“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” (Robert Capa)

You have heard me on this theme many times. Getting close can often make your images better. You get close and intimate with the subject, your images have more impact. Like in these two, from that recent shoot:

Now of course you can do this by getting close. But be careful: closer than a couple of metres means you distort faces.

A better way is to use a longer lens. My favourite lens for this work is the 70-200, therefore. That has the additional benefit of not forcing you to be “in your subject’s face”. Yes, you have to have space, but that’s the entire point!

An alternate way is simply to use a somewhat long lens and then to crop for the rest. Those two were taken with the 85mm lens and cropped afterward. That is why you have all those megapixels, after all.

Next time you shoot anything, do yourself a favour and shoot the way you would normally shoot, but also shoot closer. Then when you look at the results, consider carefully which ones you like better. Where you like the close-up better: why? Where you like the wider view better: why? This is how you become a better photographer.

There’s still space on tomorrow’s Travel Photography session in Oakville, Ontario: 10AM-1PM, Sat 12 April 2014. $125 and it’s virtually private tuition!


Robert Capa said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you are not close enough”.

OK, he was talking about war photos, but he was right in general. Often, pics are better when you get close.

And you can get very close. Here’s student Chantal during Saturday’s flash course:

We call the above an “extreme close-up”. Yes, you can cut off half a face. The result: you get closer than ever, and the photo has a very intimate and personal feeling.

Your homework: try to do some close-ups and extreme close-ups.



Lines, in composing pictures, are important.

Horizontal lines are the main type of line we see – the horizon being the main horizontal line we encounter.

And here’s what they do (in a slide from my composition workshop):

Can you see how this looks silent, stable? I can imagine sighing, almost, when I see this. Layers of horizontals do that. Keep that in mind when composing pictures. Use horizontals when you want to emphasize vastness and quiescence, e.g. by taking pictures in landscape mode.

A tip: avoid having a main line in the very centre since this divides the image unnaturally; and keep the horizontals overall horizontal: a slight tilt is annoying.


Of colour and detail

Look at this shot of the Valley of Fire, Nevada – and watch closely: click until you see it full size.

Taken with the 1Dx using a 70-200mm lens at 1/80th sec, f/6.3, 1000 ISO.

What I see there is more than just some rocks.

I see vastness, even though I am using the long lens. Usually, I would prefer wide, but in this landscape, long is good: compressing the vastness makes this look as huge as it is.

And as a result, I also see layers: foreground, middle ground, and background. Often a recipe for a good composition.

I see curves, elegance in a composition.

I see detail: sharpness, a good lens stopped down, is essential here; and if you are using a slow shutter speed, then a tripod is a must.

I see balance – the crop was needed both to increase the sense of size (horizontal lines emphasize size and quiescence and vastness) – and to balance the composition.

And finally, I see spectacular colour, even though this was taken just after sunset. The blue background is essential here, to offset the reds and greens. The pink sky matches the pink rocks, which contrast against the green vegetation.

And putting all that together, I see a good landscape photo that does justice to a spectacular Nevada view.  What do you think?


Timing is everything

Not everything, but it is certainly something you should be aware of. Look at the difference in these two pictures of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, yesterday morning:

Majorly different, no? And why? Because I took them about an hour apart. 9am (first) versus just before 10am (second). And that darn sun had shifted. See? Proof that it turns around the earth.

Both acceptable pictures (note the curves, and the other compositional elements described in Impactful Travel Photography?), but both different. See the differences?

Light really is very important and as a photographer you should always be aware of the nature of the light: where is it, how contrasty is it, how bright is it, what colour is it.