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Final Q&A and Feedback

Lesson 35 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

35. Final Q&A and Feedback

Lesson Info

Final Q&A and Feedback

Cindy, you touched on it a little bit, but what makes you actually start working on a project? Where do you you yourself? Where did you what made you start working on the year india project and everything? What brought you to that? I know that your wife has your connection there, but if if it wasn't for your wife, would you even start it on anything like that? Possibly not in the case of india, because it's so far there's actually issue stuff like that. So that's probably not the best barometer, the foreclosure when I think that I didn't have to do that, right part of it was the thing that came from the photo agency, but mostly is that there's all these there's things that go on around us, we want to do something, don't respond, we want to create, we have a story to tell, we've seen this infrastructure challenge that these areas are facing, and so your responses I want to do something about that, and my response is the only way I could do anything of value is photographically not that ...

good politics, politics, movie, you know, I don't do anything else. I got one tool that I'm pretty good at and nothing else that I'm good at, I can write letters and sign petitions, but I'm relatively good at that, so it's partly that and then there's all the questions we've been walking through which is is inaccessible what the logistics can you make it universal and most of my projects get stopped at one of those points there's a cut off point I can't get access I can't make it universal nobody else cares but it's always ah let's try let's see what happens let's take some pictures then let's move forward no, that one doesn't work it's a continuing process didn't get close to an answer. Okay, uh what's your thoughts uh there was a picture of mine that was on the table that had text on it. Oh, but how do you feel about that? His projects that's a great question and I think we got so in wrapped in the color versus black and white question we didn't go back to that. Well, the short answer is you need to look at a lot of other people's work there's a photographer named I believe geoffrey wolin but I might be wrong it's not jeff wall who's another famous but I'm pretty sure jeffrey woollen who's got work involving holocaust survivors and type and specifically having them right on the photographs which actually works out it sounds odd, but he does a very nice job with it, but the short and barbara kruger is another well known photographer does a lot with type very different completely different they're not even the same universe but you want to look at all these people because it started to get me kind of interested I think the type was a little small depends how big the images where it was I mean the classic magazine type on these photos would be to burn the type into the black so it separates that well, your type was kind of in a muddled spot yeah on the web there's all sorts of possibilities so I mean I can't say do it don't do it but a be researching beat do a lot of reading on how advertising works to get people to understand experience narratives using type because advertising uses type all the time um those old divides of oh you never put type you never whoever says you never you can almost guarantee you should be saying why? Because that actually was the seat of something I don't think it was finished but I do think type little bits of type you saw my wife uses a lot of typing her stuff so the short answer is I would be open the type I would research type you don't want to bore me to tears by having too much stuff but it can really added dimension to it and type in the image is very different than captions over here that's I think that's you trying to break through that barrier the getting a show one step farther. How do you decide howto present your work? What? Not just black and white, but is it going to be on canvas? Is it going to be a fine art print? Um, there's so many options today. How do you have to do that? That's another class that's another thing I'm not the one teacher, by the way because I can tell you the different presentation for this, but I don't. I know them. Well, that is a whole nother question it's a it's a function of some technical things and economic in terms of what you can afford but is mostly what reinforces the message you're trying to create. Okay, yours for example, I'm pretty sure you're going to start doing something about scale. Okay? I'm it's almost a given. I can't quite figure what you're using that scale. Okay, julius is going to use scale, but it's gonna be kind of an intimate because this is a very different thing. Your scale thing, it's a little less clear, but scales going to become an immediate issue? I don't think cindy's work's going to work with canvas. I don't think that supports the message. Probably not julius either, but I'm not sure, but it might work on yours. It's really hard to say what's the venue who's buying who's paying I don't mean to be evasive but that really is the big thing is I would be looking at a lot of other fine art photographer's work how have they gotten past this problem in the past and then either say I like that resolution member I said one of your homework's was fined five photo essays and tell me the presentation format do you like it? You don't like it you really need to do that homer all right so I'm going to go a little bit further please a couple from up here as well all right so it was a question from cathy ass and she said on day one you mentioned photo lucida right can you say something about showing projects that portfolio reviews absolutely I flashed on that when gwen asked and then somehow we got off message photos sita is in portland, oregon which is it to your advantage photo fast is in houston, texas those are two of the oldest portfolio review events they're by no means the old the only ones ah palm springs photo festival donning southern california runs one there are many more these are things where you go you pay and you sit across the table from curator sze gallery editor stuff like that and you can show the work one of the things you want to do is ah lot of those you have open portfolio knights who were basically everybody who's there and has paid puts their workout on tables in a large ballroom in the hotel and you don't and that's for the public it's not just for the paying people and you have to start going to those. Okay, so you want to find out what those because those you can go to for free and they're actually made for the public and you walk through a room with two hundred different photographers and you'll see one hundred ninety five different ways and presenting work, and you'll probably start collecting cards either cause you liketo work or because you like the style, and then you put those and you go look at them. Portfolio review events can be great in terms of showing your work. There is a cost issue, but almost all of them have public components for the photographers there to show to everybody, and most of the people there who are presenting are happy to give cards away. They're trying to network and stuff so that's the first way to look at a lot of styles of stuff photos city being right down the road from in portland, oregon photo fest in texas but there are many more and the public component you could go to for free for sure and a certain point time in your project you are actually gonna want to pay the money and be reviewed but again you want to be there you want to be ableto open the box or open the ipad or something and show them your project and they go yeah so for those kind of portfolio events are great from one of our regulars web twenty five forty you mentioned some go to online resource is how about a books or films that have been seminal in your development as a photojournalist? Uh, boy there's just so many on day were they were asking if there was one book that you would say if you don't read anything else read this um I hope I get this right david hearn and bill jay have a great little book called on being a photographer and actually there's no photographs in it and david turns of a welsh photographer with magnum and bill j is a photographer and a critic and writer and it's actually a dialogue back and forth and it's still just one of those books that I've read we meet every five years and say I still get something new out of it that would be number one it is not about images it's about photographing, thinking, respect all the kind of tools were talking about and my guess is at first blush will say that has nothing to with photo essays, but it's everything about photographing how we experience photographs, how we respect how people interact that would be number one on being a photographer by bill j and dated her please. Another one of my. All right, good to go. I get to go. All right, so now I'm gonna do a couple more things, and then I'm gonna circle back to you one last time. Leave. All right. So feedback. I want to talk about feedback here. Feedback is the key to your growth as a photographer, and you saw that just a little time on the table. That alone was something for you to imagine. You could do get more feedback as a photographer, and this is true for you. The web verse out there for you three it's really truthful lorenzo and unfortunately, you've toured a huge advantage because you see lorenzo next time in sending my regards, you have a bigger skill set than the yet unfortunate cause. He couldn't join us. So I'm gonna get that that feedback in the future. Your family, your partner, your children, they can't give you the feedback we've already established that your photography peers can and the first thing you want to do before we leave is you really do want to get each other's e mails because you could do a lot of this remotely you two can do this together in school this is your first option it's free available on a known quantity and it's very, very useful okay, I also give feedback privately and now we actually are in the I'm self employed ivan self employed for thirty five years, so I got to do something about letting you know what else I do and you should be comfortable with this, by the way, because you sat here for three days because you believe I know what I'm doing, they're still out there for three days, so you should be comfortable doing this kind of presentation as in I do one on one lessons in shooting, editing in post production um I also do this for many people. I make a screen recording in the video that I make and sent out to you as I edit your work and what happens is people send a folder of one hundred photos I looking at those program and then I edit them down, pick up the top ten or twenty and I narrate my stream of consciousness consciousness and I make a movie out of that, and I send this off to people, and I get a lot of people doing that because they're in love with their photos and they need somebody else to do that if you even want to do that yourself it's really valuable tell you what happens with the movies, even if you two just do this for each other the first time somebody watches one of my edit movies, they go through to see which fifteen pictures I picked out, and they get satisfied by that emotionally, the second time they go through, they listen to what I said, but they don't really listen the first time he said, oh, he said this now I understand why you picked it because that was actually called couple questions we had, why did I pick a certain one? And then the third time they go through, they say, okay, so now I'm going to start shooting differently, and so I'm a big fan of these movies because it's something you can go back and watch like, frankly, the creative life class go back so that's one option for you. I also have a good private critique groups were three or four people different meat remotely every two or three months for four hours, and then we talked by phone, the a conference call or webex and with each person looking at the same work online, I have a couple of critique groups. One group actually is a woman in sacramento guy in connecticut, a woman in scotland, so we have time zone issues. It's always fun. Each group member gets about forty minutes of critiquing and a group of three or thirty minutes. I do a lot of online critique group's happy to talk about those as well, but you need feedback family can't give it you can give it, you know, in the case of three of the you've articulated, you succeeded through that part, ways that how do you critique a photo? Use the right terminology without being threatening? That was a great I'm probably gonna drop that in there, by the way. That was such a good way of describing this's not supposed to be threatening and supposed to be nurturing. Okay, another thing that I do is I'm actually one of the two founders behind a website called photo feedback fo teo feedback, dot com and photo feedback is a site that I run with my partner who's, actually in pittsburgh, pennsylvania, and we have twenty eight different reviewers, and they actually make audio recordings where they could take your photographs and, you know, you can hear it literally pun intended. When you hear somebody talking about your photographs it's very different than when they write about the internation they go on longer, we love to talk, you'll get a one or two minute comment on a photo rather than two lines and we have a whole bunch of different photographers and editors from literally around the world. Yes, my wife's in the middle but she actually very good at critiquing photographs as well. The site is photo feedback dot com and so I would encourage you to look at that if by chance you want to get feedback from somebody else and you do at some point time love to keep working with you, but at some point time you actually are gonna want to put this in front of somebody else. This is my blogged it's called the wells point dot com and I encourage you to go there. The wells point dot com has a whole bunch of stuff that I think you'll find a value. I have podcast on the craftsmanship of photography. I have podcasts on creativity and photography. I blogged every couple weeks different things on my mind probably write a block about this great experience of creative lives. This is my first time here has been a really fascinating experience both terms of you and also through the audience out there and the incredible technology which nobody sees unless you go by doors the resource list that I touched on before resource is on copyright grants all sorts of stuff that's called the wells point dot com it's all free if you go and sign up you do have to create an account it's free but you also get these monthly newsletters that I mail out once every month. You can follow me on tumblr or I post a new photo every couple days this's a photo from india last year but it just posted a couple days ago it's the wells point dot tumbler com and I have just had a serious of photos post the last two weeks from my trip to brazil so now actually the brazil stuff is ending twitter the social universe out there so show me the universe with one of my photos from morocco that photo and that photo we're made the same day that's twitter dot com forward slash though wells point dot com aside the wells point no dot com policies and then this is my website which is david h wells dot com you have to have the h and their otherwise you get the guy in tennessee for you a little further forward there's actually a workshop page and you can see where I'll be teaching future workshops this was done did this capture a couple weeks ago because uh june class and actually the creating powerful photo essays that creative lives on there as well and that's david h wells dot com again you have the age and then here's some workshops that I'm teaching in the near future photographic tools to travel photography at I p in new york city if you want to learn more about travel photography little bit of overlapping not that much last chance ladies questions and then I have one more thing and then we're gonna wait please I'm gonna go back to this picture from morocco here when we did our little photo walk yesterday you showed us a little gave us some insight on the quality of light when the shadows can you kind of go over that again just it was the time of day I thought it was it was just you hammered it in my head more so I thought that was good this's pretty close in time of day to the day the time of day we were photographing yesterday was late afternoon light I talked about what I call the wells point and if you go to the wells point site and you actually put into the search engine the wells point there's a podcast that talks about the idea that when the sun reaches a forty five degree point when the shadow that is cast is the same height or longer then the object that's casting it that's good light and when it's shorter than that it's bad bad light and that works anywhere in the world any time this season any latitude longitude and everything and so that's and I made up the term wells point but that's how I determined I get up in the morning and go out the shadows were really, really long sun's getting shorter and shorter and reaches a forty five degree point and nine times out of ten the light's getting too harsh and in the afternoon sons too high the shadows were getting longer longer when they get beyond forty five degrees and that's when we were just starting light was starting to get really really nice and so that's what? And so this is in the afternoon it's past the wells point and you can see that the shadow of the guy who's walking in certainly the camels are longer than the actual animals it's not the very end of the day I don't actually like the very end of the day because of shadows so long you can't see them but it's late afternoon okay please I actually meant more I'm thank you very much by the way, but I mean in theory you have now you've got all these incredible tools you have a ton of homework to dio david homework wells that's, right? You'll think of me every time and hopefully you'll break it down into small parts remember I said break it down a small person this is a class example don't think two years ahead though you want to know what's going to happen to me that what am I going to do in the next week or so? My guess is your first thing is organized all these notes try toe sit down and watch the video a couple times because most of you I think when you were sitting next to me were pretty attentive were also a little bit nervous, so you probably want to watch that again. You want to watch each other's ed it's um you want to look at that top fifteen thing that I did a cz well, you want to break all that down and get sort of stored in there and then you want to slowly start working forward you probably wanna look up photo receded and put it on your counter and I talked about a calendar photo lucy should be in your calendar the two of you probably want to get in the car maybe get a group of people from school drive down in portland the night that they have the open thing look around as I said, you're gonna see a lot of different styles of work. Do you know about the photo program in palm beach photo festival ok in palm beach, florida there's a somewhat similar event and I'm not sure where they're open night fits into that category, but you want to look upon these photo festival um they have a somewhat similar thing and that's in your area mohr so you want to do all this homework some of its calendar building those things that I told you to look at pro photo daily motion pro those are the kinds of things when I see something nine times out of ten it either goes into a talk I'm doing I share it with somebody or becomes a calendar right um that I'm going to look at down the road so you have this whole process to do but I'm actually interested in in more questions about your projects because this is this is sort of it okay? I started with the photos had no idea that I was going to turn it into a project okay, I have photos now do I start doing a bunch of research as to where I need who I need to talk to next or what what bridges or maybe in in mohr repair than others and start photographing those and then start doing more research where's my unfortunately they're both that's what I thought e I mean you have this like everybody you have this other life and so you have to start accounting for they find that amount of free time that you have to do this project and one other thing that we're talking about this a lot was the time of day choices and some of those didn't make the best light possible so a lot of times I went about photographing in on a shoot shoot I'll photograph the morning with a good light in the evening with a good light research email internet processing junk bad day midday light so even if you were to have a full day free, you probably want to think I'm not going to photograph the middle the day but that's what I might do the research they become symbiotic because also when you start finding the best infrastructure for the story that will affect how you're shooting and then we're figuring out this visual language and then your editing with your editing partners unfortunately they're all simultaneous and they should be because they all impact what you're doing if you think because you don't want to do too much shooting, if if with this style of shooting if in fact the style the project's gonna become about this small step research oh it's going, they kind of go together, please. So in my particular project I have multiple dancers how many dancers or subjects make a good presentation and can use multiple images of the same subject in in a presentation. One of the things you need to understand is that I'm only a little teeny teeny bit smarter than you are I think you expect my answer to be profound it's not gonna be profound it all it completely depends on your target in the sense that ninety five percent of your grants and exhibition submissions and all that stuff are between fifteen and twenty image is one of the reasons you want to go back to the wells point cause there's also granted resource pages you may or may not be eligible for them, but you want to start understanding the mechanics the calendar how did what go was the digital file format that they want? You won't understand it and you're going to see pretty quickly fifteen to twenty is a standard number it's actually I wanted a holdover from the bad old days of color slides with twenty slides fitting on a page third people who don't even know where twenty came from but that's where it comes from but that's your max for that kind of submission having said that, were you to for example, have an exhibition or do a presentation in front of a group that's interested in dance for the subject? You might show fifty one hundred two hundred about the process about the various dancers that's why I was saying I can't give you an answer and that's also why I'm pushing so hard on the organizational thing because you don't want this thing to start to take off and then somebody comes to you and says, you know actually we want to do something bigger and you say why can't find half that stuff then I get really upset because I didn't do a good job. Okay, so there's no easy answer but it's it's a function of what's your use what steps you are in the process where you going? Forward? I have a question on my project as we went over on the table and you talked about the past photos like past photos of my dad because those photos were shot my they like say, for my mom or things I shot years ago so is there an issue with like, fluidity on how that would blend into that into this the fuller body of work without seeing him? I couldn't even begin to come in, but the whole thing becomes and like you said and I kind of thought it was a good idea I'm praying a little bit that their color and then you've got a black and white by definition it says somebody else made these they're different time they're different experience I don't know remember I said the beginning the whole thing is you have to be open they said so don't dismiss it out of hand they dig him up, find them, put him out there, don't listen to anybody else, he says oh that's when he had a better haircut that day well ignored it it may be a great part of the photo just put him out there show him to cindy home to some other people, seeing if you're getting some kind of residence it's working for them, I would not, because you also have technically, the authorship issue. You didn't make those right, especially because you may show up in some of them. I don't think people are going to look into the ocean to make them I don't care. They build the narrative to the stuff that you did make to this story that you did want to take, and you're intentionally with all the tools we've been giving you all week, putting them together anyway. So that's your authorship anyway, I don't have a personality issue. Jiminy questions from the web verse you know, we don't have any questions. A lot of the questions we've like pretty much covered them all in the three days I'm wondering if you have any final. Are you ready for your final comments? That's my well, my big thing is to make sure you all understand, and I really feel bad for lorenzo because I know he's enthusiastic, and I'm sure he would have kept up had situation permitted, but you'll understand you now have these tools. I mean, I know I'm your sword patting myself on the back, I guess take, but I know you can do this. It's not that you can't do this there there were two problems before one is you didn't necessarily have the to the tools and especially after hearing what you're getting at school I think I gave you some other tools in your case but now there's the other thing now you understand what you have to do and you still have the hard work to do it but I hope that if you can look and you can see oh yeah now this is within my capability after and then go on doing you have the faith in yourself the sort of open imagination but also the ability to get it down the circle of people who you trust to talk about I mean, you have the tools to do it all three of you I have actually complete faith in fact we should do a show in like a year to bring bring the three back and say this is what creative life produced. I think that would be a really interesting shows. Well, those are the only things I wanted to put forth to you three before we finish up last questions, ladies good. This is kind of off topic, but when we talked about the r f peace for people like me that maybe haven't written anything technical for a long time uh are there any I know you gave some sample kind of I think it was our peace proposal I had project proposals in that packet, right? Is there anything that you would recommend for me to like? Maybe research stick it clue on how to write some of that stuff or did you just get used to it from practice? Well, it's a very good question there's a couple things again r f p c or unusual take out the I don't have the skill set question because they're not actually the the get a phd in microbiology crowd they do have a skill, a credential requirement those people don't have a credit dental equipment on the foundations and there's a lot of information there you could certainly google grant writing again remember that a lot of that, um organization specific not individual, but it's fundamentally, just imagine yourself you're in the seat of the person who's on the other end of that our ft okay, you got your project proposal got too personal lost you didn't make it universal enough lost you but or the opposite it's just personal enough for we care but not maudlin it it really does speak to this larger issue there's some great facts and statistics and historical context they're going to keep reading through, and then the other thing is it's been edited over and over and over by your newfound editing partners who, unlike your family, will actually look at it critically and break it down? I actually think that in all the your case is yours is probably a little further along because you not been lucky, but the situation that this upon you, you've had some good luck, there's a larger milieu, you understand it already, so you're part of the way in the process, but it's just a function of making something that anybody can read and often times with some of my stuff I'll just send it off to friends to say, am I missing something? Do you get it? And I would start there, okay, when you get a question, I can tell just one about your feelings on cloud storage as a social stur no backup when I don't I don't use clubs, swords, I have nothing against clouds sorts, but I don't normally have the bandwidth to make cloud storage logical and I suspect when I get a t one line, which I think they might have a two one line here to one line is a gigantic pipe that you, khun, send everything group. When I get a t one line, I'll come back and re visit because it certainly got cheaper and easier, but to date I haven't found the logic of it, I do want to kind of hammer this off site storage there are legions of photographers the oakland fire in the think the late nineties in california decimated a couple of old life magazine photographers, archives that were literally burnt to the ground. Jack lowe, who had all that work of john f kennedy and jackie onassis. His stuff actually was in the bank of america. I believe it was in the bottom of the world trade center. So, like there's, time to be there's, nothing you could do, but you do really want to be aware of offsite backup and what I forgot to say in the talk about also a back up before I use a bank because it's convenient, you can use your friend, you can use your neighbor, you can use the personal lives down the block you can use your child, your parents. The idea is just one of those copies with all that information that's so important to you is somewhere else in case something happens, banks a little more dependable, but it's not that much more dependable, but just I'm trying to get offsite backup, so

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Ratings and Reviews


First off, I was a photo assistant for a few years to a photographer who did numerous multi-day workshops. This was my first time as a student sitting in on a webinar that actually kept me interested. Sometimes I'm turned off by the pace of the teacher, his or her voice, or the manner in which they disseminate the information. But this was truly fantastic. David showed lots of his work in a way that was NOT egotistical in any sense (something that does happen quite often). I was utterly impressed by the quality of his work, the wealth of knowledge he has on the world, culture and politics, and how he shoots "on the go". All of those qualities are essential parts to creating a great photo essay/story. I came into this seminar needing inspiration and in the end I have more ideas than I know what to do with. David's work is truly magnificent; his photo stories pertain to people and their struggles, which really could be something any one of us could go through at any point, but he shows it in a way that is beautiful - either beautifully desperate or beautifully destructive - instead of in an exploitative way. On a side note, he also offered up a lot of great information having to do with funding, exposure, workflow, time efficiency, income streams, releases... you won't find this a lot with other photographers. You will find the "go find the info yourself" attitude. This has been my problem as of late with photography - we don't work together as artists, we work against each other competing for what, I'm not sure. David's seminar seemed to embrace photography as the art form it is, and shared with us the tools that we as artists need to really understand and utilize in order to get our story out there. A story it seems he really wants to see/hear. Just an amazing "Thank You"!!!!

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased a number of classes on Creative Live. This class taught by David Wells is one of the best. David is a thorough teacher, personal and connects with his students. Along with his superb and inspiring imagery David talked about his experiences in getting funding, his workflow, developing his stories and distributing his work. David is talented, generous and an excellent teacher. Highly recommended class.

Anjani Millet

Just completed the course. Fantastic, practical information on everything from grant writing, finding foundations, proposal development, even how to shake hands overseas. I am not sure where else I would have found this information for photographers. So appreciate it. One friend asked if this would be worth watching for anyone outside the US and the answer is a definitive yes. Very happy I purchased, and already starting to implement.

Student Work