Archivi categoria: opinion

Try to be The Dumbest Photographer In The World

I always say the Universe’s favorite hiding place for the most awesome stuff is right behind fear. Isn’t that a little unfair? Why doesn’t the Universe put the great stuff right before the fear, so everyone can enjoy pure bliss?

Although there are a million laws in the Universe, you only need to know one for your photography right now: it expands. Always. But what does that have to do with fear, being dumb and your photos? Let me explain.

If the Universe always expands, you have to comply or otherwise you’ll struggle: if all your friends try out new things and you don’t, you won’t fit in anymore; if the company you work for expands big time, you either grow with it and embrace the change or you’ll get fired.

As long as you have a relationship with something or someone, you relate to each other. Once you relate to each other, you are connected—if your friend tows your car, you better not hit the breaks.

It’s the same with the Universe, your life, and your photography. Since the Universe expands, you as a person and a photographer have to do the same. Otherwise you fight against an insurmountable force. I tried it multiple times and almost died, developing severe suicidal depression due to my ADHD.

You can take vacations, you can take creative breaks, but as soon as you stagnate (creative) depression hits you. Maybe it won’t hit you as severe as it did for me, but every one of us can become depressed. This is why I say you have to be dumb to become better at photography and life.

Of course, the definition of smart and dumb depends on perspective, but let’s try something. Decide for yourself whether you would consider the following person smart or dumb:

  • Is it dumb to quit your well-paying job while in debt to become an artist with no savings and not one sale in sight?
  • Would you consider it clever to go against the advice of hundreds of well-educated people to do so?
  • How smart is it really to be homeless over and over again to just take photos all day that no one really needs?

As someone that studied statistics and goes by reason and logic, I have to say it sounds pretty dumb. So why the hell would you want to be the dumb photographer?

Well, it already makes you unique by default. If you always go where no one else goes, you’ll end up where no one else ends up. If you always do what no one else does, you’ll get what no one else gets.

Whether it eventually leads to your own photography paradise depends on how well you learn and improve from your mistakes, of course, but the insights, knowledge and skills you gain are rare and precious. It’s the road less travelled by, and that’s what makes all the difference—for you, for your photography, and for all the photographers you care about.

What’s more, being the “dumbest” photographer in the world is actually pretty easy. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, and a lot of people will judge you, this is the one rule you have to follow:

Always go where no one goes.

This rule has served as the ideal fuel for the motor of change in history. As soon as you feel that you are part of the masses, leave. Turn around, walk away, and forge your own path.

It may feel lonely and you have to trust your instincts more than ever before, but it’s the right way. How could you ever experience your journey as unique if millions of others have walked the same exact path before you? How could you grow as a human and photographer if you just follow the steps of others?

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should blindly walk where no one else is going.

Listen to what the photographers you admire advise you, and evaluate their advice based on how successful they are with their philosophy. If they are not where you want to be, don’t follow their advice… it’s as simple as that. They might have the best arguments in the world to defend their path, and it’s their right to do so, but you also have the right to learn from their experience and go elsewhere.

Why is this article not called “10 Crystal Clear Ways To Become More Successful”? Because abstract guidance, if done right, leaves you much more room to create your own thoughts, actions, and steps.

Any rule or advice you read that dictates steps and a path rather than helping you define and create your own, is almost certainly bad. It’s turning your unique creative soul into a bad remix of what’s already been done or someone else is doing at the moment.

I personally believe that you can only teach what you’ve personally proven with your own success. If you want to start your own business, from whom would you rather learn? A college professor that knows all economic theories in the world, or an entrepreneur who has already achieved your goal and runs multiple successful businesses?

If you want to check how “smart” a photographer is, just tell him this:

Pics or it didn’t happen!

If a theory isn’t proven by a successful photographic experiment, it’s nothing more than a hypothesis. Photographic scientist claim wisdom, but they don’t put it to the test themselves.

In science you always base your studies on the proven facts of other studies. Reason and logic are the driving forces behind it. But that doesn’t apply to photography or art. Photography is emotional. Period. As soon as you try to calculate it, it loses its heart and soul.

There are proven ways to run a profitable business, but where will proven strategies in photography get you?

Basic technical knowledge and composition rules is as far as “strategies” will take you in photography. This art is 10% logical and 90% emotional—90% you have to figure out yourself, and 10% you can learn from others.

Just compare photography to poetry or novels. The 10% is the ABCs and grammar, 90% is having a great (visual) story to tell from within. If it truly was the other way around, we would all take the same photos, wouldn’t we? Do 90% of the photos you see online offer you a unique perspective of the world? No, because having the honesty to look within yourself for inspiration is harder than looking left and right.

To be honest, I’d rather not even give you any examples. I would love to keep your creative soul free and independent.

Picasso claimed: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” I know what he means, but I politely disagree. Good artists copy, great artists steal people’s hearts by pouring their own into their artworks. The answer is always within you, not around you. It’s not in the past or the future, it’s in the now. That’s where you are and that’s where your photography and art has the most fertile soil. Connect the dots from the past, but focus on creating in the now.

Don’t fall in love with your fellow photographers’ work, love yourself and let them fall in love with yours. That’s the true meaning of giving. Please feel free to steal the mindset behind the following examples, but create a unique journey and photography that can’t be copied. That way you become touchable and untouchable in the best way possible.

The following examples that were captured due to “dumbness.” not lessons to be replicated. In 2013, when I discovered street photography, I tried to educate myself on the subject to improve. No matter where I looked or whom I asked, the “golden rules” were pretty clear.

This is what happens if you’re dumb, don’t listen, and do the exact opposite:

1. True emotions come from strong facial expressions

2. Don’t capture people’s backs, it lacks emotion

3. People walking past buildings are boring

4. Black and white highlights structures and patterns best

5. Black and white brings out more “soul”

6. Zoom lenses are a big no-no

7. Eye contact attracts viewers most effectively

8. The quieter and smaller the camera, the better

9. Capture unique characters that stand out

10. The closer you get to the subject, the better

I hope this article inspires you to become a bit more hungry and foolish, as Steve Jobs once said. Be dumb, take risks, trust your instincts and create your own path, because that’s the only path there is. It may be more challenging at first, but it’s much more rewarding in the long-term. And even if we both walk the road less travelled, it doesn’t mean that we are lone wanderers without travel companions. We can always share our unique insights with each other. Whether it’s through social media, emails, or meeting up every once in a while in this insanely beautiful forest of billions of creative souls.

If you have any questions or ideas on how we could become dumber together, please reach out to me. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this to re-evaluate my own. Let me try to finish this article with the dumbest last line I could come up with:

If you want to be dumb, follow my advice, but if you want to be the dumbest photographer in the world, please don’t and share your insights with all of us!


About the author: Marius “VICE” Vieth is an award-winning fine-art photographer, entrepreneur, and coach based in Amsterdam. His brand new label Eye, Heart & Soul empowers rising and established photographers worldwide. Connect with EHS on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to level up your photography game! This post was also published here.

The Battle is Over: My Micro 4/3 Camera Outsold my Full-Frame DSLR

The battle is over, and full frame cameras have lost the race. Here’s why.

I’ve been selling photos through a high end stock agency for the last two years. In my collection are images from a full frame DSLR, an APS-C DSLR, and several Micro 4/3rds cameras, and after tallying my sales for an entire year, it turns out my highest selling image was taken with the Olympus OMD EM10. That’s right: the entry level OMD model.

What’s more significant is that I would not have even been able to create the photo with a DSLR. To capture the traffic on the Vegas strip I used the Live Composite mode which is unique to Olympus.

Now you may think that this is an anomaly, but guess what… my second most sold image was taken with the same micro 4/3rds camera, too. Put simply, a 16-megapixel micro 4/3rds sensor outsold a full-frame sensor many times over. And the funny thing is, it cost me far less to purchase, and was easier to carry along. Was there enough resolution to go around? Absolutely! The agency I work with asks for 50MB TIFFs and I was able to hit this mark easily by shooting in RAW and processing through Alien Skin’s Blowup software.

In addition to shooting travel work, I’m a photography teacher. People ask me what camera to buy all of the time, and I honestly can’t think of a reason why I would recommend a DSLR anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a loyal Canon shooter for years, but they totally missed the mirrorless boat. Nikon is way behind the ball as well, and their slumping sales numbers prove it. And while Sony got into the mirrorless game, they got all caught up in the full-frame hype. As a result, the lenses are huge which totally defeats the purpose of a smaller camera. Dare I also say, their selection of zoom lenses is rather disappointing.

Meanwhile micro 4/3rd users enjoy seemingly endless options from Olympus, Panasonic, Voigtlander and more.

Why do I feel the need to write this piece? It’s to counter the marketing machines that have done a great job convincing people that they need a full-frame sensor. They are preying on unknowing customers and it’s just wrong.

Try it yourself. Walk into a camera store and tell them you are looking for a pro quality camera. Do they pull the micro 4/3rds body from the case or the more expensive full-frame DSLR? I think you already know the answer. These camera salespeople need to be educated as well. Then again, if they work on commission it’s their job to mislead you. This is why I am voicing the benefits of micro 4/3rds systems.

My cameras have five stops of image stabilization built into them. This means I can hand hold at much slower shutter speeds than a DSLR. This alone negates any ISO advantages the full-frame sensor had. Then there’s the depth of field benefits of micro 4/3rds. At f/4 I am gathering a ton of light but getting the equivalent to f/8 depth of field. This means there’s no diffraction to worry about as I am using the lens in it’s sweet spot. When I want shallow depth of field I use one of the many amazing f/1.8 lenses. For a trip to Iceland I even rented a Panasonic f/1.2 lens. Let me tell you, the bokeh was beautiful.

So tell me where I’ve gone wrong here? I’m inviting the trolls to chime in. I’m shooting more, selling more, and enjoying my photography more. How can you still justify the extra cost and size of a full-frame system?

With just two lenses (12-40mm f/f2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8) I have the full-frame equivalent to 24-300mm at a constant aperture of f/2.8. These lenses combined weigh less than three pounds and total $2,500. Alternatively, a Canon 300mm ff/2.8 runs over $6,000 and weighs in at just over five pounds—and you’d still have to buy other lenses in addition to this monster to cover the entire focal range at f/2.8. This means more cash and weight.

The idea that bigger is better has come and gone. Your new photography philosophy should be “less is more.”

I’ve sold all of my Canon gear—every last bit of it. I would recommend you do the same. Use eBay to get the best return. DSLRs are a dying breed, and full-frame sensors are a sales gimmick for an industry with a shrinking bottom line. Don’t feed into the machine. I just saved you thousands of dollars and a sore back.

Use the savings to take a trip to Iceland or Rome, or New York. Along your travels you will run into haters who are still clinging to their old ways. The same was also true of film, but look how that ended.

If I sound upset, it’s because I am. It’s simply not right for camera manufacturers to take advantage of people. A camera is only as good as the person using it. Give a veteran National Geographic photographer like Jim Brandenburg a basic point and shoot camera, and he will create spectacular art. You can do the same if you get out of the rat race and shift your focus.

The camera that you are going to bring with you all the time is the one you should own. Are you really hiking up that mountain with a six thousand dollar 300mm f/2.8?

For those of you who dream of becoming a professional photographer, now is the perfect time. You can get into the game at a fraction of the price it used to cost. You have to be super careful of who you listen to regarding your gear recommendations; in fact, you’re going to have to go against popular opinion.

This is not easy when you’re just starting out, but remember how this article started: I made more sales with my micro 4/3rds camera than my full-frame.


About the author: Chris Corradino is the CEO and Head Instructor at Photo Mentor NYC, a personal mentoring service for photographers of all skill levels. The opinions in this article are solely those of its author. To see more of Chris’ work, visit his website.

I Finally Found the Perfect Camera: The One I Already Own

I finally found the perfect camera. This camera does everything you could ever need or dream of—from capturing the perfect frame and exposure to developing your skill and photographic eye.

I’m not talking about a video or multiple purpose camera that does it all. I’m talking about the perfect stills camera. A camera that helps you composite the frame. It knows the best time to press the shutter button for that perfect image quality. The amazing thing is, and don’t ask me how, but when I use it, it just knows the settings you need automatically. The depth of field, shutter speed, and ISO all sync perfectly.

But the most amazing thing to hear is how affordable it is. Are you ready? Here it is… it’s the camera you already have.

Anticlimactic, I know, but it’s true. The camera you already have is the best tool to capture a moment. Do you really think there is going to be a perfect camera? Do you believe that will ever be obtained? If the perfect camera was ever made, companies would go out of business.

The perfect camera is the one you already have.

Be it cell phone, DSLR, mirrorless, rangefinder, medium, or large format. They all do their job and they all do it well. If you think you need that next whatever to become a better photographer, you will always be running down a never ending rabbit hole.

I’m not here to stop you buying cameras, hell you are the reason the economy is running. But keep this in mind: camera operators care about the gear, artist care about the work.

If you love photographers like Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, etc. do you really think they cared about what gear was coming out next, or is it possible they focused more on the story, the work, the craft? I would put my money on the latter. Sure they had their preferred tools, but that’s just it: a tool. Not a gateway to becoming a better photographer, just a tool.

If we didn’t have the luxury of choice, we would all be better off. We wouldn’t waste our money on gear that later we no longer use, or read reviews that are completely subjective aside from specs.

It took me a few years to come to the realization that gear is secondary. Who’s to say the next whatever is perfect for you? Maybe the best camera is an old Canon AE-1, Kodak brownie, or Leica IIIc. They all do the same thing, and they all do it well: capture a moment. If you still need that extra dynamic range or more pixels to become a better photographer, I’m saddened. We need more artists in this world than technicians.

Perfect photographs do not move the heart, it’s in the imperfections that we see beauty. Using one camera is the starting point to developing your style, vision and artistic voice. Be satisfied with what you already have, because it’s not the camera that makes the photograph great, it’s you.


About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Is Street Photography Killing Itself?

Is the most egalitarian form of photography, ‘street photography’, being destroyed by its own popularity? Is such a thing even possible? I won’t profess to have a clear answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts. Those thoughts may turn into a rant, but I’ll try to contain myself!

Egalitarian = good, right?

This question hits right at the heart of photography and, most specifically, digital photography. If something is easy, more people will do it. The more people doing it, the more ‘cultivated talent’ there will be (which is a good thing). However, there can be a cost: the dross can become overwhelming.

Street photography is easy for everyone to engage in. If you have a camera and are able to access public areas, you can shoot street photography. While this sounds great, I can’t help but feel something of a massacre is taking place. Cameras have become optical machine guns, mowing down everyone and everything with carefree abandon.

The problem, as I see it, is exacerbated by a particular catalyst: for want of a better word, it is ‘cool’. When something is fashionable in this way, the self-image can become the real target, rather than the photograph itself.

So what has ‘coolness’ done for street photography?

It has clouded judgment, that’s what it has done. Some photographers evidently struggle to see past their excitement at indulging in this fountain of cool. Twenty years ago, to pull this off, you had to tote a film camera around and go through all the palava of changing rolls, developing them, faffing with lightboxes, checking contact sheets and making prints. If a person was prepared to go through all of this inglorious hassle, there was a very good chance they were reaching a bit deeper, within and without.

Now, in the digital age, you can buy the right ‘stealth satchel’, blaze away and saturate Instagram and Flickr within hours. At no point in this process will you have to consider the merits of the photographs being taken, because it doesn’t matter. You’re a rock and roll street sniper. At least a landscape photographer has to deal with bad weather, muddy feet and uncooperative light to get his or her shots and that obstacle of effort acts as a filter.

When it’s raining, the street ninja just slides into Starbucks and takes 482 photographs of coffee cups, tables, people’s feet, the window, people walking past the window, people tying their shoe laces… and they’re all painfully boring. Sadly, this garbage is overflowing into the street so to speak. The visible face of popular photography is more and more being defined by street photography, when we’re not being overwhelmed by photos of people’s dinner on social media.

Why could this be bad?

The good street photography is being buried, that’s why. It is more difficult than it should be to find consistently good street photography taken by someone without an already well-known name. The work is out there, I have no doubt of that, but the process of finding it is exhausting and depressing. There also seems to be a bit too much ego in the mix. Far too many of these (often very young) photographers seem unwilling to learn. They’re already amazing, which they know, because that’s what they tell each other continuously on social media. They also have lots of ‘likes’, so that’s that.

On the occasions when I have seen really good photographs on Instagram/Facebook groups, the inspiring work barely gets a mention. Nobody cares. That’s not what social media is about and street photography has become the social media of photography: an avalanche of banal, shallow and unreflective nothing that hasn’t the time to consider its own context. Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. In the same way, much of this ‘great street photography’ is, well, the new great.

Editing. What is that?

Too many street photographers don’t edit. They share everything, perhaps because they think the world wants to know what fifty different takes of groups of random people walking down the street looks like at 8:56 in the morning, on their way into work. I applaud the enthusiasm, but photography is like selling your house. You show the best bits, while trying to avoid scrutiny of the bad bits.

You put your junk into the loft, or carefully pack cupboards. You mow the lawn, give a lick of paint to that beautiful front door and make sure your new kitchen is sparkling. The whole point is to draw attention to the good bits and let them define your house as a proposition. You curate the impression you want to leave people with. What you don’t do is give them a guided tour of the junk pile corner of your garden, the rotten window frame you’ve meant to replace and then hand them a map of the broken floor tiles.

When you’re Magnum Photos, you can put out a book full of contact sheets when most of the photographers who took those hugely iconic images are dead! Everyone else is better off editing at least until it hurts.

Endless juxtapositions and their formulaic brethren

Visual juxtapositions are akin to a trick that can be performed according to recipe. They are cookie cutter photographs that deliver all of their impact (if they have any at all) in no more time than it takes to mentally identify the game. A boot on a poster steps on a passing pedestrian’s head. The man standing at a bus stop is being shouted at by a woman on a billboard.

See, you didn’t even need a photo to experience all that such photographs contain: a simple, boring, endlessly repeated ‘jingle’. You could only ever write one short line about such photographs, because they contain nothing beyond the superficial.

Some photographers have built entire series (in fact entire websites) crammed full of variations of the same thing. They’re no more interesting than ‘zonies’ obsessed with Ansel Adams’ Zone System, who 20 years ago produced endless photographs of tree stumps and sticks that showed how wonderfully they’d applied -3 compensation development. My personal hit list goes something like this:

Juxtapositions. If they say nothing and have no appeal beyond their initial visual recognition, they’re boring. Really boring. Even the ‘good ones’.

Juxtapositions are almost ALL the same. This is a quick screen grab after google searching ‘street photography juxtaposition’.

Random photos of nothing, for no reason, with no content, thought, insight or anything. They’re not so casual as to be cool. They’re just boring.

Faux edginess. People being made to look mean, when they aren’t. Intensity that has been added in Photoshop, or with a pithy title that over-eggs the pudding. Their landscape photography equivalents are the ones shot in Yosemite (or similar) during evidently pleasant weather, that have been heavily over-cooked in post, and then titled ‘_____, Clearing Winter Storm’.

Arrows and street signs. OK, so there is always going to be potential here. Never say never and all that, but I wish I could erase memory of every photo like the one below I have seen and wish I could un-see.

So what do you think about these photographs?

Note: These following street photos are being shared under fair use for commentary and critique. The names of the photographers have been omitted to not single any artist out in a negative way. Anyone who wishes to have their photo removed will have their request respected immediately.

What can you say about this photograph? Is there anything to say?
Posting a letter. Am I missing something?
Waiting for a bus. Is the appeal in her age? If so, where is this going?
The hand/scarf over her face does not make this photo any less banal.
The most overused street photography formula of them all: arrow with person going the wrong way. I don’t see anything here to elevate this image beyond formula.
Is this photo truly compelling because of the black and white theme?
Does this work? If so, why? I see an initial ‘edginess’ replaced by nothing (along with the realization that there isn’t actually an edge)
Everyone hates a mop handle in the eye. Is this an aspirational photo? If so, why? The ‘punchline’ is paper thin.
We see many images like this. Is there supposed to be humour in the sleeping man? Is there something else going on that I am just not seeing?

What goes in comes out

Really engaging photographs are never the product of laziness, or formula, but this does not mean it should be hard work either. “Endeavor” is perhaps the best term. If we put in effort (and some thought) we can generally produce photographs worth more than a quick glance. That does not mean waiting for all of two minutes until a man of the right height walks past a poster depicting a large open mouth. Such photos are simply the free version of buying a ticket to Yosemite and placing your tripod in the exact spot ‘Clearing Winter Storm’ was taken 75 years earlier. It’s easy. It requires no real effort, thought or (most importantly) personal investment.

I am not suggesting a hipster coffee approach here. Riding to the Andes on a unicycle to collect the coffee does not make it taste any different. Working your ass off in photography without that effort actually affecting your photographs is no different. However, just engaging in the subject of photography helps. Learning a little more about yourself helps. Learning about the people and environment around you and your thoughts and reactions to it helps. The sad truth is that most of our effort in photography amounts to nothing. We’ve all worked hard and come back with a slew of entirely disappointing images, but this does not mean we stop trying.

Street photography is fantastic and compelling, but it is also incredibly difficult to do well. In part, this is because we have seen so much of it before. Brilliant, obsessive workaholics have been doing it for 70 years, but they aren’t us. They haven’t had our experiences. They haven’t seen everything through the same eyes. Their insights are not ours. Every single person wielding a camera has the potential to say something interesting, or see something engaging. Again, it comes down to relationships and, even on the street, our relationship with what is in front of the camera is key.

Once a photographer has learned a few ‘tricks’, they are presented with a choice: keep chasing gimmicks or formulas, or look deeper. It’s OK to be lost. It’s OK not to know what you’re doing. It’s OK to fail. It’s absolutely fine to feel insecure about your work. In fact, all of these things are very cool because they state very loudly that a person is trying, striving, exploring and searching in a very personal sense…. call it what you will.

It is this highly individual engagement that makes photography interesting. Street photographs needn’t take that away. It isn’t an altar that photographers must worship beneath and it isn’t a sport either. Some years ago I read a passage in a men’s magazine advising young men not to approach their sexual endeavors in the same way as they might improvements to their sporting performance. And here we are back to the supreme importance of relationships, expression and connection. Without these things, both just become repetitive, predictable acts that lose their luster.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


About the author: After studying Biological Sciences at Bristol University, Thomas served in the British Army before spending fifteen years living and photographing in conflict zones as a civilian. His work has won numerous international awards and has been exhibited in the UK, US, Europe. You can find more of his work and writing on his website and The Photo Fundamentalist. This article was also published here.

Don’t Mourn Popular Photography

After nearly 80 years, Popular Photography announced that the magazine would publish its final issue on March 10, 2017 while simultaneously ceasing updates to both PopPhoto.com and AmericanPhotoMag.com.

The end of an era will always be tinged with sadness, and of course, we can’t make light of people potentially losing their jobs. But like many print publications, Pop Photo suffered from being a generalist—an aggregator of content that could be widely found (often in more detail) through a casual Internet search.

Sites like DPReview offer more comprehensive buying information, Roger Cicala nerds it out with a level of detail that would flummox most photographers, and YouTube channels like Negative Feedback specialize in niche and DIY topics that Pop Photo simply couldn’t replicate.

And of course none of these channels can compete with the stream of vernacular images and video that one can find through Instagram and Snapchat. Taking better photos has always been a niche concern—and it has become even more so as photos have become a kind of slang communication.

Decades ago, I remember poring over the 42nd Street Camera ads in the back of Popular Photography—dreaming of owning a Nikon F3HP and some exotic lens—but the march of technological progress has been blindingly fast.

Dedicated camera sales have plunged amidst the increasing capabilities of the camera phone. Post-production techniques have become arguably as important as image capture. And even a resurgence in analog processes has fueled the creation of online video training directly from people practicing the techniques—not being reported on by a journalist with only a passing interest.

Mourning the loss of publications like Pop Photo reminds me of recent columns on the NYT’s Lens blog. Long time editor/photographer Donald R. Winslow opined on the state of photography and how difficult the landscape had become for photojournalists, while 20-something Leslye Davis offered a retort unencumbered by historical baggage.

It was an exchange that has mirrored many conversations I’ve had with younger photographers. The young photographer doesn’t know how good or bad it was “back in the day,” she only knows how it is now. This isn’t willful ignorance of history, but rather the reality of making photos today. Perhaps the economics of Davis’ full-time position at the NYT isn’t representative of the struggle of most freelancers, but that doesn’t invalidate her experience as a 21st century documentarian.

I will always remember Pop Photo for infecting me with Gear Acquisition Syndrome from an early age. I will fondly recall being inspired by some of the photos and techniques I saw by flipping through its pages. But there are so many more incredible resources and outlets for photography than ever before. So thanks for helping lead the way Popular Photography. The road to the future is bright and wide open.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Why The Camera Matters, But Not in The Way You’re Thinking

For as long as I’ve been photographing, I’ve always had a soft spot for gear and the technical side of photography. In the beginning, I was obsessed with getting the best camera I could afford, which, ironically, was a refurbished entry-level Nikon DSLR—not exactly the pinnacle of camera technology at the time.

For the years following, I shot with Nikon DSLRs and these cameras are the ones with which I first started my photography career. At the time my needs for a camera were simple: good image quality. Most of my work was still travel photography, but mainly posed portraiture, landscape work, and the occasional ‘action’ shot. I didn’t care about weight or usability, in my mind DSLRs were the only way to do it.

Much of my early work was taken in posed, controlled lighting scenarios. Having a lighter, quiet camera was not so important.

After a couple of years and some extra lenses in my kit bag, the weight started to become an annoyance. I was either leaving gear in my hotel or being wiped out after a day of lugging a weighty rucksack. This is when my first venture into looking at smaller gear started; I looked at Fuji, Olympus and eventually settled with Panasonic and the GX7.

At the time many photographers were looking into smaller cameras, Instagram was taking off, iPhones were being hailed as the DSLR killer, and the mirrorless boom started. Seeing amazing, candid, fly on the wall imagery being captured with cameras like the Ricoh GR, iPhones, Olympus OMDs etc. began to make me realize what I was missing out on.

As my work evolved, having a small, unobtrusive camera allowed me to capture more candid moments

On my first trip with the GX7, I had a bit of an epiphany: using a small camera and the silent shutter mode meant I was able to photograph in a candid was that was just not possible in the same way with my DSLR.

Small usability features like the flip out screen, constant exposure preview in the EVF, and tiny, high-quality primes like the Leica 15mm f/1.7 made the switch over decision rather simple. My thought process towards cameras changed; no longer was I interested in choosing cameras purely from an image quality perspective.

Note: Despite being an ambassador for Panasonic Europe and using their gear solely for the last three years, I think it’s important to note that none of what I want to discuss is brand specific. Yes, features between each brand vary to some degree, but it’s finding the feature mix that’s right for you. I have close friends producing amazing work on Fuji and Olympus cameras too, the brand is secondary.

Changing the Way I Shoot

The most surprising revelation in my journey into mirrorless and Micro Four Thirds was actually seeing how my needs and shooting style evolved through using the cameras.

Having a small, flexible and portable camera meant that I could create images on the fly. Even whilst traveling between locations, I could sling a camera over my shoulder and capture the interesting moments that appeared before me. Situations where I wouldn’t normally shoot suddenly became accessible and, most importantly, visually interesting.

Suddenly having a small camera meant I was capturing images along the journey not just in the destination
A camera that’s quick to use and light enough means you’re much more likely to shoot in more ‘unusual’ locations and to experiment more often

With the discreetness of the camera, I also found it no longer became a barrier between me and my subject; that was regardless of whether I was shooting a posed portrait or a candid street image.

For street photography, I started to find confidence in putting the camera in front of strangers. When shooting more posed imagery, the camera was less intimidating, the silent mode allowed me to shoot more freely without situations becoming awkward, and touch screen meant I could shoot my subject as they were interacting with others in the scene, creating candid images in situations I wouldn’t have done before.

Just walking the streets, the small chance encounters that I love so much about travel became opportunities to create interesting images.

Shooting confidently is key to capturing great street images, only with a small, quiet camera would I be confident enough to be shooting in a packed metro carriage
This image was captured inside a small rural bar in Bulgaria, the vibe was understandably a little tense when we first entered but having a silent shutter, I could capture images subtly as my friends Pavel and Illya broke the ice

Why the Camera Matters

Everyone has seen those Canon v Nikon, Sony v Fuji posts that generally get us nowhere other than getting the hardcore gear heads a little sweaty under the collar. Despite my love of gear and technology, I honestly couldn’t care what camera you use, as long as you’re creating amazing imagery with it.

For me, three features in particular allow me to shoot to the best of my ability.

With the silent shutter, shooting in an intimate setting such as inside a yurt is much less intrusive and means that shooting over a long period is possible without making your subject uncomfortable
Even in intimate settings, such as this image from a Babinden celebration in rural Bulgaria, being able to shoot unobtrusively allows you to get closer and capture more intimate moments

Silent Shutter

This is huge for me, no matter how small your camera, if it the mirror and shutter is clapping down whilst you’re shooting in an intimate setting, you’re going to become a distraction.

Often, with the silent mode on, I can shoot in super intimate settings like churches or inside people’s houses with my subjects completely aware that I am photographing them in that specific moment. Even in times where I want some interaction with the subject, for a portrait, for example, the removal of the audible cue of the shutter means my subjects become less uneasy about me taking multiple images.

One of my favourite ways of shooting is to flip out the screen and shoot from the hip whilst my subject is talking to someone else such as my fixer. The lack of visual and audio cue means that you can capture expressive, candid imagery much more easily

Flip Out Touch Screen

In addition to the audible cue of the shutter, removing the visual cue of both holding the camera to the eye and also clicking the shutter can help to create more candid imagery.

In most places, especially lesser developed areas where people associate taking an image with holding a camera to the eye, having the ability to shoot from the hip by tapping the screen is incredibly powerful. Also, having the ability to move the focal point by moving your finger along the screen makes focus and recomposing unnecessary, and shooting so much more intuitive and fast. In the end, my bin rate from missed focus is almost nil.

Having a telephoto in the bag ‘just in case’ means you can take advantage of those rare, amazing lighting scenarios

Small Kit Size

This is a pretty obvious requirement, but as a traveling photographer, the weight of my gear is key. As I’m often also creating video content, I usually carry multiple bodies and multiple lenses too. Having a couple of bodies and 5-6 lenses that, along with my laptop and other necessary bits, can fit within my hand luggage allowance means that getting through airports is a breeze. It also means that I’m carrying it with me all the time.

Often, I’ll come across an unexpected scene that needs a telephoto and I will be glad to have a 35-100 f/2.8 (70-200 equiv.) in my bag just because—it’s small and compact, there’s no reason not to bring it.

Having the fall back of knowing I have lenses covering 95% of all focal lengths in my shoulder bag means I’m much more likely to capture great images. How many times have you seen a situation unfold in front of you and wished you’d had your other lens with you?

Conclusion

Hopefully by now you can see why I think the camera is key. If it’s small, lightweight, and intuitive you’re not only more likely to create better images, but you’ll also start to work differently too. For me, the key driver of my work over the last few years has been improving my candid images, being able to capture unique moments that wouldn’t be possible to set up.

Adventure, experimentation and exploration in your photography come about when you have a camera that fun and enjoyable to use. For each of us this may mean different things; for me, it means MFT cameras.

I’m not saying that just getting a different camera will make you a better photographer, far from it, but if you have a camera that has features that compliment your working style, you’re improving the odds of creating special images.

I think it’s important to reiterate that it’s not about the brand or a particular camera. In fact, it’s about finding a camera with features to compliment how you shoot. For travel photography, I truly believe smaller cameras with the features I listed above can transform the way you shoot and truly help you to create better imagery and as photographers—that’s the most important thing, right?


About the author: Jacob James is a travel and cultural documentary photographer with a passion for immersing himself in new cultures and experiences. To see more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Storytelling in Street Photography

Many street photography tutorials discuss the same topics over and over—focussing techniques, composition, candid shooting, etc. However, I believe that one topic is underrepresented: storytelling.

Many composition principles in street photography are the same as in other kinds of photography. In addition, there needs to be some additional element of interest in the scene as well—an attention grabber. I mentioned in a previous post that, for example, Joel Meyerowitz’s key idea is relations.

In “Life of a Child“, I tried to express this element of relation. In belief, storytelling in street photography is another element of interest often overlooked.

Storytelling in Street Photography

Stories are sometimes subtile and covered by more prominent features, such as light or composition. Sometimes, however, stories are told very strongly, as with the famous picture V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

This picture is an excellent example of storytelling in street photography, as it is not very emphasized in many composition principles; yet still it has become one of the most iconic street photographs of all times. This can mostly be attributed to the story behind and around the picture that unfolds in the mind of the viewer. I would argue that some of the most famous street photographs have become famous because they tell a strong story and not because of their composition.

Not all stories require much action. In fact, the lack of action in a shot can sometimes open up the storytelling space for the viewer. “Old Man and the Sea 2” tries to achieve exactly this. By omitting the action, the photograph provides more possibilities for interpretation—it is opening up for storylines to unfold.

Photojournalism and Storytelling

Is street photography a form of photojournalism of the everyday life? Can one compose an image by directing the subject? I think there are no right and wrong answers. They will strongly depend on whether one wants to represent undiluted and honest every day life. In fact, as we know from photojournalism, already the framing (what to include, what to leave out), the perspective (from below, from above) the film type etc. represent a selection of the truth—one that the photographer sees and/or want to convey.

The viewer will, in addition, make her own selection and add her own phantasies. The final story imagined is probably a different one than the one shot. I guess, one has to go with what feels right. Most of the time I shoot candidly. But when opportunity arises, and the idea for a story emerges, I might get in touch with the subject and direct her or him. I discuss this in more detail here.

The final image then should on the one hand tell a story, while at the same time leave some space for imagination.

Storytelling Elements

The photographer can play with different storytelling elements. Below, I discuss a few alongside some examples from my portfolio. The list of storytelling elements can by no means be exhaustive but only illustrative, to give photographers some ideas for their own projects.

Key story line – All pictures that contain people contain also story lines. Some are quite clear, others are sidelines. The key story line is of course the prevalent one. The protagonist(s) in a photograph around which other storylines converge.

In the picture above, the two lovers are clearly the protagonists. The others play only a secondary role.

Process or Outcome – One can show a process or one can show the outcome. There are different reasons to pick either of them.

If the process in itself is very interesting (tying shoes isn’t), and one wants the audience not to miss the details in the production process, the former is a good choice. If one picks the outcome, then the process is subsumed. This one the one hand gives the viewer the opportunity to see the product, to tell him or herself the story of what the process might have been. It, however, also opens up the image for more story lines that one is distracted from when the process is in focus.

For example, would I have picked any of the photographs in which the woman in “the comfy shoes” is in the process of tying her shoes, the prominent story would be “ah, she is tying her comfy shoes, her feet must hurt from the high heels”. Picking the ended process, the present image allows other less prominent story lines to come forward: “ah, shoes (check); where is she looking, probably she is watching other people, or is she thinking, she does look very serious; why is she going home alone, oh, she is looking serious, might have to do with that, etc.”

The story that unfolds in the viewer’s head when action is not too dominant can sometimes make a picture with finished processes even more interesting.

Protagonist, antagonist, relationship – Some photographs come to life from the relationship they portray. This could be an antagonistic relationship, a friendship, or simply a correspondence.

Relationships require at least two subjects. But more than two subjects are also possible, of course. The facial expressions can also add to the storyline. For example, in “See Saw” below, the girl in the air is clearly excited and surprised. The lower girl’s expression shows determination.

In order to enhance the tension between the depicted relation, one can look for contrasts and connects in the picture and also in the subjects that one pics.

The two subjects in “Absence” create a tension through many elements: their backs are facing; one is white, one black, and they are dressed in opposite colours. At the same time they are connected through sitting on the same bench and both being immersed in their literature.

Emotions – Happiness, sadness, boredom, anger, frustration, all these emotions make very interesting subjects of a street photograph and add to the storyline. They can be seen as shortcuts of storytelling as emotions immediately unfold in a story. Furthermore, emotions empathically engage the viewer (much more than nondescript expressions of random shots of pedestrians).

Archetypes, virtues and vices represent some of the most prominent storytelling elements. The last picture illustrates motherhood, for example. In addition, we have the girl’s courage and curiosity. Particularly journalism photography centres around archetypes, virtues, and vices, as they are universally recognisable and have a strong effect on the viewer.

For example, Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” or “Tank Man” on Tiananmen Square in 1989 both portray heroism; however, in totally different ways.

These storytelling elements are merely a few examples. The list of elements is endless. Keeping the storytelling element in mind certainly helps selecting the more interesting photographs from your contact sheet. If keeping storytelling in mind, a street photography project can become the more interesting for both the photographer and the reader.

I believe that in the end, all photography is storytelling. Some stories are boring and some are exciting and engaging. A good storyteller tells the exciting and engaging ones.


About the author: Andrej Zwitter is an amateur photographer based in the Netherlands. He shoots a diverse range of styles, but believes that street photography in particular lays bare the soul of the photographer. To see more of his work on his blog. This article also appeared here.