Good pictures are out there, so go find them

To me bad photography is the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalk board. Let’s face it folks, out of focus and black & white isn’t always ‘art’. Sometimes an out of focus and black & white photo is nothing more than an out of focus and black & white photograph – no more, no less.

My dad, who was a very talented painter, used to remind me that Picasso was a master of anatomy and realism before he revolutionized art. In other words, no matter what it is you endeavor to do in life you better master the basics first. I share my father’s opinion that too many young artists/photographers jump into the deep end of the pool without ever mastering their craft at the most basic of levels. Tilting the camera and shooting a photograph in black & white doesn’t make it good. It doesn’t make it art and it certainly shouldn’t be in your portfolio when you apply for a job in the business of photojournalism.

Train spotting

Earl Phillips, of Davenport, Iowa, watches one of the excursion trains from Train Festival 2011 pass through Davenport near Marquette St. Thursday July 21, 2011. Mr. Phillips said that he loves trains. "My dad worked for the railroad," said Mr. Phillips. He added that as a young man he rode the rails across the country.

I prefer aspiring photojournalists to show me that they have a vague understanding of what makes a good photograph and how it helps tell the story. Too often they think that just having been in the same room with the President means they have a portfolio worthy photo of the President. This is the biggest mistake I have seen young shooters make time and time again when applying for an internship or a full-time job.

So many great photographs capture the moments of history preserve them in our collective consciousness forever. Some of those moments are earth shattering, like 9/11 or Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. I contend that the still images from those events are far more powerful then the video/film footage. But on balance the majority of what we do as photojournalists is to spend our days searching for the simple moments in life while tackling our daily assignments. Sometimes that moment could be a smile or a hug that helps tell the story. Sometimes we see the moment happen out of the corner of our eye and know it is gone forever. Other times the moment comes in the form of a look or glance, or maybe even a certain bit of body language from one of our subjects. So often we need to vigilant for the sunlight to hit just right or be patient for someone to pass by the exact spot which will make the photo work.


Alleman High School cheerleaders Tori Scarpinato and Lexy VanDeMoortel miss catching teammate Luz Upegui during practice Wednesday morning behind the school in Rock Island, Ill. Looking on at right is Marisa Moreno. Wednesday marked the opening day of practices for the fall sports in Illinois. Cheer squads don't fall under the same IHSA rules so the Alleman cheer squad has been hard at work preparing for the upcoming season since June.

Good pictures are everywhere, not just at Occupy Someplace USA. I contend that you can shoot great photos in a two block radius of your home as along as your willing to go looking for them. I understand that so many powerful photos come from big events but learning to capture quality moments in your own ‘backyard’ helps to provide a strong foundation. In my opinion once a young shooter masters capturing those little moments and telling simple stories they will be better equipped to shoot the bigger events. It seems logical but some people just don’t the picture – no pun intended.


One thought on “Good pictures are out there, so go find them

  1. I often think about entering the photos I take of my family, since they often allow me better access and locals than some typical assignments others might find portfolio worthy.

    I need to make it to Rock Island for that train show, my son loves trains.

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