wordsofwisdom

Words of Wisdom for Photographers by Renowned Photojournalist Steve McCurry

Last month, we shared a popular video in which photojournalist Steve McCurry talked about the danger of focusing on your destination so much that you miss your journey. That clip was actually from a series of videos in which McCurry shares wisdom he has learned over the decades of traveling the world and hunting for photos that will be remembered.

The Best Advice I Ever Received: ‘Put Down the D*mn Camera’

My mentor was a cranky dude. He liked to put me through my paces every chance he got. Sometimes, when he needed something: “Hey, Greg—fetch that cable for me!” Yes, he said “fetch.” Sometimes, when he just knew better than I did: “Hey, Greg -- get off your a** and come assist me.” Or when I was feeling superior: “Hey, Greg—stop being an idiot.”

Ah, fond memories!

Why Picky Clients are a Good Thing

A new client walked into my studio with her three little children, the eldest of which had a session. The little girl was all dressed-up, but very traditionally, so after conferring with mom, we began the session. And it was one of those sessions where everything went right. Happy child, great expressions, and yet, mom was hovering, straightening an already straight bow, smoothing invisible wrinkles in her daughter's tights, "fixing" tiny details, some of which weren't even in the frame.

What Is Spec Work And Why Is It Bad for Photographers?

"Spec" is short for "speculative," and "spec work" is defined by the AIGA (which counts many photographers as members) as, "work done prior to engagement with a client in anticipation of being paid."

This is the classical definition, and it began in the creative industries, where a photographer would shoot images for a desired client and then show them the work in the hopes of being hired. Notice the very important distinction: the work was done BEFORE contact with the potential client. This "free" spec work was not solicited or negotiated.

Hey Kids! Wanna Be a Pro Photographer? Here’s How!

There has been a lot of talk recently about how best to succeed as a professional photographer, now that "everybody is a photographer." A recent post here by Alex Ignacio emphasized how important it is to “specialize and focus” -- Ignacio believes that if we don’t, we’ll “perish”.

As someone who trains aspiring commercial photographers, I agree that some doors may shut if you don’t specialize, but many more will open if you’re versatile.

Do You Need a Photography Degree to Be a Successful Photographer?

As the recipient of a great education (thanks in no small part to my parents), I’m always fascinated by discussions of how college influence what we do and achieve later in life. As a music major, I could have never fathomed that I would one day become an entrepreneur, and when I think back to college, it had very little to do with the acquisition of technical knowledge, and more about being exposed to a wide range of subjects, people, and social situations.

The Helsinki Bus Station Theory: Finding Your Own Vision in Photography

We are in the midst of sea change -- a tidal wave might be more accurate -- within the medium of photography. While the lens is still firmly fixed to the camera body, the body itself appears to have imploded. The inner workings -- that is, the guts of the camera from Talbot’s days (when cameras were called “mousetraps” by his wife who was always tripping over them) -- have changed faster than anyone expected.

Words of Wisdom Regarding Criticism by Anton Ego in Ratatouille

The Internet can be a tough place for photographers. One can pour an immeasurable amount of time, money, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into a picture (or a series of pictures), only to have his or her hard work torn to shreds by nameless and faceless commenters who hide behind the veil of anonymity.

The Benefit of Researching a Subject’s Life Before Shooting a Portrait

Here's a nice little video in which photographer Matthew Jordan Smith tells the story of a portrait session he had years ago with American actor/dancer/singer Gregory Hines. After finding himself in a sticky situation with a subject that wouldn't offer the personality and emotion Smith wanted to capture, he reached deep into the knowledge of Hines that he had accumulated through his research; one particular fact saved the shoot.

Spend a Day Apart From Your Camera to Recharge Your Eyes and Your Heart

Sometimes the best thing you can do to improve your photography is leave your camera at home.

Yes, practice is imperative if you want to improve. You do need to learn to work your camera instinctively and make a mastery of the technical aspects needed to create beautiful images.

18 Facts of Life for Photography Students

Every year, I go to my alma mater and give a lecture for 3rd-year advertising-photography students on the business of photography. At this two-hour lectures, I cover all sorts of points about the ups and downs of being a busy commercial photographer in NYC, and also try to tell them straight facts of what the “real world” is like. Here is a summary of some of the most important words of wisdom I try to pass on to young photographers.

Photographer Steve McCurry on Shooting Documentary Portraiture

Here's an interesting video in which renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry shares some thoughts on documentary portraiture. Titled Close Up: Photographers at Work, the video takes us behind-the-scenes with McCurry as he shoots some candid portraits on the street and then reviews some of his most prized shots captured over the course of his career. (There's a brief glimpse of the original film slides of his iconic Afghan Girl photo.)

The Value of Time to a Photographer

A few years ago, I came up with a theory. Every person has some balance of two incredibly valuable assets: Time and Money. If you have an excess of one of them, there’s a good chance that you don’t have much of the other. I’d like to take some time and reflect on how being aware of how you spend your time can potentially improve your business... and maybe even your life.

What I’ve Learned About Photo Gear Over the Past 40 Years

Editor's note: "Tenzing Norgay" is the penname used by the author of this article. He is not related to the famous mountaineer.

This entire story is about black-and-white film shooting, but I hope there are good lessons in this for you youngsters shooting digital. Hopefully, you won't take this as being arrogant, condescending, or hectoring. I offer this in the spirit of something I've found to be fascinating for some four decades.

7 Great Photography Tips by Reuters Photojournalist Damir Sagolj

Here's a great video by Reuters in which Bangkok-based photojournalist Damir Sagolj shares seven things about photography he has learned over the years by working in the field. They are: anticipate, research, reach out, prioritize, practice, interact, and be invisible. Although the tips are geared towards photojournalists trying to document the issues of the world, many of them can be applied to everyday photography as well.

50 Quick Photography Tips in Less Than 15 Minutes

Kai over at DigitalRev put together this video that offers photography advice in burst mode: 50 (or 49) short and sweet tips in less than 15 minutes. If you take yourself too seriously, be warned: the tips are presented in Kai's trademark "infotainment" style.

So You Are Interested in Becoming a Photographer

I try to stay involved as much as I can with students studying photography at different institutions in the area. Every year I go back to RIT and do a lecture on the business of photography and I feel it's important that I do so.

Recently I got an email from a young photographer asking me about the career of being a still life/food photographer.