And let me know what you thought!
I wanted to share some of the best articles we have written over the years that we have been told have created the biggest impact on people’s photography.
These are articles that will help you expand your perception of photography, help you awaken your inner artist and give you techniques and skills so you can shoot with confidence.
If you want bring more creativity and feeling into your photography – you will find something marvellous on our list of our best articles & videos.
(Do we care about) Kit & technique?
Answer: yes and no
- My (reluctant) love affair with my smartphone camera – I didn’t initially embrace my smartphone as a new tool, but it has slowly seduced me with its improving quality and ease of use.
- Video: My first Astrophotography Shot – From the recce, to the shoot, to the processing. The whole journey from the stars and back.
- Tripod as Zen Master – Using a tripod regularly in my photography has created a huge impact on my photos – not just technically but in how I shoot. It has slowed me down and given me the opportunity to become even more connected with my environment.
- My most controversial photography article – ever – Even with my regular smartphone use I am still a massive fan of shooting on manual. No computer makes better creative choices than us. Hands down. Until that changes, this is what I discuss in an article I wrote for Digital Photography School which people loved or hated!
- 19 Photos to Show You Why Your Camera Doesn’t Matter – Because I also embrace my smartphone as a tool, I share my favourite photos in this article to show you it’s YOU not your CAMERA that matters, regardless of what you are shooting with.
- How to Print from Lightroom – this in-depth video lesson covers how to prepare your photos for printing.
- Video: You are only 1,000 photos away from shooting on manual! Here’s me explaining to Di (Miss Technophobe) how to shoot on manual.
- 19 powerful tips for beginner photographers (a useful checklist) – Not tech-related per se, but a nice collection of tips when you are starting out on your journey.
(It’s really all about) Developing the artistic mindset
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” Ernst Haas
This is where I start with people in my workshops and courses – your mindset! Because we are what we shoot!
Photography starts with preparing yourself and how to connect with your creative energy, becoming present and connected to your environment and bringing your imagination into your photography.
Here are some great ideas to help you:
- You are an artist (even if you don’t think you are) – So many people say to me – I’m not a creative person! Well, you are. Every single human being is creative. It is how our brains are made. All that happens to our creativity is that it atrophies from under-use.
- Two essential things you need to be a great photographer – If you haven’t downloaded and read our Creative Photographers Manifesto – I urge you to do this right now! This is a wonderful eBook which is the very heart of my teaching and artistic process as a photographer.
- How you live your life is how you take photos – Working out how your personality and habits affect how you shoot – and how to overcome the ones that are inhibiting your creativity.
- Letting go of judging your photography – We all judge out photos, it’s natural. But excessive judging can inhibit your ability to be free and connected when we go out and shoot. Some ideas to help!
- 10 Powerful Ideas For Your Photography this year – Many ideas to kickstart a great year of photography for you.
- What kind of photographer are you? – We are all on our path, our own journey as creative people. So there will never be a one-size-fits-all learning journey. That’s why I personalise everything I teach, so that it connects to who you are as a photographer, as a human being and what excites you creatively the most.
- Fear is prevalent in almost everybody’s photography practise. It’s a normal reaction to new experiences and new learning situations. I am not immune to it either. Here are two articles about how I deal with fear – How fear holds us back from being better photographers and
- Fear and photography (it happens)
- Creativity and Age – There is such a misconception about aging and being creative. I say – let’s get more creative as we get older, not less. Use our incredible life experiences to blossom in our photography.
(Not the normal) Composition techniques
- Photography is all about what you leave out – Photography is a process of construction AND reduction. In this article we talk about how to bring this idea into your photos so that you are able to consciously construct your composition.
- Video: The Problem of Subject Fixation – This 5 minute video introduces one of the biggest issues we see with amateur photographers. And, of course, how to solve it!
- Capturing the feeling of light – George Eastman summed it up for me when he said – “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”
- The Mesmerising Qualities Of The Colour Blue In Your Photography – Colour is a very powerful compositional tool – it will create stories and communicate feelings. Here is a deep dive into one of my favourite colours to compose with – blue!
- 10 Ways to Use the Beauty and Complexity of Reflections in Photography – I love to photograph reflections. They are a very cool way to create abstraction, fun, mystery, intrigue, patterns, complexity and symmetry in your images.
- How I Got the Shot – I’ve done a bunch of these articles, dissecting how I created some of my favourite images. This is cool one giving a behind-the-scenes tour almost of my images.
- Simple ideas: Shoot the third thing – This is a very cool idea about how to develop more original and interesting photos.
- 5 advanced composition techniques – I love to teach all of the core compositional techniques like leading lines, as they have helped my photography tremendously. But here are some more unusual techniques that are super-helpful to create better compositions.
- My ultimate guide to travel photography – Immediately I am going to say I am not a traditional travel photographer, but really a photographer who happens to travel a lot. But what I have to share is fascinating and it’s a lot of in-depth teaching in this guide.
- Take better photos by breaking the world down into elements – When you are overwhelmed with a scene and are struggling to construct a clean and compelling composition – this is the advice you need!
- How mini-seeing projects can improve your photography – This idea has helped me develop my awareness and ability to ‘see’ photos in the world around me.
One thing that comes up a lot with people who want to develop their photography is a word that many people don’t want to hear – and that is practice.
If you want to improve at anything, it’s about practice – consistent practice. Even if it’s just one photo a day, or shooting for a few hours a week.
But of course when you are working, living, looking after family and involved in many, many other things in life, photography isn’t always the priority and it can be hard to practise.
And so photography challenges can provide a wonderful way to focus your attention and bring photography more into your life.
Here are some excellent challenges:
- Photo Challenge: Your best photo 100 metres from your home (or work)
- 30 photo challenges to boost your photography
- Photo challenge: Simplicity – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci
Advice from the Masters
I enjoy looking for ideas and teachings from great photographers and artists. I am always, always looking to learn more about the craft I love.
- Lessons from legendary photographer Ara Güler ‘The Eye of Istanbul’ – One of my favourite photographers who captured one of my favourite cities over many decades, Güler had an incredible eye for catch the changing world of Istanbul.
- Videos: How to Sell Your Photography – If you want to sell your photos, this interview that I did last year in Arles with Crista Cloutier from The Working Artist is very helpful.
- 13 things Ernst Haas taught me about photography – The photographer who has inspired me the most! I discovered Haas in college, and he showed me the potential and possibility of photography. He is a true master.
- 10 Lessons On Photography & Art From Richard Avedon And James Baldwin – Lessons from a book by a great photographer and a great writer. This oozes inspirational ideas!
Non-photography Photography Advice
In keeping myself motivated as a photographer, I love to look for inspiration from all across the creative spectrum. I like to take the advice of my favourite photographer Ernst Haas in this, when he recommended to: “refine your senses through the great masters of music, painting, and poetry. In short, try indirect inspirations, and everything will come by itself.”
- Photos of the Full Moon + 11 Mary Oliver quotes to inspire bold creativity – Mary Oliver was an extraordinary poet. She had the most exquisite ability to capture some of the beautiful truths about recognising the very best of this life and being creative. This was a lovely collaboration between Di and myself.
- 10 quotes from writers that will make you a better photographer – Writers or Painters, Poets or Musicians – I don’t care where ideas that inspire me come from.
- 10 things Van Gogh can teach us about photography – Both eloquent in his writing about creativity and art, and an incredible painter. Lots of beautiful ideas here from Van Gogh.
- What John Berger can teach us about photography – I photographed the writer John Berger before he died a few years ago and he inspired me so much with his love of photography and art. He has a wealth of excellent ideas for us photographers.
Some pure and beautiful photography inspiration
Here are a couple of videos I made about my love of travelling, shooting and light!
- Video: For the Love of Light
- Video: How I Travel as an Artist
- Video: How I Travel as an Artist: Hong Kong at Night
- BBC Video: The beauty of sunrise in London, Paris and Venice – Me talking about and showing his Cities at Dawn projects on the BBC a few years back.
I hope you enjoyed this little sojourn into our archives – let us know in the comments below.
We are always up for suggestions for subjects to cover in our articles and videos – feel free to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And you can watch more videos on my Youtube Channel – subscribe to be alerted when I add more videos 🙂
Have a great day,
Anthony and Diana
Today I am still driving around the fairy-world-like landscapes of Ha Giang, it’s a breathtaking experience.
I am unashamedly a colour photographer. I have always loved colour in my photography, even when I was at photography school, emerging as an artist and black and white dominated the art scene.
I stuck to what I was most passionate about – and that was a life in full colour.
My own journey with colour has been one of experimentation, fun and pushing the boundaries.
I spent many years developing a solarisation process for my film colour photos, leading to the kinds of surreal photos that you might imagine coming from dreams:
I have also relished capturing the pure colours of nature:
And also the hyper-real colours that come from HDR photography:
And of course the fun colours that humans bring to the world:
As well as the results of colour work in processing:
The point for me with colour is to enjoy the process and go where my imagination takes me.
Because imagination is such an important part of photography for me.
Imagination helps you see beyond your immediate environment, and creates something that weaves in your ideas, your experiences and your passions.
“When I’m ready to make a photograph… I quite obviously see in my mind’s eye something that is not literally there… I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without.” Ansel Adams
Today I want to share with you some ideas that I teach about colour – and how they can be used to evoke emotion in your photographs.
I also have a photo challenge that I am setting for you at the end of this post – because I know so many of you love to experiment with these ideas.
And I have a free eBook for you too – that brings many of these ideas together into a nice and simple explanation.
I’ve talked a lot in the past about my love of light. Light to me is mesmerising. I want to feel it, to capture it, to show it in all its glory.
But colour to me is an equally beautiful thing, and totally connected to, and affected by, light. And because:
“Colour is joy. One does not think joy. One is carried by it.” Ernst Haas
I love that thought – carried by colour and joy! Haas for me is king of capturing the feeling of colour and light.
“I paint because colour is a significant language to me.” Georgia O’Keeffe.
I want to celebrate some of the sheer vibrancy that colour brings to our lives and how we capture that as photographers, as artists, as people who are paying attention to this wild and beautiful world.
I want this to inspire you to look at how you capture colour in your photos too.
Colour is deeply affecting to us as humans. Think of all those colour charts – red signals danger, blue signals cold etc.
For me colour is a way to bring emotion into your photographs in a very simple, powerful way.
The artist Wassily Kandinsky developed a colour theory that stated that colours made people feel certain ways.
“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” Wassily Kandinsky
Let’s look at some colours – and the emotions they induce.
Warm, exciting, happy
In the photo above look at the contrast between the red and the yellow. What does the yellow bring to the photo?
I would say this is a happy yellow – would you agree?
A more muted yellow – how do the textures of the lemons and the lines affect how you think about the colour?
Deep, peaceful, supernatural
I find the blue in the photo above very soothing; what do you say?
A much bolder blue – does it feel cold to you? Striking? Deep?
Another light blue with very soothing peaceful qualities. Also expansive?
Read more about The Mesmerising Qualities Of The Colour Blue In Your Photography
Peace, stillness, nature
Traditionally the green of nature is a very peaceful colour, but what about when it’s created by human hands? What does this green say to you?
Harmony, silence, cleanliness
Ok, being naturally contrarian, how about the white covered in dirt in this photo? Does it still say harmony and cleanliness?…
What role does white play in this photo? How does it compare in feeling to the other colours?
Grief, dark, unknown
The black isn’t a big feature in this photo, but I like the effect the edges of black give. It changes the tone I think of the uplifting colours….
How about when it is just black, greys and white?
Is this a black hole of despair? Or just a crushed and burned hamburger bun?
Glowing, confidence, alive
We know red to be bold and confident. It will attract more attention that its size warrants in any photo…use it sparingly.
Red can also be a celebration …!
What about this deep block of red colour….
To me it seems meaty or bloody or raw. Primal almost.
Radiant, healthy, serious
Orange is a joyful colour for me. Even as a squashed fruit it brings joy to the world…
Here in the embers of the fire we see the serious side of orange….
And how about this little pop of orange on still water?
I see a bold and confident colour.
“Purple combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red.” Bourn Creative
Purple is a very unusual colour, and when I was writing our article about using purple in your photography I had to search deep in my archives for it.
But I think if you search it out now, consciously, you’ll start to see it everywhere.
Even in a dirty old tunnel filled with graffiti, purple seems very majestic to me:
And in these beautiful flowers too, it feels almost royal…
Now do you agree with Kandinksy’s ideas about colour? Do they evoke those emotions within you?
The key for me in creating emotion by using colour is to capture the essence of that colour.
For example – the happiness of yellow, the peacefulness of blue, the boldness of red. You can use the characteristics of the colours and find objects that encapsulate these characteristics, or the essence of that colour.
We want to feel the innate qualities of the colour, we want to have a deep emotional response to that colour in the photo.
So it isn’t a matter of just going around and looking at colours and snapping away at them. It’s finding colours that provoke an emotion within you, and working to capture that feeling.
Let’s look at some more photos and see…
It doesn’t have to be vibrant colours. The depth and subtle variations of any colour is a mesmerising world of its own.
In this photo above can you feel the coldness of the white frost and the earthiness of brown? This to me is capturing the essence of a colour.
In the photo below I love to bring out the richness of the more muted subtle colours. Which I have to really be good at as winters are long in London, lol!
The feeling of the photo is made by these muted colours.
Capturing colour as the main subject of your photo is often easiest to start doing when you break down the elements, photographing parts of the subject and turning it into an abstraction:
“Everything that you can see in the world around you presents itself to your eyes only as an arrangement of patches of different colours.” John Ruskin
I would love to know – how does colour affect you and your photography? Let me know by commenting below.
It’s time for a photo challenge! I would love to see your photos of colour in your photography. Post them in my photo sharing group Light Monkeys on Facebook or email them to me.
Free Colour as Emotion Photo eBook
I have a free 31 page eBook, if you’d like to get a free copy of this, email us on email@example.com.
Have an amazing day,
Anthony and Diana
Good day to you all,
I don’t like to have complicated goals in my life. But I do like to have a vision for my life that I follow each year.
Last year I was focused on expanding my skills, starting a brand new photo project and getting more feedback on my artwork. Did I achieve that? I did mostly, but not in the way that I thought I would.
I like the unexpected elements of life, and when new opportunities for creative growth appear, I have learnt to embrace them.
I also learnt some tremendous new skills – not the ones I actually intended to learn, but ones that will massively help my journey as an artist.
Normally around New Year I like to pick out my favourite images of the year and show these. But 2018 was such an unusual year for us, with projects dominating my focus rather than singular images, that I am choosing the things, rather than the photos, that have made the biggest impact to me photographically.
Three things I am most proud of creating in 2018:
New Photo Project: Sea Meditations
I have never lived by the sea before. Something pretty profound seems to shift in me being so close to water all the time. We fall asleep at night hearing the waves – which sound sometimes gentle and calming, and at other times roaring with energy.
I have loved witnessing the daily change in the sea, its changing colours, feeling, textures and energy. Of course, everything I love I want to photograph. So over the year I have been photographing the sea for a new project.
This is such a different project to ones I’ve worked on in the past couple of decades. It also reflects where I am at in my life. I am in a more reflective, meditative state of mind right now. I love connecting my energy to the natural world all around me here – and this project truly reflects that.
New Photo course: The Art of The Image
I’m not going to lie – creating this course kicked my butt! It was a steep learning journey that took me two years to work up the courage to attempt. And, of course, I wanted The Art of The Image to be magnificent.
I knew I wanted to create something that would be creatively unique – and would take people on a deeper artistic journey with their photography. I knew that it would take all of my attention, my passion and my skills.
And you know what – I think I have done a good job. Well, that’s what I am being told by the students on the course (Phew!)
I have to say I am extremely proud of this course. I rose to the challenge – even when it felt like an impossible task. And I created something that people have benefited from. Pretty grateful for that experience.
3. New home: Southern Spain
Di and I never intended to come to Spain. It wasn’t on our list of must-go-to places. But life – and our children – had other plans for us, and it involved this gorgeous little area of Spain.
This place has opened up so many avenues of inspiration for me photographically. Of course, it’s beautiful to be by the sea, and it’s super relaxing. But the area is intensely rich for photographic opportunities.
From little mountain villages that make you feel like you are back in the 1950’s, to the gorgeous seascapes, to the buzzy city and hip street art of Malaga, to the pine-scented walks through the forests and vast landscapes to capture, to the beauty of the Moorish architecture of Granada made more mesmerizing by the rich orange sunsets.
There are so many opportunities for compelling photographs, and every time I am out exploring I am blown away by the possibilities – which will lead me later into telling you about the new workshop we have created in Andalucia.
But first, a question for you:
What did you create in 2018 that you are proud of?
It could be one thing, or three like me. Or more.
It could be one solo photo or a project or something you’ve learnt or mastered.
It doesn’t matter what it is. What is important is the time to reflect on what we have done with our time (not always thinking about what we haven’t done).
Now let’s move onto this year ahead: What will you create in 2019?
We now have a fresh clear run where we can create whatever we want. Yes, whatever we want.
We can dream and imagine and create anything. So:
Who will you photograph?
What will you photograph?
Where will you go?
What will you learn? Perhaps you’ll start shooting on manual? Or learn more about HDR? Or work to improve your composition.
Maybe it’s time to take a class at your local college, join a photo club, buy a book, watch videos.
What will be the outcomes for your photography? Perhaps you’ll make a book of your images? You’ll start a project? You’ll take portraits of your family, or print your work for your wall. Maybe you’ll start a blog?
This is such a good time to ruminate on what your photographic vision can be for 2019.
Even if it’s just saying – once a month I’ll take an afternoon to go explore my area and take photos. Or I’ll photograph the everyday life of my dog.
Here are the things I want to create in 2019:
Finish my Sea Meditation project and have it exhibited
Last year I met two people who have become part of my art team. They are challenging my vision of my work, bringing new ideas flooding into my photography and helping me take it to exciting new places.
This year is the year then that I will bring my new work into the world. With the help of my new team I have some exciting plans – and I will commit time and energy into making it happen.
I haven’t had an exhibition in a couple of years now and I have to say I miss it. (It’s so exhilarating to see your work out there in the world, being looked at and experienced by strangers.)
Create a library of inspiring courses for people
Creating my first online recorded course, which is where most of my personal learning came in, has been thrilling. It is now my intention to focus on building a fantastic library of online courses – so that you can access my teachings easily and affordably wherever you are in the world.
Aside from getting good reviews (aren’t we all a little susceptible to praise?) one of the most joyful things for me about creating The Art of The Image is seeing the progress people are making. As the lessons go on and people post their images, I can see that they are making brilliant leaps in their photography.
That is so inspiring to see. To know that I created something that is helping people (again, love the praise!) but also for people to see the possibility of making such significant progress with their photography when they make a commitment to learn and practice.
And it’s not just me saying: take my course. You should choose the way to work that works best for you – for example, if you prefer to learn through books. (My favourite photo website for technical advice has just updated their book Understanding your Camera, which I thoroughly recommend.)
Support Di’s launch of her book – The Everyday Art of Living a Creative Life
The person I turn to when I am in need of inspiration is Di. She is like a fountain of inspiring energy – and in our circle, she is the person many people turn to seek clarity and new ideas on their work and projects. So I am going to create the environment for her to book to excel.
So much of our work – my work – is driven by or inspired by Di’s ideas. So I want to make sure that this book comes into the world and she can share her ideas on a wider scale. Because she is my wife, I can be shameless and say you’ll definitely love her book.
So again with the questions – what are you going to create in 2019?
Where will your photography take you?
I would love to know – let us below.
Now for some exciting news – Di and I have developed a brand new workshop focused around our new home.
This workshop is going to take in the best of the area of Andalusia where we live (sea, mountains, whitewashed villages, Granada, street photography in Malaga…) but it also is going to be a creative retreat where I teach you many of the advanced composition and technical skills I use every day in my photography.
We’ll be shooting lots of different locations, using many genres of photography. Every day I’ll be teaching you new skills to make the best of each location.
Some of the subjects will be quiet and meditative and beautiful (shooting the sea, walking through forests, exploring the dappled light, capturing the landscapes and mountains).
Some will be more intense and busy – capturing the street art and urban life of Malaga, creating interesting photos of the Moorish architecture of Granada, exploring mountain village life and finding portraits.
We’ll do night shooting, dawn shoots, we’ll go out at dusk for the rich, beautiful light of Southern Spain.
Each day we will be doing feedback and sharing sessions so you can see how other people approached the same subject, generating within you new ideas and ways of seeing.
At the end of the workshop, you will have an incredible portfolio of images, five of which I will have professionally printed for you and shipped to your home.
Developing your Artistic Vision: A photography retreat in Andalucia
Monday 20th – Sunday 26th May
Early bird price – £1,477 (Includes tuition & transport within Andalucia)
Regular price – £1,847
The aim of this workshop is to develop your personal artistic vision and style. To delve into your inner artist.
I will provide you with a multitude of subjects that will challenge you to learn and develop new skills, to see that anything can be your subject when approached with the mindset of an artist (the gas stations on the highway, the sunset on the ocean, the church in the warm sunset of Granada.)
I will be giving a very diverse selection of subjects which will challenge you.
We’ll be shooting for several hours a day, with the rest of the time spent learning new techniques, developing your creative vision for your photography and reviewing your images.
We will be photographing:
- Street photography, urban architecture and the street art of Malaga
- Beautiful seascapes, nature and beauty of the Costa Tropical (where I live!)
- The industrial outskirts of Granada – juxtaposing the abandoned theme parks and vast architectural warehouses with the magnificence of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (the area reminds me of Ernst Haas’ New Mexico work)
- Grandeur, history, windy streets and the Moorish architecture of Granada at sunset
- Exploring the lost village of El Acebuchal
- Capturing the pretty Spanish mountain villages around Granada
- Creating compelling landscapes around of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada
During the workshop, you’ll be processing your images with me giving you lessons, tips and techniques so you fully get to grips with processing and where it can take you artistically.
You will leave the workshop with at least 5 finished images which I will have printed at my favourite London printer, and shipped to you after the workshop ends (how much fun will that package be to open?)
This intensive workshop will help you dive deep into your creative self and develop a stronger, more unique photographic vision.
From beginners to experienced photographers – you can all benefit from this intensive, fun and challenging workshop where we can all share knowledge, feedback and experiences.
Some of the highlights of this workshop are:
- You’ll learn how to tell stories with your images
- You’ll learn how to develop a personal creative vision of your photography
- I’ll fill in the gaps of your technical knowledge – giving presentations as well as plentiful demonstrations as we are out shooting
- We’ll do in-depth processing so you can make your images the very best
- We’ll use the multitude of subjects around us to discover new aspects to your photography
- You’ll learn professional lessons on creating images in a variety of genres
- You will leave with many new skills – plus a new portfolio of images
The workshop will use our village of La Herradura, which is by the sea, as our base (we are an hour east of Malaga) from which we will explore and take many trips.
We’ll be using my beachfront apartment for our teaching sessions, critiquing and processing.
There are a number of places to stay in our beach town – from great little hotels & B&B’s, to airbnb apartments. More details are on our workshop page.
Info & booking for this awesome new workshop: Developing your Artistic Vision: A photography retreat in Andalucia
I would love to hear what has been meaningful for you photographically in 2018 – and what you are planning to do in the year ahead.
Any questions, thoughts or ideas – just hit reply.
Anthony and Diana
Today I want to share some cool articles I’ve written, along with things I’ve read/seen/listened to that have inspired me this week. Hopefully there are some ideas in here that are inspiring for you.
I shared one of the posts we wrote for Digital Photography School all about shooting on manual. It sparked a fun debate and some pretty awesome comments on my blog (and in response I wrote a fun little story of how I shoot on manual).
I was really interested to read people’s ideas and philosophies on how they choose to shoot and why.
I, of course, have my passionate opinion, that manual is a essential to gain full creative control – but I also think you should shoot the exact way you feel comfortable and happy with. It doesn’t matter what and how you do it – as long as you do it!
As that was a popular post, I thought I’d share the latest two articles we’ve written for Digital Photography School:
Artistic Versus Technical Photography Skills – What is Holding You Back?: On my workshops I constantly notice patterns of how people learn about photography and then process the information. In this article I am sharing the most common natural tendencies that inhibit creativity, that I see in people – and how to overcome them.
Tips for Working the Scene to Take Your Image from Good to Great: I’ve written a couple of articles for my blog about ‘How I got the shot’, where I where I illustrate the progress of the shots to my best one. These have been very popular posts – although I still don’t massively enjoy sharing the rubbish shots I take before I get a good one 🙂
Take a look at more articles we’ve written for Digital Photography School here – with my 10 Ideas To Instantly Improve Your Photography Composition being the most popular so far.
Di and I are also going to share a couple of other things we have been enjoying this week, all fuel for our photography and creative practices, but not necessarily related to photography:
1. Iranian photographer Abbas died recently. Famous for photographing the Iranian revolution, he was a Magnum photographer, who spent much of his career documenting conflicts between religion and politics around the world. Gallery of his photos.
2. The Courage to Be Yourself: E.E. Cummings on Art, Life, and Being Unafraid to Feel
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” E.E. Cummings
Could not be more appropriate advice for our journey as creative people.
3. The genius of Prince. Loving Austin Kleon’s 5-hour Spotify playlist of the songs Prince recorded from 1983-1984.
4. Meditative photos and videos from free diver Ocean Ramsey who dives with sharks.
5. The Defiant Ones: I love music and being a musician was something I was considering before I took the road into photography. I loved the recent Netflix series The Defiant Ones, documenting the careers of musician/producer Dr Dre and producer/record label owned Jimmy Iovine. Really fascinating to get into the minds of people who have achieved remarkable things with their creativity.
That’s it for today. Have a stupendous day.
And remember to take that camera out – don’t let it gather dust! It needs you to bring interesting ideas into the world.
Anthony and Diana
That’s me shooting in Venice a few years ago.
All the shots in today’s article are from my Venice at Dawn photo project. I love this city! I run a photo workshop there most years, check out my workshop pages for details.
I wrote recently about how to shoot on manual and received some very interesting responses. Thank you all for your commenting and support. I am still amazed at how difficult I found it trying to explain and encourage people to shoot with manual. I think I’ve distilled it most by saying : It’s all about the craft man!
Anyway, I wanted to respond to all your comments with a Story of Manual.
I’m walking in the woods. There are sights, sounds and smells and I’m making an effort to totally absorb it all. I am very much present.
All is good. The sun is high. The light is hard and strong filtering down through the high pines. I know I want fine detail and good depth of field for the images I’m about to make. Contrast and latitude come to mind.
I set my exposure in camera and in memory – giving aperture priority though I watch my minimum shutter speed. ISO was chosen before walking into the woods… I make images. Through the trees I see a clearing in full sun. I think +4-5 stops of light. I see potential shots just moments in the future by observing the light through the trees.
Making my way to the clearing my fingers adjusting exposure that -4-5 stops, without looking once at the camera, just mentally counting clicks. I don’t have to be spot on. I want it close so I don’t have correct by 12 clicks when a potential shot arrives. Just 2-3 clicks max. That is enough to get the base exposure set.
I know it’s best to have my exposure set for the light not for the subject. I know if I set it for the subject then it is most likely going to come too late…I need it set BEFORE the shot comes WHATEVER it may be.
I get to the clearing, my exposure already set. Or at least very very close. On the opposite edge of the field I spot Bigfoot standing in the dappled light of a slanted sun through leaves. He smiles at me. Shutter speed I think! Again the fingers move in a reciprocal fashion simultaneously towards a faster shutter speed exposure as I raise the camera – a re-prioritization in an instant. I see an EV of -2/3rds. Close enough. Click.Click.Adjust.Click.Click. I think “tone” mood” “key” – what am I feeling right NOW. I’ll make adjustments quickly and instinctively. Click. Over exposure seems appropriate to capture full shadow detail( don’t want someone telling me my Bigfoot was just a tree due to terrible shadow detail!)
I walk off the field into the open shade of a mountainside. Again I know this is a +4-5 stop change from the previous base exposure I was using. ISO comes to mind. I change my exposure for soft open shade light. I choose a nice balanced exposure not really prioritizing shutter or aperture as I am not sure what I will find ahead of me yet. I can get a good base exposure as long as the light remains the same. I will not think of exposure again for awhile I know.
My eyes are keyed into slight changes of the light – heavier shade or dark recesses, brighter dappling of light, these will need small adjustments, or not – Adjustments of less than ⅓ to 1 stop of exposure are made on a per image basis and not for “correctness”, but for tone, key and mood.
Across the field and out of the woods I come upon a sea. The sun is now low just a few degrees from the horizon. The cirrus clouds are plentiful for golden hour and there are few low clouds on the horizon. Conditions are good for colour and dynamic light. A wide lens goes on and aperture again takes priority. The tripod comes out. Now things have really slowed down. I know I will be in this spot for awhile making a photo every few minutes, but mostly just watching it all happen and feeling most alive! Shutter times get longer as the light leaves. As dark approaches aperture is widened. The stars come out and ISO increases.
I like who I am when I’m being creative, that’s the basic fact. I love taking photos, just like I love having a long walk through the hills near me in Spain. I have to remember that these things bring me joy. And who doesn’t want a life of maximum joy?
So I am going to ask more of myself creatively this coming month. And I want to offer up a challenge to help you if, like me, you are in need of a little push.
I invite you to find and photograph the beauty in the mundane.
Firstly – because it’s easy to take amazing shots of amazingly beautiful places. Although we can always do something fresh, or unique or interesting with our subjects, you’re bound to get something awesome with, for example, a great location and a great sky.
But to create something beautiful, or find beauty in the mundane? That’s a skill that is fantastic to have, and worth developing, because it will help your photography as a whole.
If you can make the most ordinary object look interesting, think how much more you can bring to compelling subjects or scenes?
As many of you know, learning to see, or learning to see in a deeper way, is the journey that every photographer should be on. But that can feel like an overwhelming task. This challenge will help.
Mundane is defined in the dictionary as the everyday, ordinary, or banal. So it could be things you see everyday and have lost interest in – I particularly like street signs, peeling posters, weird things I find on the floor. Ask yourself, how can I make this interesting to me?
It could just be a boring object or scene or subject. Ask yourself, what elements could I bring it to make this come alive? Interesting light, a person walking past, a different angle or maybe the way I organise the elements of the scene?
It could even be, and I am obviously stretching the definition here, photographing the slightly depressing or the ugly in a beautiful way. Finding beauty in objects or places considered ugly is a great challenge!
“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller
In this challenge I encourage you to do two things:
Use outside elements to bring beauty to mundane subjects/scenes (like waiting for interesting light, rain, a person etc. to come along)
Work to bring out the innate beauty in mundane subjects – and here we are really looking, and probing our subject. Looking at its textures, its colour, what elements it’s made up of
How this can help you:
If you’re a beginner or feeling a bit stuck this challenge will give you something to focus on to get started, as well as an access point on learning how to see
If you’re more advanced it can push you into not just going for the easy shot, but working with harder elements to create interesting photographs
And I like this challenge because it is helping us acknowledge and draw out the beauty that exists in our lives every-day and every-where.
So just dive on in, or below you’ll find some tips and examples
to help you get on your way.
Breaking down the elements
Looking for interesting elements is a great way to start that process of learning to see – so instead of trying to photograph a scene as a whole, find an interesting element and then build your photo from there.
When you see a sign like this in a scene you are usually looking at it as part of a whole scene, and it’s not very interesting when it’s part of a whole. But when you remove it from what it’s connected to it becomes fascinating.
As photographers, light is our gift from the gods. Interesting light can make anything – literally anything – wonderful to look at. I also like how you can use hard light to create shadows that contrast something hard, ugly or rough. Like here.
Or here, in a much softer way, you have this broken down house bathed in soft blue dawn light, making the textures look and feel quite sensual. The photo wouldn’t be interesting at all without this light.
This photo below is one I shot in Hong Kong. I found some matresses in the street – could anything be more mundane than that? The light was wonderful, which I think makes the shot.
This photo below sort of personifies the whole idea for me about bringing out the beauty in the mundane. The light of course makes this photo, the way it’s filtered through something and is falling over the wall. But then you have this wetness and moss which creates really interesting textures. You can feel it. I do have a love of photographing quite ugly things and so I really quite love this photo.
Would your photo be more interesting if you moved your feet? It sounds simple, but most people I teach don’t move very much.. And don’t just move closer or to the side, move higher and lower. Climb that roof! Go down that stairwell! As Diane Arbus said – photography is a kind of licence to explore people and situations. Use that licence!
Photographing things I find on the street is a huge passion of mine.
In this photo above, the interestingness again comes from removing elements from their context. If the floor wasn’t mostly wet it wouldn’t be as interesting, and the bright red contrasted against the deep grey – plus I like muddy footprints – all add something.
Doesn’t this just take on a different feeling when it’s not attached to a whole scene?
Here you have both light and leading lines. I love using structure and organisation in my photos.
I hope you enjoyed those ideas. Share your thoughts and comments below – do you like to photograph mundane subjects? Has it helped your photography?
Anthony and Diana
Victoria’s Peak is the must shoot place for any photographer visiting Hong Kong, actually, anyone must visit! It is a stunning view; sublime and warm. You get a real sense of the place and it’s structure from this view. One of a kind for sure. Below are two videos I made before and after shooting on the Peak. Below the video are the images I made from the adventure.
Photos Victoria's Peak
I hope you are all having a great week. Today I got an email from someone that started in the same way that many many emails to me start.
“I have been so rubbish, I haven’t picked up my camera in months!”
And it really struck me because it was so self-judgemental. I should be taking photos, I haven’t, so I’m being a rubbish person.
That is no way to treat your creativity!
And to be honest – why is it so important that you take photos all the time if it’s so difficult for you? If you can only manage to fit in once every few months then so what?
Being judgemental about ourselves – in any way – actually leads us to do the things that we love even less (I believe).
If you are saying – I should take more photos – I think it creates such a bad feeling inside of us, such a sense of judgement and thoughts of I’m not good enough – that we end up doing the exact opposite and taking no photos at all.
This shows the amazing light here in Hong Kong. The sun is behind my subjects and the light is being reflected off onto a green wall. I stood here for about 20 minutes just shooting people in this amazing light.
Same light. I think I prefer this photo to the one above – what do you think?
“If we demand perfection from ourselves we are not living in the real world…The inherent problem in the relationship between the ideal & the real is that the ideal judges the real as unacceptable and brings down condemnation and wrath on the real. This sets up an adversarial relationship between the two and like all adversaries, they move further and further apart.” Henry Cloud
So instead of telling ourselves that we should take photos – why not just wait until we are inspired and feeling good? Make it a time of fun and celebration! Enjoy it as and when it fits into your life.
Di is writing a book at the moment – very very slowly. She works with me on our business, we are ‘world schooling’ our two kids and she also is writing her book. When she started out she created a ridiculous schedule for herself that was impossible to maintain without creating stress. And we definitely didn’t start this world-travelling-working adventure so she could be all stressed out!
I love this shot! The light! Amazing! What do you think?
So she decided to pull back a bit, and lower her expectations. The top priority for both of us now with our creativity is to enjoy it! To allow it to bring us the intense incredible pleasure that making things with our very own hands and minds creates.
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman
Being creative makes us both feel amazing, and in total awe of this planet. Being around other creative people makes us feel amazing too. Of course we’ve got lots of work to do too, but we’ve decided not to force our creativity. We have decided to just let it flow when it feels good.
And you know what? The more allowing, the less judgemental we are about our creativity and stopping all that negativity – the more we actually create. Because it makes us feel good in all ways! It’s no longer a should.
Of course right now I am in super insane inspiration mode because Hong Kong is INCREDIBLE. As you hopefully can see from my photos from this past week .
It still feels a little raw to show my photos straight away like this – before I’ve had the chance to mull them over – but I am not giving into my fear! I am putting them out there to see what you think, to get feedback and to show you how I work putting together a project.
Now help me here solve a marital dispute. Di thinks there is nothing special about this picture below – it’s just a load of poles, and some buildings! Said she.
Whereas I think it has a deeper narrative about the relationship of progress and environmental impact.
Now who is right?! Is there a deeper narrative or not!?
I would LOVE to know what you think of this batch 🙂 Please comment below. It’s always great to hear from you.
Plus some news!
We have just a couple of spots left on our Palermo, Sicily workshopnext May!
So exciting, because Palermo is another truly photogenic city. We’ll photograph the city at first light and as the sun settles at the end of the day. We’ll photograph the people, capture the atmosphere and the city so rich in history. I will lead numerous photo walks, feedback sessions and critiquing.
Have an amazing week! Thanks for reading – and please share with anyone you know who loves photography. It’s so helpful!
Anthony and Diana
This is a real cow. I had to queue up to get my photo taken with it. Cows are just wandering around on Landau Island, and being a sacred animal here, lots of people wanted their photo with it.
Today I wanted to have a little fun and make this suggestion – your camera is nothing without you. It’s an inert machine that requires your vision, your inspiration, your excitement and energy to create interesting photos.
So to illustrate this today I want to send you some photos I took in the last few weeks with my smartphone camera.
I want to show you that:
1) It doesn’t matter what camera you have – good photos can always be created.
2) Regardless of where, and with what you are shooting, take time to pause and compose your shot! In fact taking photos in the day-to-day way with your phone camera is an awesome way to practise composition. A little practise every day will do wonders!
So let’s see what I came up with with my smartphone camera in these past few weeks….
How many of the photos in this post are about light?
Light doing interesting things is everywhere. You just need to look out for it….
What do you think? Am I right – or do you totally disagree? I’d love to know!! Let me know in the comments below. It’s amazing hearing what you think.
Have a great day,
Anthony and Diana
PS – here is the 19th shot, taken by Di, on the subject of how difficult it is to take a nap when there is a 5 year old around 🙂
Good day to you all,
Today is one of those days that I often really struggle with in London. It’s grey, the light is flat, there is some of that very sprinkly rain that doesn’t totally warrant the whole rain gear outfit but is none the less an inconvenience.
Di went for a walk down by the river this morning and told me how many people were out jogging and rowing. I couldn’t help but mutter to myself, crazy people!
You know what, though? (And this would have made me splutter with surprise when I first got off the boat from California all those years ago) – English weather ain’t that bad for taking photos of London. And this is because this city is so incredible, so interesting and diverse and amazing, it almost taunts me by saying I don’t need blazing sunshine and spectacular light to show off what a fascinating city I am. Explore me and you will discover incredible things.
My favourite part of the city to photograph is – hands down – East London. If you don’t know this city and you come here, I urge you to go east and explore.
I think it’s mostly to do with the contrasting architecture – you’ll be walking down some ancient street, where you can literally smell the history, and suddenly a sparkly new building will appear, like it’s grown from the ground like a weed, shooting up in its shimmering glass and steel.
You’ll then turn into another street to suddenly be sucked into the riot and colour and noise of a street market, before feeling like you’ve moved into a totally different city with the delicious smells from a row of Indian restaurants.
It’s the constant juxtaposition of architecture, cultures and communities that is so awesome to photograph.
But what stands out for me is the street art. I’m sad to say there ain’t much street art in my quaint environs of West London. It’s all a bit samey this side of the city, but there you’ve got incredible artists displaying their breathtaking talents on all kinds of amazing textures, walls and buildings.
What makes me think they are even more super-awesome is how temporary it all is. Like, I am just going to put this beautiful picture out there, let it go into the world and not worry if it lasts just a day or 2 years.
There is an energy to this part of London that I don’t feel in other parts. Yes, it can be a very intense energy of struggle, being the part of the city in which so many new communities land, working crushingly hard to get a foot into a new life. But there is also the energy of possibility – it’s the place where many artists live and work, where entrepreneurs are often found starting their businesses with big ideas. It’s the home of artisan food shops and the birthplace of many cultural trends that then sweep across the city.
So you can totally imagine my absolute sheer joy when I was asked to do a book about this very area of London that I love. A limited edition photo book of 1,000, no less, commissioned by a very cool new aparthotel that has just landed in the East End.
I brought together my favourite images of the area, and then went out and shot some more.
I took my son to explore the early morning street markets and we shot together. I went out on one cold and flat morning and shot the Balfron Tower – and it didn’t matter that there was no spectacular sunrise that morning. That’s what I mean about this city – even when it’s dull, it’s incredible to photograph.
I went into the ‘edgelands’ that are so much part of East London, places that are neither city or country, that are filled with desolate-looking industrial estates that feel devoid of life, but are in fact teeming with industry.
The upshot being that I photographed a tremendous part of the city, and I loved every minute of it.
This project is now coming to fruition and the book is being launched at the end of the month. Now, it’s only and exclusively available for purchase at the Leman Locke, the amazing design-led aparthotel that commissioned the book.
I have got 50 of these beautiful books for sale, yeh! These are signed by me and will be have an edition number inside. I have chosen to go for a slightly different look to my last books: I’m using a beautiful thick matt paper that I think really works with the project – this is, after all, one of the most intensely urban parts of London.
(And by the way, you are the first to hear about this, because we love you guys!)
As I only have fifty books, I am expecting them to sell super quickly (for my last book I sold 100 books on the first day I announced it! Which was so exciting.)
It’s a cloth bound, A4 hardback with 80 pages capturing my vision of East London at dawn, really quite beautiful if I say so myself.
Di has written some beautiful words and collected some great quotes for the project. It’s a really special collection, and we are both very proud of the book.
If you’ve ever wanted to own a little piece of my art, this is a good time to do it! And what a great present! You can say you know the artist 🙂
And thank you! It really is the most tremendous thing that all of you stick around and read our writing about photography and creativity. The life of a photographer is often a very solitary one; to have this worldwide group that gives me so much feedback and inspiration is incredible. I hope you all know how much it means to me to know you’re out there and how many of you send me emails and comments – it’s just beautiful!
I hope you have a smashing rest of your day.
Here is the link for my new book East London at Dawn.
Anthony and Diana
Today I want to give you a super-simple idea that, if you can grasp it, and then put it into practise, I guarantee will really help your photography.
What we are basically doing as photographers is looking at the world, identifying interesting subjects and organising them accordingly. The way I like to approach this is to break the world down into elements.
If you think about the traditional rules of composition – what they all have in common is that they are encouraging you to break the world down into elements – to see the world as a collection of shapes, lines, forms etc. When you do this, when you see the world not as a 3D surround sound where everything is joined together, then it’s much easier to organise your composition (and also to follow those rules of composition if you’d like, too).
It’s almost like I am trying to remove the elements from their location, take them out of the busy scene and make them an interesting shape, completely separate from their surroundings.
The interesting elements for me in this photo are the men’s mouths and expressions. I did several shots, all around the group, but thought this worked best as it was the clearest angle to see the men’s mouths and facial expressions.
It’s like looking at the world, trying to forget what you know about it – that over there is a building, that over there is a road – and instead looking at everything as a shape, an element, a collection of lines. Think of how a small child sees the world, where details become fascinating, interesting for the form and shapes.
This takes practise of course, but once you get the initial concept you can develop it. Even if you know this already, it’s always good to have a little refresh 🙂
Now – why do we want to do this?
Partly because it makes ‘seeing’ those interesting shots easier. If you can organise the elements in a scene in an interesting way you’ll get an interesting photo. Also, though, because….
The eye loves order and structure. The eye is very attracted to images and scenes where there is structure. Of course too much structure is boring! The role of us photographers then is to create just enough order and structure to a scene – not too little, not too much – and to always include something else: that could be feeling, atmosphere, colour etc. I have covered that in lots of other articles, but for this piece I am just focusing on the structure of your photos.
Now, let’s start with something very simple – lines! Lines are everywhere and they are a very fun element to play with. Here is a shot that takes a very big, endless scene – the sky and the sea – and creates some order to it because, after all ,most straight shots of the sea are dull, dull, dull. This structure, I think, helps to translate some of the epic feelings you get when you are looking at the sea.
There is an aesthetic appeal to having strong lines in a sense that when you look at the photo, doesn’t necessarily scream strong lines. You as the photographer have to create that. I did it by having the rocks run along the bottom, and then layering up from there.
Now, there is one line in the photo above that made this image interesting – can you see what it was? Without it wouldn’t have been as compelling.
It’s the line of fluffy white clouds. Without them, it would have just been rocks, sea and sky. I needed that line of clouds to make it something a little more unusual, a little more arty. It was when I noticed that line of clouds that I thought, ooh, that will be an interesting shot.
The cars here in Cuba are amazing! Old and dirty but very cool and interesting. I love the big, rounded shapes of their design and when I saw the kid through the window I thought perfect. It was the shapes in the car that make this striking, giving him an interesting frame, and drawing your eye, uninterrupted, straight to him.
Below again, I have a person in a frame, surrounded by lots of strong lines. I think the emotion and expression on the man’s face is a really nice contrast to the rigidity of the lines on the bus. Can you see how when I am shooting people I am also thinking about the elements that are surrounding them? The background is as much of the subject as the person, whether you include a lot of background or not very much. You have to be thinking about background, always.
Taking interesting shots around big open spaces like the harbor in Havana is difficult. When you don’t have many elements around to organise, just lots of space and disparate elements bobbing around here and there.
I looked around for interesting elements and came up with the silhouette of this man.
I liked the dreamy quality of the background, I think that worked really well with the contrast of the strong line on the bottom of the shot, and the outline of the man. What for me was the most significant element of the shot was the expression in the man’s body.
Here is another photograph I took around the harbor:
Can you see how I really went for the line down the right side as the strong element, to create some structure? Then we have the elements of the lamp posts also on the right. This creates enough structure and balance for those boats that are spread out, drifting and floating on the beautiful textured water.
The photo below is perhaps a bit obvious. The religious figure against the shining sun – you can almost hear the angels, lol! I thought, though, it was worth taking, particularly with those clouds
(I tried to find a word that means lover of clouds, but couldn’t. If there is such as word then I am one!)
I think you can see the elements very clearly in the photo above and how I placed them (by positioning myself) to make them work together.
Here are a couple of photos that I don’t think worked so well, but I think you can see what I was aiming for.
In this photo above I loved the shape of the church – look at its tower, so strong and proud, and the shape of the building. Then there are these tall buildings on the right, a different colour than the church which was nice. I also liked the strong line of the shadow, dramatically cutting across the church.
Then we have the space of the road and the square, but it’s very busy isn’t it? The elements on the road and in the square are dark and not defined, perhaps that is what detracts from the shot? I don’t think this shot quite worked, but was on its way. Why do you think that could be? What could I have done better?
Here is another shot that had a lot of potential but didn’t work out. But I thought it showed my thinking really well and that’s why I’ve included it. Can you see that I was intrigued by the shape and colour of the building against that beautiful blue sky? The fact too that the sky had clouds in it was also great. I am not often a fan of cloudless skies – they can be too flat and boring. Not all the time, but often.
Now that I had those elements, I thought the shape of the tree was super-interesting and believed that would be the element that would bring it all together, would make it visually interesting and not just a shot of a pretty building. But, alas, this wasn’t the one. Can you see, though, how I tried to place all of the elements together, to organise them in a way that could be interesting? And do you have a sense of how I could have improved this?
Now to my final photo – this is a very simple shot and I liked this one. Engaging photos of buildings are hard – how many millions of completely boring shots of monuments and buildings have you seen? Buildings will come out flat if you don’t create depth and striking visual elements.
By positioning myself off to the right I was able to bring out some of the attractive lines and shapes within the building, giving it depth and making it look less flat. The lovely light and shadows really help; the building would have been very flat in a hard midday sun. Of course the sky again, with those beautiful, coloured clouds also add depth, as well as a little drama.
So that’s it from me today. I am off exploring again and looking for more great shots of this amazing island. I have already hundreds but the longer I am here, the more I get into the feeling of the place, and the better I think my shots are.
Have an awesome day – and of course as always I’d love to know what you think. Please let me know below.
I hope you enjoyed these ideas. Let me know, comment below.
Anthony and Diana
PS: all the photos in the article are from my recent trip to Cuba. Amazing place to photograph.
The photos in this email are all from my Homeless World Cup project (© Anthony Epes). I was feeling the need for some big colour and light on these short winter days.
This time last year I wrote a post about how January is a great time to review your work. Now I go one stage further and say – let’s get down to printing them. I realised recently that most people I encounter don’t make prints of their photos any more.
These are people who spend time and money on getting a great camera and capturing beautiful images, maybe even investing time processing to perfect their images. They then leave the images sitting there on their SD cards, hard drives, clouds etc. Don’t, I say! Bring them to life.
I presume that everyone on my list is old enough to remember that feeling of picking up your photos from the printer or pharmacy. The excitement as you go through the photos and seeing what you have. I think it’s actually more exciting than loading up your SD card, because it’s so finite and real. It feels such an achievement.
There is nothing like that tactile, beautiful feeling of a print in your hands. You’re feeling the paper, you’re examining it, you’re holding in front of you that bit longer than you might if you were just passing through hundreds of photos on your computer. You’re seeing it not as an image beamed into your eyeball by light, but from the light that is reflecting and bouncing off the print. It’s a very different ‘seeing’ quality.
It’s a bit like having a room with lots of bookshelves packed with books – you don’t need all those books, but they are wonderful to have – emitting an aura of comfort, beauty and knowledge that feels good to be around.
Prints do the same thing. Coming across a pile of old photos is a wonderful way to interrupt a day of tidying, to remind you of people, experiences, times, places. I mean – if you’d forgotten about that amazing morning fifteen years ago when you watched the sunrise with your girlfriend over a beach in California – how can you search for it on your computer?!?
There are also so many great reasons to print your work that go beyond it being a fun thing to do. Here are some of them:
You can never say for sure if your files are safe
One of the fathers of the internet, Vint Cerf, said recently that we should be printing out everything we want to keep, as it’s totally possible that the internet will go through a digital dark age where vast swathes of information will be lost. Right…
Plus there is a thing called…Bit rot. Which is:
“a slow deterioration of software performance over time or its diminishing responsiveness that will eventually lead to software becoming faulty, unusable.” Wikipedia
Which sounds awful, right? Keep that bit rot away from me and my photos!
Because life changes all the time, and so does software
File applications change all the time – how do you know you’ll be able to access your files in 20 or 30 years? Storage, cloud systems – all of that will change. Google may be ubiquitous now, but who knows what’s around the corner? For now I really like their cloud storage system. You can search your photos by visual clues. I use Dropbox for some storage and sharing, but again – who know what’s in store for any of these companies? And how about Facebook – I read their computers are in California – earthquake country!
OK, so I don’t think there is any need to panic. BUT let us just be aware that these computers aren’t infallible. And what we do know about photos printed on photo paper is that they last! We have photographs that are still around 150 years after they were printed.
Helps you view how your photography is progressing
When choosing photos for his books Elliott Erwitt lays a bunch of prints on the floor, then gets up somewhere high and looks at the flow of the photos. I’ve done this many times when I put a portfolio together, and it’s immensely satisfying. You can use it to help see if you are telling a story well, if your photo project is developing nicely, how your work is generally progressing.
And – don’t just print because there is a good outcome or purpose. Do it for the fun and joy of it.
Printing will help you with your editing, which in turn will make you a better, more aware and accurate photographer. Any process of reviewing your work is excellent training for your eye. When you have to cull a mass of images down to your very best you learn a lot about your work.
The best way to edit your images? Do it with a friend whose eye you respect. It’s essential to get feedback on your work as photographers are notorious for not spotting their best images. We’re often too close to it for true and proper objectivity.
Maybe it’s something like getting a photo book done for special collections of your work (your child’s first year, your tour of Tanzania, a project you worked on). The books don’t cost a huge amount and yet they will be a wonderful way to keep your work and to show people. And Lightroom has an export to Blurb option now.
And if you’d like some help with creating a photo project for possible book-printing, here’s a post I also wrote last January about How to Plan Your Photo Project.
Don’t worry about just printing the best
Print a selection. Print things you just love the memory of even if they’re not amazing. Get to know your work in this physical way.
An idea for you…
Ansel Adams said that: “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” So how about you go through your images from last year and pick twelve to print (or 6, the amount doesn’t matter). I think that would be an awesome way to start the year – inspire yourself with your own creativity.
- My new Printing Workshop in Spain
- Join my free How to Print Facebook Live on Weds 19th Nov. Register by emailing Diana for details firstname.lastname@example.org
How I print
I don’t know about high street places, I can’t attest to their quality. But here’s what I do:
- For every-day printing, for clients and for some exhibition prints I use my inkjet.
- I sometimes process my own colour film, usually when I have used a special colour process – and I do this at my studio.
- I use Metro Imaging in London for most of my other film processing and printing. (Metro now have quicker kiosk option, which I haven’t used as I usually get C-Types, but I would think they would be much better than the cheaper high street options.) A couple of years ago Metro printed for me some killer, massive prints for me on vinyl for my Homeless World Cup project. They were like giant post-it notes. It was amazing, and it took on the texture of the wall behind it. Totally different from the C-Type prints I usually hang at exhibitions. They can print on almost any surface nowadays – see the fun you can have now with prints!
- When I hand-print my work (from both film and digital), which I do for tricky prints or certain exhibitions, I go to Photofusion, which has a great colour and black and white darkroom. Photofusion also do art printing and it’s a bit cheaper than Metro.
Unrelated to printing, but interesting things I’ve been looking at this week:
- I really loved this book about the photographer JR, who does these epic crazy street portrait projects – forcing us to ‘look at each other’. His Women are Heroes’ project photographed women who are “dealing with the effects of war, poverty, violence, and oppression”, and he then posted giants photos of their faces and eyes amongst the buildings all over the world. This photo is interesting too, a 150ft photo of a newly arrived immigrant to New York, pasted onto the floor. I like how, with imagination and fun, photography can do share super interesting and challenging ideas.
- New Year’s Resolutions are useless, says me. But this list of 16 ideas to live by from some of history’s greatest minds is brilliant, and from the always awesome site that is Brain Pickings.
- This is cool – Fabian Oefner’s incredible images of chemicals and colour – like a close up of marbles of oil paint suspended in water and methylated spirits.
So that’s it! I would LOVE to know if you are going to get some of your work printed. Reply to my email or comment on my blog. I LOVE hearing from you, thank you for taking the time.
And please do share my post with anyone you think might be interested in this 🙂
Anthony and Diana
Greetings from a balmy Rome. Today I wanted to take a look at Ernst Haas, my favourite photographer and, hands down, the biggest photographic influence on my work. When I discovered his books in the 80’s I was blown away by the beauty he discovered in the most mundane views or objects: lines on a street, a shaft of light, a burst of vivid colour. Haas was a prolific photographer, working across multiple genres, but much of his photography involved creating very simple but stunningly compelling photographs, ones that are heavy with texture, beautiful light, sumptuous colour and most importantly, intense feeling.
Haas’s passions and way of seeing the world felt very similar to what I was naturally drawn to, and though my work isn’t particularly akin to his, there is definitely a strong influence. I cannot encourage you enough to look at his work.
Here are the things I have learnt from him:
Shadow on Pavement © Ernst Haas
- Beauty in the mundane
“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself” Henry Miller
Haas’s simple photos of lines on the street and reflections completely opened up my view of photography. To see that mundane things like this could be considered interesting powerfully struck me. I know we see this in abundance now but to create something beautiful from mundane objects is actually pretty hard.
Pavement II © Ernst Haas
Of course it’s harder to take simple photos. To begin you need to find things that fascinate you and pay close attention to them. Examining what they are, what elements they are made up of. Taking things down to their simplest elements is very difficult. But that is what makes it interesting. It then comes down to feeling, how you feel about what you are looking at, what textures, colours you can draw out of what you’re photographing. What is the light doing? Every part of the photograph communicates something, and the less there is in a photograph, the more weight and meaning each element has.
2) How to dream with open eyes
“You become things, you become an atmosphere, and if you become it, which means you incorporate it within you, you can also give it back. You can put this feeling into a picture. A painter can do it. And a musician can do it and I think a photographer can do that too and that I would call the dreaming with open eyes.” – Ernst Haas
When you are looking around you and are taking photographs, you are entering a different state of mind. You are detaching yourself from being absorbed with your own mind and thoughts, and you are doing what Haas suggests, ‘dreaming with open eyes’. Haas was then able to see the beauty and feelings of things outside of himself – here of lights and lines.
Lights of New York, 1970 © Ernst Haas
For me it’s almost like remembering the best moments in my life, like time has slowed down. I remember the sunlight filtering through the trees onto my face as I lay looking up at the sky as a small child in Greece – the feeling of looking at the early morning sunlight coming into my bedroom and the texture of a cotton cover on my skin, as I lay in bed with my new girlfriend; the lines of shadow created by the blinds on the floor as I sat exhausted with my wife as she was in labour with our first child.
California, USA, 1976 © Ernst Haas
Photography is capturing moments of feeling, for yourself but also for others. And what the best photography does for me is create a sense of a memory, perhaps of something you might have experienced, or a connection with the photographer, of their memories, their experiences, their moments.
3) The world is just a jumble of….. interesting shapes, lines and more shapes
“Bored with obvious reality, I find my fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view. Without touching my subject I want to come to the moment when, through pure concentration of seeing, the composed picture becomes more made than taken. Without a descriptive caption to justify its existence, it will speak for itself – less descriptive, more creative; less informative, more suggestive; less prose, more poetry.” Ernst Haas from ‘About Color Photography’
This is one of my favourite Haas photos. In so much of his work you can see an interest in lines and shapes. And that interplay of lines and shapes, combined with colour and light, are what make them so intriguing.
Western Skies, 1978 © Ernst Haas
When you get into looking at things, you start to see them more individually, less as a whole view and more as singular objects almost floating around in space. Here Haas was using many interesting shapes and lines – pulling the scene together and contrasting them creates a slightly disorientating, but ultimately pleasing, collection of shapes for the eye to see, and therefore a great photo. This comes from the discipline of careful looking.
4) Feeling of colour
Before I saw Haas’s work I didn’t realise that you could feel colour so intensely from a photo. Just like you can feel in your body the emotion behind a dramatic expression on a photo of someone’s face, you can also feel everything else in the photo – and colour is no exception. I suppose it’s like how struck we are by a beautiful red flower or the pinks and oranges of sunrise in nature. Everything that we see, and so everything that we photograph, has the power to make us feel.
Black Wave © Ernst Haas
5) It’s all about the light
Nevada Sky © Ernst Haas
Light for me is the number one consideration for photos. Most photographers are obsessed with light, it just comes down to priorities. Perhaps growing up in Southern California has made me more obsessed with colourful, dramatic light. Usually I vere towards wanting amazing light, but it can also be looking for an absence of light, looking for shadows, looking for what is happening, and the sensations that are created in low light. I talk more about light here and here.
6) Reality is subjective
“The camera only facilitates the taking. The photographer must do the giving in order to transform and transcend ordinary reality.” Ernst Haas
This is another of Haas’ interesting compositions, a seemingly disjointed photo, with various shapes and colours and different light sources (the ambient light, the light from the bar, the reflected lights on the car)
USA, 1968 © Ernst Haas
To take this photo you have to be looking and waiting and watching. Breaking down the world into different parts, finding shapes or colours or views that interest you and waiting for other elements to come together into the frame. If I find one interesting element I stop and look around, if I find two or three I am definitely waiting around for something else to happen – perhaps for the light to change, or someone to walk into shot. You won’t always get it, but start with looking for one interesting element and work from there.
“In every artist there is poetry. In every human being there is the poetic element. We know, we feel, we believe.” Ernst Haas
7) The fun you can have with a reflection
Haas did some pretty epic reflections. I love reflections and I love how Haas took it to a whole new level. He’s using shapes again, interesting shapes to contrast and place and change the view. Because that’s how we see the world, isn’t it? Not as one straight forward view but by multiple angles, layered and busy. Haas had a great ability to reflect in his work some of the chaos that our eyes see, before our brain has worked on it and made it easier to understand.
New York, 1975 © Ernst Haas
Reflection, 42nd Street © Ernst Haas
8) Seeking inspiration from multiple sources
Haas warned against seeking too much direct inspiration as it “leads too quickly to repetitions of what inspired you,” and instead recommends you to “refine your senses through the great masters of music, painting, and poetry. In short, try indirect inspirations, and everything will come by itself.”
I think of it like the roots of a tree drawing water and nutrients from a wide area. Bring multiple sources into your own creative filtering system. I go through phases of looking at other people’s work, but I don’t feel bad if I go months without looking at another photographer’s work, because sometimes other photographs are interesting and inspiring but other times it’s confusing and not helpful for me in creating something distinct and original. Of course that’s not the only way to be – this is just what works for me. So I read, listen to music, walk, talk to people. Live, basically. That’s what does it for me.
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” Henry Miller
But also! Don’t think too hard about it or take anyone’s advice too seriously or dogmatically. No-one has the answer that’s right for you!
“Style has no formula, but it has a secret key. It is the extension of your personality. the summation of this indefinable net of your feeling, knowledge, and experience.” Ernst Haas
9) Forget about art
“One cannot photograph art’” Ernst Haas
By this I take the idea that there is no one way to create art. There is only living and feeling and looking and learning. And wrapping this all up into expressing yourself. Art is what is decided when people start looking at what you’ve done, after you’ve taken the photograph, not before.
10) “Colour is joy” Ernst Haas
I love working in colour, it’s excites me. I have said many times and will continue to bang on about this – what you should be concentrating on in your photography, or any creative medium, is the things that excite you. Haas introduced me to a vast world of colour photography – but what is so interesting about his colour work is the feelings he got from his colours. It’s like he is completely connected to what he is photographing and you feel you are there, in the picture.
California, USA, 1977 © Ernst Haas
11) Love simplicity
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
There is something deeply cathartic about seeking out simplicity. Life is complicated enough: a strange combination of long stretches of the mundane and a mad puzzle at others. I like to seek out things that pierce the bubble of life, that remind me of simple pleasures. And Haas did that brilliantly. You don’t need to go to far flung places, or look for ‘interesting’ people or things to photograph. You could just take a drive and see what happens…..
Twilight USA, September 1977 © Ernst Haas
“The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances…a tiny relationship – either a harmony or a disharmony – that creates a picture.” Ernst Haas
12) It’s OK to love to photograph beauty
“All I wanted was to connect my moods with those of Paris. Beauty paints and when it painted most, I shot.” Ernst Haas
View from Notre Dame, 1955 © Ernst Haas
(see, strong lines again!)
There is a weird cycle in photography, and in the art world. Every now and again the mood seems to be to reject beauty. It is as though by celebrating what is naturally beautiful you have been taken in by something that is too easy to admire; it’s not challenging enough (as though we need more challenges in life, jeez!) But Haas rejected this, and I admire him for that. Even when his work fell out of fashion (he was a super famous photographer in the 1950’s and 60’s, but the art world fell out of love with him from the 70’s onwards. He is nowhere near as famous as he should be, and has become more of a photographer’s photographer, because I think photographers realise how amazingly hard it is to photograph is such a consistently beautiful and simple way ).
But what’s fascinating too is that it was not just straightforward beauty that he was photographing. Everything has a story, perhaps an edge or complexity that reflects beauty in real life. Life is not straightforward and neither were Haas’ photographs.
13) Photography can create movement
(Another) thing I love about Haas is how he continued to develop and push his work to explore different ideas and themes. There are many famous photographers who get known for a style and then get stuck there (and plenty of non famous ones too). It’s easy to find something you are good at and just focus on that, almost like you are holding on to it for dear life. But as Haas said:
“Don’t park. Highways will get you there, but I tell you, don’t ever try to arrive. Arrival is the death of inspiration.” Ernst Haas
Haas’s experimentation with movement in photography was a style he worked and developed over many projects. I love how the colour and the story of the photo seem to be enhanced by the movement. Again, simple, colour and shape driven. Beautiful.
La Suerte De Capa, Pamplona, Spain, 1956 © Ernst Haas
So I thought I’d finish with a some ideas on how you can get into an Ernst Haas inspired photo mood. Ask yourself:
What simple things totally fascinate you? What could you go out into the world and truly and deeply examine? I love photographing lines on the road, and how they can take you somewhere, or nowhere at all (thanks Ernst!). I also go pretty crazy for reflections.
Perhaps for you it could be:
- the look of bare feet in grass
- street lights at night
- texture of the hair of your dog
Examine these things. Thinking of them as mere objects, not what they are connected to, what their purpose is, what they are. Just think of what you see in your gaze and your imagination. And then when you are totally happy you have looked and examined closely enough, then you are ready to get out your camera and start to experiment…….
And for further inspiration, some good articles about Haas here and here. A lot of the quotes I took from Haas are from this article that he wrote about his philosophy of photography on the Ernst Haas estate website. There is also an Haas exhibition on at the Atlas Gallery in London until July 4th of an early project ‘Reconstructing London, visions of the city after World War II.’
I’d love to know what you think of Haas’s work and what you’ve learnt from him. Send me an email or comment below.