If your pictures are not good enough you’re not close enough

Dear friend,

Today I’d like to talk about Robert Capa’s famous quote and what it means to me and my work. Sure he didn’t want us to take makro pictures only. But back in time when I started taking pictures, I focused on my motive, stared through the view finder at it and shot. I took photos of people trying to have it all in the picture. My view focused on the person/ motive and not on the rest of the picture. Be honest these are the boring shots everyone has taken or still does. So what is the difference to the mind-blowing, interesting pictures your heroes make? Take the your time, think, look some up. Still not there yet?

Usually it’s NOT all in. In e.g. portraits you see only a part of the face, it’s only a small detail of a building or a landmark. I was in Florence the other week on a vacation with my wonderful wife. We’re both taking lots of pictures but I focus on street portraits and go close, make photos of a small detail while she wants to take the whole landmark or building. There will be an article coming soon…

Let’s have a look at some examples. The pictures I’d like to discuss I took on a friend’s birthday party, as a surprise his wife invited a piper, which was also fun for the neighbors. Man those pipes are so loud.

My first example are his hands while playing. The b&w supports pattern of the lines of his hands, you feel the light touch on the melody pipe and yes he’s married. All this would be lost if I’d taken a whole body portrait.

The next one is just a slight change in the point of view. Up a little and we see a different photo. Still the hand, and yes he’s still married. But we also get a glimpse of the bag. A small part giving away the the structure of the cloth only.

Here we see how wonderful his sporran looks (yes that’s how the little bag is called). You can smell the leather, feel the silver button, also the little fur tipps they look so fluffy you have to touch them.

Finally the portrait. And again close up, not all in, gives the better picture. The focus for portraits always on the eye (s).

So let’s do a wrap-up. What was Robert’s intention? He wanted us to get closer. Not in deep like a macro, but still close enough for the better story, a more interesting photo. Focus on details,, what’s uncommon? What’s interesting?
You have to know the rules to break them. You have to get to know your set of tools. First of all your camera, if you fight with your dials and the focus or exposure your picture, your story will be gone. So learn what you need by heard, even if your working in automatic or semiautomatic mode. Look through the manual of your camera and learn the nuts and bolts.

The best camera for you is the one you have at hand. Same works with your glass, don’t fall to the trap ‘I’ll get better results with better equipment’! The photographer makes the picture, the camera body and lenses are only tools. Sure a better tool gives (maybe) better quality but NOT better photos. My hero Eric Kim always says ‘buy books not gear’, but that’s another story.

For me even a noisy, high ISO photo is better than missing the chance for a brilliant motive. That’s the point where you check how to change the ISO seeing for your camera 😉

Another thing I still fight are the rules of composition. Get to know them, but don’t get a slave of these rules. Some people think a photo can only be good, if the composition follows the rule of thirds. That is so not true it’s a nice guideline but there a tons of situations and motives which are far better with the main motive in the center of your picture.

So keep on practicing, look for ideas, inspiration and have fun. Never be a slave of likes of total strangers or even trolls. It is your picture, you have to like it.

Be creative

Frank