but still committing to making the photograph. Yes, there was a risk that the image might not work, but that didn't deter them from trying it out and seeing what could happen. They weren't editing themselves and judging the picture before they made it. Instead, they practiced photography and played and discovered what worked and what didn't and in several cases, revealed exciting and beautiful surprises.
Ask 10 photographers to photograph a car and likely 9 out of 10 of them will deliver just that. They will make a picture of a car. It results in a photograph that is nothing more than a document. Then there is the one photographer who makes a photograph not of the car, but the qualities of the car that resonate with him or her. It could be the color, the shapes, the play off light off its surface. These photographers use the camera to create from not only what they see, but what they feel.
It's so easy to compose a photograph by following all the rules. Yes, it can produce a well-composed, well-exposed photograph, but it may not surprise me or anyone else. It may not make me feel anything. It won't reveal the world to me in a different way that's both exciting and liberating.
The best photographers do that and it begins when they make photographs that other people aren't making.
It's about photographing the world that expresses not only how I uniquely see it, but also which reveals my exploration of that world when I make non-traditional choices with the camera. When I am willing to take the risk and do something different, even though there is a possibility that it may not work, is whenI am really living in the spirit of what it means to be a photographer.
You've asked me in evaluating your work to be brutally honest. Admittedly, it's something that other photographers have asked for, but I've always been reticent about honestly fulfilling such a request. I have often perceived it as the equivalent of a wife or girlfriend asking, "Do I look fat in this?" A frank, honest answer to that question is likely not going to end well.
However, you have been insistent about receiving such concise, unrestrained and to-the-point-feedback. So, I feel inspired to share with you why your pictures suck.
1. You're Lazy
Admittedly, you talk a good game. You talk much and well about your passion for photography, deftly demonstrating both your technical knowledge and proudly showing off your latest bit of kit. You know a good amount of photographic history and you are very insightful with your comments about the craft.
But Charlie, when was the last time you actually went out and made a significant body of work for yourself? I'm not talking about that job you did for pay, or the workshop you attended or that photo walk where you spotted that cute brunette with the Leica M9. No, when did you last go out and commit to producing images that truly challenged you; images that the mere thought of creating them got you excited about getting up in the morning?
I can tell it's been a long time, because you seem to have put more effort into uploading images to Instagram, Facebook and Google Plus, obsessively returning to those posts to check to see how many people provided you a virtual pat on the head. "Great capture". Really?
2. You're Preoccupied with Gear
I get it. There's obviously something primal in both us when it comes to new kit. I have shared that same rush of endorphins on taking a deep whiff of styrofoam peanuts when opening a freshly delivered FedEx package.
But honestly, how often have you used it since you got it? Yes, the unpacking video you posted on YouTube was wonderful. (My wife, by the way, likes the new haircut). But besides that first weekend burst of temporary inspiration, what you have done with it? What have you created that you truly are proud of? And no, fondling it and firing dry frames doesn't count. It seems like you've spent more hours reading blog posts, forums and watching videos about the gear than actually shooting with it. And what's this thing with you reading reviews after you already made the purchase? Aren't your images enough to discern whether you made the right choice or not?
3. You're Sloppy
It seems like you think that "good technique" is a filter in Photoshop. And if you defined a good photographer by how fast they can fill a 32GB CF card, you might be in the running to be one of the greats, but it's hard to see anything in your final result that warrants even the battery being charged.
You seem to be completely absent when you press that shutter release, taking no ownership of what you include in the frame. Yes, the bokeh is scrumptious and creamy, but this is supposed to be a photograph not bloody creme brulee.
Whatever happened to good composition? Good light? Good taste?
And no, I don't care that there is virtually no noise at ISO 128,000, the images are still devoid of anything that would even qualify it as a snapshot.
4. Photoshopping is not Photographing
Yes, Photoshop is an important and invaluable tool. We couldn't do much of what we do without it, or its equivalent. But how long do you actually have to sit at the computer, weaving that Wacom stylus like an orchestra leader, before you admit that most of that energy is being expended on putting lipstick on a pig?
Yes, those plug-ins and actions are awesome and that compositing technique you learned from Matt Koslowski is pure genius, but I'm sorry to tell you that there is no there, there. I could wash, wax and detail that AMC Hornet I drove in college as dutifully and passionately as humanly possible, but in the end, it would still be an AMC Hornet. Those are the facts.
What ever happened to your passion for making a single good, exemplary photograph in the camera? When did everything become fodder for over-saturation, over-sharpening, over-everything?
5. You Refuse to Edit Your Own Work
Though you are asking for my feedback, you must not think much of me. If you did, why else would you inundate me a batch of good, bad and near-misses? When did it become my job to figure out what you are trying to do as a photographer?
What am I supposed t make of this mish-mash of portraits, landscapes, close-ups, abstracts and those picture of your cat (which, okay I'll admit is just adorable)? I have a hard enough time trying to edit and assess my own work, much less yours. I just needed to see 10-12 images I wasn't expecting the entire photographic catalog of the International Center of Photography. If I wanted this kind of punishment, I could just put on a pair of headphones and listen to Debbie Boone singing 'You Light Up My Life" on a continuous loop for 24 hours.
If you can't sit down and decide which of your photographs captures who you are and aspire to be as a photographer, how do you expect me to? I am challenged in just finding a pair of matching socks in the morning.
I could say more, but I think I should show a little restraint.
I know you love photography as much as I do. You couldn't spend as much time and effort, subject yourself to the occasional ego-bruising, if you weren't as in love as you obviously are with making photographs. But the reality is that becoming a good photographer, hell becoming a good anything, involves commitment, diligence and the willingness to regularly fall on one's face. You obviously have some of that in you, because you are still around making images, when everyone else has taken up golf or knitting.
I hope that what I shared is helpful to you, but if it wasn't, I completely understand.
A couple of weeks ago, I held the first Chasing the Light workshop in Downtown Los Angeles at the Hatakeyama Gallery. It was a small, but passionate group of photographers, each of whom in a very short time discovered a different way of seeing and shooting, based on being aware of the light.
The most interesting part of teaching is having the opportunity to encourage and witness a change in a photographer's work as a result of what I shared. It was no less the case on this day, which started with an exercise in which the students go out and look for subjects which possess 1 or more of the elements: color, contrast or pattern. The limitations where:
1. You only have twenty minutes
2. No chimping - You can't review the image even for the purposes of checking your exposure
3. You can only shoot up to 7 images.
Those limits can be jarring and even uncomfortable, but that's the point. We all have our way of shooting, some of which may include some really bad habits. Working with limitations forces you not only to pay more attention to what you choose to photograph, but also makes you confront some of those bad habits such as being to preoccupied with what the camera is doing or not doing, making judgements on the worth of an image while you are shooting and worst of all...rushing.
The exercise forced everyone to slow down and to really pay attention not only to the subjects they were considering photographing, but also to observe their process and how they "felt" while shooting.
copyright Larry Marotta
It was after demonstrating to them how I wanted them to respond and photograph that I was able to introduce them to the concept of looking for subjects based on observing the light. It was then that I could begin to reveal to them how the light can and does make a huge difference in their photography.
A big part of this was critiquing their 7 images and pointing out how they were already responding to the light. With many of their photographs, I could see that they were often reacting to the light, though they weren't always aware of it. With each image, I was able to tap into each of them was already seeing and helped them to consider how to be more in-tune with that when they were out shooting, especially when it came to staying aware of the quality of the light.
Most importantly, I repeated the concept of "owning the frame", being completely responsible for every single element they chose to include in the composition. This was important, because it not only eliminated distractions, but allowed them to build compositions that really took advantage of how they were seeing and responding to the light.
So, when they went out for their second round of shooting, their images were not only better, but also more thoughtful. Where the earlier images felt unsure and tentative, these second round of images not only reflected a greater awareness of light, but more importantly, greater consitency.
Copyright Jared RL
It was particularly interesting to see photographers who revisited subject matter they had photographed in the morning. These new images revealed the color, contrast and pattern of the subject or scene all informed by their observations of how the light shaped their perception. You could often feel and here the difference as the students reacted to the new set of images that popped on the screen.
I can't help but feel that working with the limitations of the first exercise really set the foundation for images they produced in the afternoon. Though, they were freshly pollinated by the information I shared about light, it was also about how they were more aware of not only how they photographed, but how they were feeling when they were doing so.
There is nothing better than being completely in the moment when photographing. You are observing, reacting and shooting, hopefully in a seamless and interrupted flow. Though they were still a bit self-conscious, the image reflected a shift in their perception and technique that was really gratifying to see.
Mike Moats is an award winning, professional nature photographer from Sterling Heights, Michigan. Her started as a hobbyist in 2001 but it quickly grew into a full time business. He has published articles and images in Outdoor Photographer Magazine, PC Photo Magazine, Natures Best Magazine, Nature Photographer Magazine, Photolife and Tamron’s “Angle of View” Blog.
He has won numerous local and international awards, and in 2006 was asked to join the Fuji Pro Talent Team and in 2009 was added to the Tamron Lenses website as one of their ”Macro Masters”. In 2006 he started offering Close-Up/Macro Photography Workshops. He is also a moderator of the macro gallery at www.naturephotographers.net. He also offers personal one on one online macro workshops, and has released five e-Books. You can find out more about his photography by visiting his galleries or blog.
Mike Moats recommends the work of John Shaw and Art Wolfe.
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Bruce Smith is a fashion photographer who has been working professionally for over three decades. In this second conversation with the Liverpool-based photographer, we discuss what's involved in sustaining a long-term career as a photographer. His commercial and advertising work has been published in publications throughout the world. His sensitivity and rapport with his models extends to his clients, which reflects one of the reasons for his continued success in the highly-competitive field of fashion photography. He is also a generous teacher and offers his years of experience and talent though his international series of photographic workshops. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his website.
Vincent Versace is a renowned photographer and educator. His work has appeared in countless publications and he is the author of Welcome to OZ 2.0. He is a popular instructor whose expertise using available light and Photoshop has earned him honors and the admiration of photographers from all over the world.
In this revisit with Vincent, we discuss his recent trip to Burma, which included the opportunity to photograph, "The Lady", Aung San Suu Ky and how this has influenced his work and how he sees it.