Smartphones have turned all of us into photographers, and we are taking more pictures than ever. Whether or not they’re any good… well Carmel photographer Marc Silber at least wants to make them better.
I recently spoke with Silber about his new book Advancing your Photography: A Handbook for Taking Photos You’ll Love.
Doug McKnight (DM): One of the things that impressed me with your book is you’re saying don’t just go take a bunch of pictures and hope one turns out. Think about it, plot it.
Marc Silber (MS): Yeah, there’s some things you can do sort of organically. But In the long run, I think we’re all better off if you’ve sort of put out there what is it you want at the end of this whole processes, what do I want? And then work backwards from that. Visualize the photograph first, then press the shutter. And even if it’s done in the fraction of a second it’s the difference between a snapshot and a professional image.
DM: See the picture before you take the picture?
MS: Exactly. And of course, there’s going to be those surprise moments, which is great. You are going to get those that you weren’t really planning for. But there’s the Louis Pasteur quote, “chance favors the prepared mind”. So if you are there with your camera and you know how to use it. And that chance, boom comes up, you are not fumbling and what’s f-stop. There is it, you get it.
DM: You even suggest initially people walk without a camera?
MS: I do that all the time. You know, the thing is, a camera limits your vision. Generally if you are using an iPhone or this camera here is square and you are looking through something. If you walk around and look around without the camera, you might see something you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
DM: While people are walking around without the camera, what should they look for? What makes a picture?
MS: I think it’s based on what excites you. What triggers some emotional response in you. But if doesn’t start here with you, it’s probably not going to transmit to your viewer. So my rule of thumb is I’m looking, but I’m looking carefully. There’s a difference between, like for instance being a tourist in Paris walking around ‘oh this is beautiful. That’s beautiful’. That’s not really the zone you want to be in as a photographer. I gave the example in the book of photographing the Eiffel Tower. The trick there is there are 10 million photographs of the Eiffel Tower. How do I get one that’s not like a postcard that everyone has already seen?
DM: Why is that? Most people I know want to take a photograph that looks like a postcard.
MS: True. But I think a pro, you want to have your own stamp on it because you know if it’s been shot like that before there’s really nothing unique about it. And it’s tricky when you are photographing something like the Eiffel Tower and Half Dome in Yosemite. How do you put your own mark on that? If we walk around through life just sort of shooting at eye level like this, okay that’s one view. However, you’ve got all sorts of other views. You can go low shooting up. You can go high, shooting down. You can turn your camera on its side. And each of those angles will convey something different. So this is another thing, a pro will often take the same image from different vantage points and then decide when you get back in the studio which one is the most effective.
Marc Silber is author of the new book Advancing Your Photography: A Handbook for Taking Photos You’ll Love. It’s available now in bookstores and online.