Brian Bowen Smith on Trusting Your Gut and the Creative Process

Photographer Brian Bowen Smith learned his craft at the feet of legendary shooter Herb Ritts; and now, many years and many star-studded photo shoots later, he’s sharing some of his wisdom with the rest of us as part of Chicago Ideas Week.

In the above video, he uses three photo shoots to exemplify the versatility and creativity required to be one of the best. From Hillary Swank in a studio, to Matthew Fox in an airplane hangar, to Gabrielle Union on the beach, each shoot exemplifies a different lesson that Smith hopes you’ll walk away with.

Each photo shoot came with its own unique learning opportunities, both for Smith when he was shooting them, as well as his audience now listening to the stories.


The Hillary Swank shoot shows how much you can do with very little money. The Matthew Fox shoot shows how spontaneous these shoots can become, as Smith scrambled to find a studio to use only to find out last minute that Fox was going to be fueling up his airplane at his private hangar. And finally, the Gabrielle Union shoot — in addition to reinforcing the need to insure your equipment — explains the advantages of shooting where you live.

Smith has a lot of photographic wisdom to share that the above video begins to touch on, with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor to boot. So if you have 13 minutes to spend learning a bit about photography today, click that play button and enjoy.

(via ISO 1200)

Image credits: Photography by Brian Bowen Smith