Issue 71 is out of the Shoot New York City newsletter. It’s about all things photography. You can subscribe online at https://www.shootnewyorkcity.com/newsletter/
How to Become a Better Photographer
1. First and foremost, get comfortable with your camera! It is your tool for creating your photography. Digital cameras can be complicated. You don’t have to know how to do everything on your camera. If you can get to a point where you are able to achieve results that you like, that’s good. Your camera should work for you. Not the other way around. That way you can gain confidence and further your techniques and style.
2. Think in terms of series when you shoot. You can do more than one series at a time as you might not always be able to shoot rain or whatever the category is that you want to focus on. When you look at a series of photos you can then compare them and see what works best and what doesn’t really work. As well, working on a series of photos means that you can create a body of work that is cohesive. Not just a bunch of one off cool shots.
3. Look for ways to broaden or fine tune your approach. There’s always a better method or approach. You can do this by looking at the work of other photographers and artists. Go to a museum or gallery or look at books or even the internet if you must. Famous photographers and artists are great but not necessary. Look for elements that jump out at you and see if you can incorporate them into your work.
4. Take a class or a workshop. This is a great way to learn new and different methods to do things. Sometimes it’s about technical aspects and others it’s about style. Meeting people that share your interests is good too. My motto is that I can always be better and do things differently. Photography will keep me busy for life!
5. Print your photos even if it’s on a standard printer and basic photo paper. Seeing your photos printed is really different than seeing a digital copy. I often print 4×6 photos on cheap photo paper to decide if the photo really works for me. It is another perspective ad possibly a better method to be objective about your work. If nothing else it’s a slower method of viewing.
6. Always ask yourself why you do things the way you do and if there might be a better way. For instance, it’s easy to always shoot in Aperture Priority. But why not switch to Shutter Priority? Much can be gained from trying new things.
7. Think about what you really like in your work and develop that. You should always be happy with your photos first and not be so concerned with what others think. Yes, it’s great when others like your work. Especially when they’re not friends or family. That is to say that there’s no feeling of obligation to like them. Your friends and family should obviously like your photos!
8. Seeing is an often overlooked sense. That is to say that we take it for granted and edit out much of what is in front of us. Sometimes it’s good to just stop, take a deep breath and have a slow look around you to see things more clearly. Some of the best photos are really of very ordinary things.
9. Be happy! If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not likely to like what you produce.
Republished from Issue 25 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe here.
Thoughts on Photography – Open-mindedness & Creativity
I’ve been shooting for the better part of 50 years and it doesn’t cease to amaze me. I think of myself as always somewhat new to photography. I don’t know if half a century really means that much. There are many photographers out there that have been shooting for a much shorter amount of time than I have and they are better than me. Whatever better means as there are so many criteria to base that on. And since art is subjective, always in the eye of the beholder, then there’s no clear cut decision on that. I think I still have quite a way to go.
I can say that I am far from bored with photography. Perhaps I am in fact the opposite of bored. I am enthusiastic about it! I feel that I have far more to learn and experience ahead of me than what came before. What I can say about shooting for 50 years with a fair amount of certainty is that I do it out of passion and sheer persistence. Maybe I’m the tortoise. Yes, even a late-bloomer. I hope that the blooming continues for some time to come as it is very exciting to me. I find that I continue to shoot in the same neighborhoods, even the same streets, and I always find something new. Or perhaps like my favorite quote by Marcel Proust, it’s about seeing with new eyes. That is always my biggest challenge to myself. When I stop seeing with new eyes is when I’ll quit.
It is also very exciting and I feel very fortunate to meet some amazing people in my workshops and photo tours. They are at various stages of life and photographic experience as well as nationality. And they almost always approach photography with an open mind. Looking to learn something new. The desire to learn new things can be very contagious and I become inspired by the new eyes of beginners and the openness of experienced photographers to take on new challenges. The exchange of ideas is very helpful. Closed- mindedness may very well be the biggest threat to creativity.
If photography, in general, and street photography more specifically, aren’t about being open-minded than I’ll quit right now. But that’s not my experience! I believe that it’s important being around people who are like-minded in that respect. I don’t mean that they like everything that you do. But that they are willing to look at it at a deeper level. Beyond the obligatory social media “like”. Having honest feedback is very cool and also rare! Happy shooting!
Republished from Issue 15 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe here.
Photographer Profile – William Klein
William Klein (1928- ) was born in New York City. He started his career as an artist studying abstract painting and sculpture at the Sorbonne in Paris after serving in the US Army. In other words, he got his start like so many other famous photographers. Even though he had no formal training in photography, he became a fashion photographer for Vogue magazine for a short period of time. His fashion photography really changed the style of the day by doing his shoots in the streets rather than in a studio.
Klein is one of my favorite photographers and the fact that he liked to break or
ignore the rules probably has a lot to do with that. He lives in Paris and has made a number of films as well. He is also known as one of the founders of street photography even though that term was assigned to him after the fact. He has a number of photos that he painted frames around that are very cool. And of course photos like the one above on the right that shows an incredible eye for composition and the rule of opposites with the man on the right. I hope that you enjoy the work of William Klein as I do and perhaps are inspired by it.
Republished from Issue 35 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe here.
Street Photography Tips – Fear of Shooting
So I’m an extrovert! Obviously that comes as no surprise to you! It’s possible that gives me an edge in street photography. But not as big as you might think. Street photography isn’t easy. It isn’t about it being easy. Easy gets boring. Street photography is always a challenge! Street photography is always about confronting your self first. Even when you’re an extrovert!
In a city with millions of people, how could I not be curious? I’ve always said that my curiosity, enthusiasm and determination are my biggest assets. I boldly step out into the world with my camera. My camera is my raison d’être. It gives me permission to experience life. To be in the world. Sometimes people smile and connect with you when you’re out shooting street. Often people smile. They are happy to have their photo taken.
My philosophy of life and of photography are really the same thing. It’s always about life and people and a belief in humanity. I’ve been told that I’m courageous. The truth is, I don’t know any other way to live. The only risk that I can identify is to not embrace life and live it in a way that feels honest for who I am. It’s always about treating others with respect. Perhaps you get what you give in life. Oh, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Not necessarily easier. Happy shooting!
Reprinted from Issue 45 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe here.
Photographer Profile – Ed van der Elsken
Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990) was a Dutch photographer and filmmaker. He originally planned on becoming a sculptor. But after discovering the photos of Weegee his interest in photography was ignited. He moved to Paris in 1950 and worked in the photo lab at Magnum where he printed Cartier-Bresson’s photos! Apparently Cartier-Bresson was impressed with van der Elsken’s street photography! He also printed the photos of Robert Capa and Ernst Haas. Not too shabby!
The subject of van der Elsken’s photos is for the most part on the counterculture and bohemian lifestyle that he encountered on the streets of Europe. He also produced a large number of documentary films which I haven’t seen yet. It is
unfortunate that he has not become better known. His photos have a cinematic look and they capture a glimpse into the humanity of the times and the spirit of place. They are still very relevant. I hope that you enjoy his work and are inspired by it.
This article is reprinted from the Shoot New York City Newsletter Issue 30. You can subscribe to it online.