How to Shoot: Part 3: What Are You Trying to Capture?

In order to photograph in a meaningful way, you have to be photographing your world. — Nicholas Vreeland

Before you can make a photograph, you first have to see something. As Joel Meyerowitz mentions in the first video, some photographers go out with an idea in mind. The problem with that is that if you are looking for something, that’s all you’ll be able to see. True master photographers, even when they have a concept in mind, respond to the environment. They “play with illusion.” They stretch reality around the frame and allow the viewer to explore the environment via the camera.

The idea that there is one way to photograph is ludicrous. Black and white is the “pure art form.” Color is playing. Bullshit. You think color is easy? Then ask yourself why so few have mastered it. The greats use whatever is there. They see the shot by allowing themselves to decide what is interesting dynamically.

Here are a few videos to give you some ideas of how to free yourself from your current processes or even from the vision you have of your work. We’ll start with the master, Joel Meyerowitz, and go through Mona Kuhn, Ken Schles, Eamonn Doyle, and Nicholas Vreeland. You don’t have to like their work; that’s not the point. What you should be looking for are ways to free yourself from the camera. Too often, we become the little box in our hand, fretting over the technical aspects (which don’t really matter as much as you think) instead of allowing it to become an extension of our visual cortex and our imaginations.

At the beginning, I don’t really censor any of my reactions. Later on, when I’m editing the work, maybe more of my mind or my critical self comes in. — Mona Kuhn

That, my shutterbugs, is the goal.

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12 thoughts on “How to Shoot: Part 3: What Are You Trying to Capture?

  1. Good introduction, honey. I’m looking forward to watching the videos when I get back home later. Also running a comparison to see how did on my shoot in London yesterday. 🙂

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  2. What is quietly sobering from watching all of these videos is how each photographer’ s perspective is really quite different. How they view their own art, and the art of photography is very interesting in that it kind of gives you the sense that anything goes. Which of course is exactly what we have been saying throughout our series. What they all focus on however is the importance of composition, and with evoking something within the viewer through the conveyance of their work. They are all attempting to create a reaction with their audience. They are each in love with the space around them, and feel a need to share that moment of magic with the world. But each of their motivations is different, and that’s the important bit. Developing your own style is paramount to your success as a photographer.

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  3. Here’s another Meyerowitz video you might like. He explains in an interview how he became a photographer. I like that he indirectly refers to Magnum as ‘not serious photography’ 🙂

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  4. When I have my camera in hand it’s seldom with any specific intent (unless I’m shooting something specific at home).

    Something that has worked well for me is grabbing my camera, a few lenses, some coffee, and go on a two-hours drive on the back roads near me. I stop when something I see wakes my interest.

    Funny; though not looking for anything specific, I always get a number of nice photos.

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