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Shooting Approach

Lesson 26 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

26. Shooting Approach

Next Lesson: Shooting Q&A

Lesson Info

Shooting Approach

I'm going to tell you what I called a mantra for me during all right remember, I think it has talked a bunch of my wife is from india, so being from india, she sort of has free reign to use the term mantra is the mantra something you chant over and over typically in yoga, but also in religious rituals. So I have a bunch of monitors too munch bunch of montrose for different things, and one of them is for monitoring. So for example, we talked about this yesterday. What makes my photographs work is what I call me during the light, not two subjects, and so we're right here. Yesterday was late afternoon the sun was west. Take that. Thank you. The sun was west that way was coming across diagonally we had gwen's standing. There was a really beautiful bit of light on her and behind it was deep shade and the trick was that she was in brights on the background was deep shade and I said to you, what's alight that matters it's that beautiful bright light, right what? And that's the mantra is what ...

makes what makes the light magic got ahead of myself sorry is how it falls and not the subject, so I'm eating the light and let that light on the subject subject fall on the subject of the way may and the connection being a lot of times people will look at the scene like that and say what I read off of what I read on and the mantra I was trying to get you to do is find something that is close to or there's a middle gray this in the same light as your subject and what we did yesterday and gwen was in this beautiful piece of light right here we looked around and there was a piece of sidewalk or asphalt that's middle gray we took a reading I took a reading right off of that and I have my camera set on manu because I'm always using manual that gets me the best five quiet go back to the gyms and the online persons question about how do you how big an image can you make if I use the correct meter ring if I understand what I'm doing I make good rafael I can get a huge image because I've metered off something that's close to middle grade this in the same light as a subject and then I take the meter reading of that and that is my exposure so when I turned back and pointed the subject pointed to win in this case it was dark behind the light my meter may have said it wanted a different reading but if I left it on that exposure meeting for the light no matter what the camera tells me then that's when and how we get the correct exposure so the mantra and it's really really important one of those things that I'm guessing it's about half internalized there but you're going to go out in the future and say all right so let me practise it we did it yes remember glenn's in the sun read off the asphalt in the sun and then gwen moves into the shade read off the asphalt in the shade and her skin looks the same in both the light's very different but the idea is to meet with light not the subject all right, so that's the mantra for metering the next thing I want to talk about I talked about this before is tabletop tripods um chase jarvis who's actually I believe one of the founders of creative life one of his lines of one of his points of philosophies of you is the best country have is a camera you have with you and does a lot with iphones and it's a great idea because the only could take a picture if you have something with you I kind of riff on that with this next thing which is the best tripod is the one you have with you and I used tabletop tripods tons how many of you have big real try puns don't even take them with you somewhere when you go on a journey and you leave him to the hotel you take them with you are you just taking out the under even we are shooting you're you're more dedicated than I am this is a function of having done exactly that taking the big tripod and then leaving it behind so I use a tabletop try but in just a minute I'm going get one here and show you how I use it but these are some photos of me working on location this's in beja pour in central india doing ah a story for a magazine on islamic architecture in the city called big before and I have a little try product stand there that just moves makes my tripod a little taller but in all cases I'm using the folding screens which you saw me use yesterday actually when I did my little bag talk to us now I probably should have gone into that further because this enormous enormous part of my process and I'll rest this tabletop tripod on anything right carefully but I will rest it on anything this is more typical I'm on a mile post in the same place the same city budget for and so here's a couple movies of me at work that my wife was kind enough to make and I'm always looking for vertical walls like this one hand holds the camera one hand does the work and that with the large screen on the back that's one of the other reasons I'm more inclined to use the this kind of camera this is in vietnam I'm going to make it eight second exposure here okay and the cameras now going to open for eight seconds it's pressed against that cement pillar you count three four five six seven eight seat a little red thing is starting to buffer now in process the image so I can make an eight second exposure with that thing held up against the wall if I need to this is a new example another example of the use inside a taxicab the camera's actually upside down doesn't care but it is upside down and I'm trying to make a time lapse animation which you're about to see in here and the reason I put the tripod there is because otherwise the windows and all it's just going to be bouncing all over the place um the legs that he uses again or something called a pocket pod from a company called really write stuff so this is the two of them I'm going to go over to that wall in just a second just gonna put it together and I'm always looking this a great wall for a scene just like this for the tripod won't slide down anymore so I'm gonna go right down to there lucille ball and turn the camera on full screen out do a little work on my exposure to a little work on my exposure there we go take a little slower no wrong direction and I don't want to push to our though the walls not fighting you, but I can stay here half second quarter second, you'll see actually gonna shoot some pictures here that much longer, but I can do that I can go upwards against that seem tighten it nice and tight put my weight there, change my focal length just like that, I can certainly go down teo, that was three quarters of a second just like that, and these seams are the best things because otherwise it's sliding up and down and then the folding screen is just a cz useful because I can do this and sure, I could try to do that, but frankly, too much easier to do this and then also I can see what I'm doing that way. So that's, how you use a tabletop tripod? There are millions of these out there. Bogan makes one man photo makes one a lot of different companies make them you do have a couple things to keep in mind you don't want to get nothing against the gorilla pods, but you saw how I was pushing. If you push against a gorilla pods, the legs play out and it doesn't isn't stable, okay? And then the other thing you need to pay attention to is some of the more primitive ones there's not a ball head right here and you saw justice that was moving around you have to have that ball head because you just don't know where you're gonna be because also it's perfectly good for I mean this is what it's invented for it's a tabletop drive it's on the table just like that so you need to do that and then a lot of times they just put put a little extra pressure hold in place and blast away like that please so when you're doing that and you're using selective focus how do you focus because you've got one hand holding that and the other one right that's the other thing about and this is sort of pushing the micro four thirds but also you have live you on most of the other cameras as well is that they all give you some option of moving that focus not around so like right here I'm moving there so I do that with to move the focus dot around and then in my particular case the way of my camera setup is I push this button to focus and this button to shoot and that's a setting on virtually all your cameras right now our default is shoot and focus but I don't find that very helpful I'd rather have a shoot here and focus here so if I'm going to take a picture you I focused fighter will focus on you and no matter how long I don't change the distance, you're always going to be in focus no matter how I do like that, so I separated them out so I move it around and then one hand holding the other hand's doing this and then the compositions is still a function of that I forgot one thing you don't have to buy both pieces, you only won that part. You probably have a tripod already and you probably have a perfectly good ball head and you may may not want to get one was so nice about this is that if I don't do this, it rotates left or right really smoothly, which is good for video, but you probably have a perfectly good ball had already see only need a set of legs. I happen to use the really write stuff ones, but again bogan polar what a lot of people make them and then you take this threatening to majority haven't you saved a lot of money and your reusing something? Ok, you've got the lighter weight cameron everything with with me having seventy will it will that hold onto it? There's two there's two variables there one is this some of the smaller sets of legs like the lower and bogan will not do a seventy or five d this particular will do something amazing, like one hundred one hundred twenty pounds. I'm supposed to be able to put this thing around and stand, and I want a demo, but they tell me, well, it will withstand that some of the smaller ones won't. Then the next question becomes yes, exactly, but this particular one, the thicker ball head right here, we'll enable you to use the seventy or five d I could probably get away with a smaller one for my smaller cameras, but my bigger camera weighs enough that I just always have the maximum size and they come with the plate. Uh, this particular model comes with quick release plates there, some of them that don't use quick release plate that's a whole another series of decisions to make. But my big point was a this is something you literally will carry around. I mean, little is right, they're right, I mean, that's oftentimes we're going it's right in my back pocket, right? And so you use it more than the big tripod you've just opened up. The way I shoot really allows me to get in some tighter corners that I wasn't able to get into with using the your project is you're saying we start talking about you're in crap, crap, apartment, difficult lights very differently, yes. Low light not very good situations and if you could put the camera over there and then if he was alive you to get your head around and the other thing also is if you leave it there and you need to use a remote which I use a lot you just reach over and click occasionally people become much less aware of your presence, which is a huge for both of us, especially in years okay again with her lighting and everything and you were talking about using those the speed light with, uh defeat the gels and everything would that help her in the in the care center? Everything it could be argued for that it's a great question is that let's say behind you is that this whole environment is that ugly florescent okay, what I'm doing is I'm putting green over my flash so that light is green in the background light is green and then use the white balance to cancel it out. The problem is what what I call the plane you see how three of you are sitting for me the same distance? So if the flash goes off your evenly lit but if one of you is notably closer one of you's notably further that's not gonna work and the other thing is I'm less convinced that flash is necessarily going to help because it is going to start sort of disrupting that thing I think different angles parking the camera to corner people getting more comfortable with you that's the kind of stuff I think is going to work more effectively in terms of getting what you want to go. So now I am going to surrender this if I can't lacey but even an easy would like to know she and I don't know if I understand this hundred percent I'm assuming the pocket pod legs are universal well, that's one intact piece with the platform and the legs he had by that whole thing, you buy that like I said, bogan makes them what is universal is that once you get the legs, they all have the same tripod thread to thread into the head. That part would be universal totally, thank you. More questions we're going going to say one more thing on the year site you're gonna roll so we were out there yesterday discussing holding cameras and I was fighting you all because there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the camera. So I'm going to sit here and try to stay here out of fairness to the camera and show you the right way to hold the camera and you all know the right way to hold the camera from now right? Take your left hand up, put your finger up like you're turning thinking, drinking tea in great britain being sarcastic that always sits on the bottom of your camera you rested down there and then you turn that way you turn that way you turned that way that's the only way to hold there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the camera and most of you I saw were doing this and this and this and all sorts of creative stuff and out here and stuff like that it's really simple if I hold it like this, then I pushed down there's movement if I put my hand under there and you'll notice I now just do it automatically there's no movement, you'll gain about two sutter speed if you actually keep that hand under there all the time more so with the mirror list cameras because you don't have that mirror going up and down the five days the seventies you know the mirror's about to say the size of the state of rhode island where I live I mean, it goes up up, down in your camera kind of to there and there and that's it and I still have my hand forward so I can change the focal length I can change the zoom, but and occasionally I'll have to do this because it's some weird angle, but nine times out of ten it's there and there and it was interesting watching your eyes because you are all going oh, I just learned something much more stable this way and all this other stuff. All right, so let me give you lacey again. Thank you. So let me show you some examples. Twentieth of a second, I shot a twenty per second. I'm in vietnam here, and I shot a twenty second on purpose because I didn't want the bicycle's sharp. I actually explicitly made that choice. And so if you look, I've actually probably got a fair amount of depth of field because I'm probably a pretty small aperture I wanted to blake the bikes and the people tobler by who? The vendor. Tenth of a second. This is from the foreclosure pride egypt and I'm inside a pretty dark house and the only way I'm gonna get his tenth of a second. I'm on the tabletop tripod, shallow depth of field, which is what kind of requirement of working in the dark and in this case, the background out of focus, which it's normal this from morocco last year, going back to morocco again with that photo is made, um it's a sixth of a second, okay, and you're thinking yourself, there's nothing around you're absolutely right, I actually jam those legs into the sand because this kid's on his with kids with a camel checking a cellphone at sunset and if I can't get that picture I don't deserve the job so new york city a sixth of a second I want the train to blow up the subway train to blow by one of those pill into great question one of the pillars in the subway there in new york the cameras on the wall and then yes it's turned just like I was doing over there and I can do it vertically aiken do it horizontally the nice thing about the ball hit one hand is pressing against the wall and the other hand's doing all the work absolutely and this is a classic example of shooting dozens and dozens of pictures he's going to get on the train next people are going to come off I figured out my speed I've got my lighting out my exposure I got the wall everything's good fifth of a second also in new york city in times square a night vegetable market in sri lanka and I've put one of the lights behind the guy I was trying to get the second light which is should have been behind the arm on the far right but it could make it work a third of a second this is in calcutta after sunset dog dog giraffe to dog cause I'm photographing from below in aa hoochie minh city in vietnam I actually wanted the vehicle's tobler so I was actually looking for a slower shutter speed which by in by consequence gave me a lot of depth of field. We talked about this one a lot yesterday composition the color but the funny thing is it's actually pretty dark grim house and the only way you're gonna get and this is one jim was asked one of the online people is asking about twenty by twenty four this is the twenty by twenty four in that exhibition that's going up in new jersey in october and it's because it's a good file plenty of exposure and the only way I'm gonna get a good long exposure make a good strong rafael with lots of data the long exposure in bangladesh at a fish market from overhead party because it was dark but mostly again I wanted I do a lot with slow shutter speed time is the other variable. Obviously we've been talking a lot about aperture and focus but time's the other way of saying to the viewer the fissure important the people who were whirling around it are not important another one from the foreclosure project a whole second this is the statehouse in rhode island at twilight the guy on top is called the independent man it's not somebody stands up there all day the statue this is in marrakech at twilight as well and partly because the sun's down I'm using a long exposure one second but I also want a longer exposure I actually want all that motion I wanted to feel is loud and noisy and chaotic is possible so one of the other things is that a stylistic thing I tend to shoot ninety five percent of my stuff at one hundred two hundred four hundred eyes so I don't go up in jai I so partly because yes, I have now have the technology but I actually like the motion I want a place to look chaotic I wanted to look a little weird a little ethereal I had the technology to stop this uh ferris wheel at a carnival in maine in terms of having the ice so I didn't want the ice so I don't want to hire so I really want that blur if anything I probably should have gone with a little longer exposure this is back in india and um intersection in the same thing I now with the fixed focal length lenses those large maximum aperture linda is typically have the ability to shoot to stop the action but this is a perfect example I didn't want to stop that I wanted the motion I wanted if anything if I wanted more headlights this is the other end of it though where I didn't have a lot of choice it was actually very dark in this house and so we talked about this picture before in the context of the project, but I've got the tabletop tripod against the wall in the bathroom pressing hard and then I'm just experimenting with how much depth of field a lot of little dough I focus on the flag wall in the back I tried some verticals but when I did the verticals you lost the toilet in the wall so I ended up sticking to this um this is in guatemala three second exposure in the main square in antigua at twilight right at that moment where the sky has got a certain amount of color and then the archway underneath has a certain amount of color and I'm on a wall back here camera against the wall press with one hand people blurring buying the nice thing about these is also if somebody walks through, they end a visit ghost they don't stop there usually um in chennai madrassa in southern india this woman sells corn on the beach and she has a hand crank thing that she cranks to heat the charcoal up in those of the embers from the charcoal actually flying off after she's done this cranking and right behind the corn is of course, the brighton kerosene lantern which she uses to light a workplace which was going to ruin my photograph until I found a place to block it out same thing is in the morocco in morocco this is all coming together. And I said there's nowhere to put the tripod so I actually put it in the sand right in the sand. I used that extender to get it a little bit higher. And then I look in the back of the camera cause I don't want to get down with my ear into the sand and blast away three seconds. Ah, this is in jerusalem in israel. Three seconds. A combination of partly that it's a twilight, but mostly that I actually want those car headlights to blur. I probably I'm not probably. I know I had the technology. You two go at a higher speed, but then you're just gonna have sharp cars. This is in india, in rajasthan and same thing. I want the car so blur. I want you to get a little bit of the ambient light in all the houses. And yes, it is that narrow window shooting a twilight where you get a little bit of twilight sky and a little bit of those lights there another ten minutes, the sky's going to be gone. And the lights will be the only thing but that's, that window of time that I shoot for a lot fifteen second exposure.

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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.

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