Skip to main content

Shooting Q&A

Lesson 27 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

27. Shooting Q&A

Lesson Info

Shooting Q&A

Judy bee we have a handful questions well, those guys were thinking over there, judy bee would like to know what kind of camera does your wife use for artwork? A lot of that giggle. The funny thing about my wife's work is you saw from the video work and the pairing of work and all the other work she's actually technically incredibly adept, obviously, having said that she's not terribly interested in the capture and because it capture and becomes all this other stuff, so the answer she uses the olympus cameras usually she uses mind frequently I go with there is often a zai can't essentially tech because I am very technical I actually have done a decent amount of studio work, they don't do it anymore, so she sort of has the best of all worlds, which is he actually has access to all the years she needs and then she has somebody else to do this scott work, but it works out really well because then you basically have two brains working on the project at the same time, so she actually uses t...

he olympus cameras and the other thing with most of her work, the pairings and those videos the olympus cameras are actually much too sharp, so she has to go through and match the sharpness of the historical image with a contemporary which would basically means degrading the images uh thank you and we're getting a handful of questions about how you guys deal with communication and different languages with the different cultures that you photograph it's a great question the that's about that's probably two classes on its own one is that a lot of times when working in different places like we did some work in vietnam and she actually hired a local photographer who was both a guide and interpreter and the great thing about this photographer and she was really good and she's gone on to do a lot of great work that stock of herself is that she was able to explain to people what it is we're trying to do it's not that you're just going to need some american photographer no we need to see historical photographs and to explain and then she was able to help us with the photographing so a lot of times we'll actually hire local photographers local assistant's former students of hers sometimes for students of mine because they understand a little better about what it is, what we're doing and of course they have the local culture and the language issue I had a fellowship years ago from the national press foundation to study spanish in cuernavaca, mexico when I was doing the past the side project so one point time I could get myself in and out of trouble in spanish I don't think I could do that anymore in india she actually is relatively she can work well enough in hindi that we can get around so it's sort of adapt situation, but it's one of those skill sets that goes into the what makes anyone photographer mohr adept at a project another is the language culture understanding there are a number of jobs actually, a photographer friend of mine named joanna who's, probably watching from colorado's done a lot of work for national geographic, and we used to work together out in the middle east, and we'd walk up to certain situations and they'd stop me and she could keep going, and a western woman she had the advantage of, she could go into the women's world and do whatever which I couldn't do, and then she could ironically go into the men's world cause she wasn't ah, local woman either and used to drive me nuts. Guys join it just keeps going, and I'm stuck like that so there's a lot of different skill sets from gender, the language and the more you can put into your baggage fix, the more likely you are to succeed. Great, thank you, and bree hammond would like to know, david says that he always asks his subject before taking photographs, how do you deal with situations when the subject is performing an action that you want a photograph without interrupting? Okay, let's, be clear. I don't always ask there are many times that's correct. There are many times and you'll see in the more street photograph stuff that mork spontaneous activity of stuff I don't ask because you're correct, you don't want to interrupt them. Having said that, I will tell you what I do most of the time is the cameras usually here, but I'll put it right here. I'll make eye contact, I'll go like this and nine times out of ten they'll do some either this on the case of india, they do this sort of head swim, but it's really quite rare, it's that I know you're there. I know you're doing something. I'm going to acknowledge your existence. I want to take a picture and usually safar is that, but I don't interrupt if they're actually doing something that's correct just to clarify great and kept tea is asking about filters on night shots and nd filters on night shots if you use them and nd filters. I use indy filters a lot during the day because a lot of times in some of these pictures and some of the other long exposures that I haven't shown you yet, but I might. I want a longer exposure so you than india lot I don't do a lot of filters at night I tend to always have filters over the front of my lens is a skylight or two you ve just in terms of protection and I always have a lens hood on lens hood zahra's much to prevent little kids from like putting their fingers on your lenses as they are for blocking up the sons I don't keep those long lens hood's the eighty two to that like the eighty two hundred butterfly that's actually bigger than my entire camera so I don't use those any of those kinds of hoods but also very threatening I make eye contact with you I have this little camera I make eye contact with you I have a lens hood that you know I could give you a shave if I go too fast so I try not to use those larger who's so you'll notice on the camera like choosing today I've actually switched out the olympus hood to a smaller one so it's all about just tryingto sort of normalize yourself as much as possible all right we got a couple more ultra velvet would like to know do you ever use a remote to shoot when you're using low shutter speeds? Yes, well there's yes, yes and yes the first remote ninety nine percent of your cameras have what's called the two second self timer they all have that ten or twelve second self timer which is designed for you to set the camera up and walk around and get in the picture but there's a two second self timer which is designed just for the put the camera down set your picture all up hit the button and in those two seconds all the shaking kinds of stop that's the first thing that I use almost always we use that because it's always there I'm second is the interval ometer that I was talking about before where I tell it to take a picture and then the third thing that I care around as I do actually carry a very simple remote cable where it might be a bit of not angle it might be this thing where I don't want to be reaching across a lot so you really want to look in your project into remote cable because you can put the camera in the corner and what people doing something else you can take pictures as well so I do all three of the two second self timer interval ometer and remote cable great one last one please what's your desert island lens because you're using the single camera can get two or do I have to go to one one day sorry well okay there's two desert islands is anyway one the one that we all want we want twenty to two hundred two they don't make this, by the way, but right. Twenty white angled two hundred telephone that covers ninety five percent of what we do in a two point. Oh, great death shall defeat the twenty forty, eighty that I use right now because it goes from weida short telephoto ninety percent of what I do in a two point eight. It has large maxim after celadon feel so that's my desert island lives. Yes. Great. Thank you. Please. Questions from you because I have a little a little bit more, please. Kind of good. Do you ever experience resistance? You know, from people say, no, you're not taking my photo. Oh, sure, just curious how often you experience that, not his office is not as often as you think. Okay, okay, the pogo helps a lot working with guides, working with local photographers, honest to god. The single number one thing I recommend for all of you to do is whoever you're working with say to them when I get somewhere and I'm photographing pullout of nail and drive it through my foot to make me stay and I'm being sarcastic. But if you get somewhere in your market, interact with somebody, they're not one hundred percent sure and you sit and you shoot the breeze and you have some teen you do all that stuff suddenly become their friend and they gonna start selling you sound these are all choices you have to make but we moved too fast most photographers have the attention span of two year olds so you're gonna come up to something oh it's not working but it move on to something I'd rather spend half a now er there even if they're going to do their sales pitch and they discover a nice coming ask I I'm going to take some pictures I'm going to show them back of the camera they're going to do that to their friends and then they're going to start doing their thing and they're gonna bother somebody else and then they don't care it's a lot about that how do you project come across comforting welcoming there's no tactful way of saying this when we go to much the developing world youth we have a gender advantage those guys in those markets would rather talk to you then they'll talk to me it's just it's the way it iss okay there's something you can use the advantage because they want to talkto west they won't talk to good looking western women and they whatever goes on their heads I don't know but they're just so I'm at a disadvantage but it's really a lot about just slowing down that's my number one thing for all photographers by the way not just in in street photography anybody else or should I sure, cindy, um on filters and everything down at the down at the school and everything there's a sky bridge that you can walk out tio aerial lookout type thing and yesterday would have been a perfect day, but you can see mount rainier like just sticking out like a sore thumb, but it's totally white, so when you're taking photos of it and I've tried all sorts of shutter speeds and everything else, is it better to have a filter on the lens and everything to get out some of the haze that's going across that? Well, I'm a polarizer reduces hayes. Imagine what a polarizer technically does is as you turn it, it reduces a reflection off of whatever it is. A carload of mirror building on hayes is actually nothing but reflection of little tiny particles in the atmosphere. So, yes, ah, polarizer hood will do a big, big thing. Actually, I found what I'm shooting to glass the number. One thing to do is to create kind of a dark space where the lens meets. This is this is a glass. This is the lens. And they're not always flat on you kind of like this and to create a dark space with my hands so there's no other ambient light coming in that's actually the single most important thing I found about shooting two glass because if my hand is not there the glass is lit and all the dirt on all this stuff on the other side shows so that's the first thing I do the polarizer would be the second thing but before that my first question is the most important thing could be a different time of day morning and evening because the light's more directional I've even tried it like six o'clock in the morning walking down two when I get off the bus walking down trying different angles and different you have tried to do your thinking, but I've tried it I've been doing I've been the way mount rainier the way this area sits you khun get safeco field um centurylink the stadium's ferris wheel so it's just kind of one of those iconic you know you and standing out there I started a six o'clock one morning and I e I can't I'm thinking in their polarizer filter where is hayes? Yeah I mean the other question I have visualizing them is the question of do you need to be higher up a different angle to create the kind of one two, three four compression so maybe that's another question about the height which is why this bridge you're talking about mike it's a well it's a sky bridge you walk across it and then it all opens up there's no windows there's no glass or anything it's all open air they've actually got like binoculars that you can live right across the bay and everything are across the sound but the way you said it, you can see everything almost perfect and there's there's been a couple of times with the sun rising where the mountain is kind of pink and it just it's not I can't get that that hes off and everything I mean if polarize will be the haze thing for sure the other one without being there standing next time a little house in so you got just a couple more things that it were actually getting near break, so let me show you just this next one this is another, um video about the thinking in shooting process because we're now we're getting to before we're talking about all the different pictures that I take when I'm photographing now we're starting to think this is about the sort of thinking process should be about four minutes to confess I was dragged kicking and screaming into doing digital I was very happy with film I thought everything in the world was fine with film why would I want to ruin it with digital having said that, that immediate feedback on the back of the camera is so, so important to my particular creative process now that you literally couldn't drag me back to film, which is ironic the great thing about reviewing the image of the back of the cameras you see right away what you have and you also see how the viewers going to experience the image or they're going to get distracted by some bright tones is some tree growing out of your subjects head going to ruin the picture? So you see it right away, and then you can immediately say, okay, so even though I saw this that's actually what's becoming the strongest part of the image and then I go down and pursue that thread and I'll look at the back of the camera, I realized, ok, it's kind of going this way and then that way, and I keep experimenting and looking, and somewhere in that process of making all those pictures, the horizontal is of verticals changingfocus looking at the back of the camera somewhere in all that steps is where the really, really good picture lives. So in the short time that I've been here, seems to me both from what I'm seeing and what I'm seeing the pictures that I'm making the place probably logically is a balance between sort of a lot of technology and actual real life people using it, and so the photographs that I'm going to make ideally will convey both of those probably a tug of war, some more technological, somewhere human so I'm switching back now to the camera with the fixed focal length lends the ninety and I'm going to do it so mohr stuff playing with focus, primarily focusing on the way that people decorate spaces and make it kind of human as versus the technology that's all around them. One of things I talked a lot in my classes about the idea of looking at the work of other photographers, so I was looking over here at actually bottle and behind it was cathy and I was looking at that and I flashed on a picture that bert stern made, um, I think it's a liquor at, believe it or not, and it was the idea of having the bottle in focus at the person out with very, very shallow depth of field, and I made a bunch of variations of that, and I'm not sure it's necessarily going to work for the the project, which is about this basic stuff, but it's a photograph that I'm pretty happy with atleast looking at right now and may work on a little bit mohr but that's the starting point right there and this idea of looking in other people's photographs so they go into that mental hard drive that we all have and then come out of your own photographs is something that I think is really important I encourage all students to be doing to look at other people's work. So with that last picture I was going in kind of the opposite team I was trying to actually look at sort of the tech hkn ology first and the people second in the angle that I was using was such that I have a picture where cathy is very small and all the technologies sort of overwhelming her and depending on the kind of story that I'm trying to tell, I'm going to make that choice is it about the spaces a place it's very human and alive and about the people or is it maybe a space it's more sort of technological and the people who dominated one is not better than the other but each one serves differently? The story you're trying to tell and my job is always to come home with both of them and then decide later because again I shoot very loose and that's one of the lessons I really hope students take away from the class shoot a lot of pictures ideally horizontal and verticals effect I think I'm gonna go redo this now is a vertical um and as many different ideas as I can, so when I go back, I've got a lot of choices to juice from and while I was shooting, I noticed that if I step back just a little bit, I could get this sort of intermediate picture where it was a bigger portion of sort of humanity and less technological and so I've got essentially three versions already one is, um person first technology second, and then I went the other way like that, which is very technological person, very small, and then the last one, I'm kind of playing with the balance, and for me to have all three of those coming out of a shoot, that means I'm doing what I want to do, so I put you through all of that so again, to get this under understand this process of shooting, chipping, shooting, chipping, it's assisted in the beginning, I almost I know what we did before digital we shot a lot of film and wasted a whole bunch of film because we weren't a hundred percent sure what we had and digital gives you this incredible opportunity, too. I see what you're getting, you get that immediate feedback and so that's why I just did that second video to talk more about the process of shooting, chipping and always making sure I come back with what I want so we're gonna end here just a second, but there is sort of an exercise or call to action. This is something that probably you three can't do today, but you really do want to do when you go home and I've done this a bunch of times put out all your year on the floor, make a pile of what you always use, try a shoot leaving the rest behind because we have this default of just in case, just in case just in case and the reality is we don't really just in case very much and yes, if you're doing a paid job, you probably want to have a lot of extra stuff just in case, but as I showed you, the beginning of my presentation there's sort of a core stuff that I use because that's, what I'm always going to always going to and I have a lot of other stuff in my closet that sits there doesn't get used and frankly should go through it and throw it out, but I'm too attached to it, but that's the idea and so if that works and you try to shoot where you leave the stuff you don't use behind obviously a pack accordingly in the future, which will start getting you pared down to less and less so that's mott the end for me, jimmy last questions or ladies you know, we sure dio a lot of folks. We're talking about your they wanted you to reiterate your extender that you use, I believe that's for the tripod. Correct. It is from the tripod. Really? Write stuff makes one what is simultaneously it's it's, that multi tool sort of screwdriver, hex ranch and all of that. And it's, basically a piece of metal and plastic that's about four inches long that you thread into the tripod legs, it extends it. Some of the other companies, including the tripod companies, make these similar tripod iq standards, and basically, they're just extending your column for two, six inches. So you're not down there on the ground. And how about camera straps? Do you have anything special? If you look closely, I use black rapid straps, and I love black rapid straps. A funny thing about the rig that I use is that I have, like I do, and so many things adapted it to my particular set of cameras. I have a that strap across the back because when you were two cameras, the default is they slide down. So in india, I paid a guy, you know, four dollars to put rivets on the back in front, on both sides, so they hold together, so they're basically the smallest straps that really write stuff that black rapid makes because the cameras were so small I don't need the big straps and I don't wear them this way so I'm using their straight straps were two of them together and then I've myself improvised these rivets that hold them together so they don't slide down my shoulders yeah way love black wrapping around here they're great local cos we love to support them and really write stuff again it's it's beautiful equipment is really a little on the pricey side, but you really get what you pay for what you really get what you pay for and I probably can't stand in the tribe because they tell they tell me the whole hundred twenty pounds I don't doubt them because they're really good folks but my paranoia level kicks him but is great stuff one last question gwen had I know which lens works well with video well, all the lenses work great with video video. Technically, the great surprise is that video is basically nothing more than thirty frames of stills a second run together, so basically there's not a lot of difference it's more about the shallow depth of field I tend to use all the other lens is my starting point video is the twenty four to eighty simply because I can change the focal length the most rapid ninety nine point nine percent of my video it's not a video class but is very short. Ten second clips, and then I'll do something else or do something, and the new string that clips together. So a lot of us has changed focal length. Get that right crop shit for ten seconds. Brace it on something like with the tripod. They moved to the next one, moved to the next one, and so actually twenty forty eight, because it's, my desert island lens, is also my primary video. Let's. Absolutely.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

David H Wells - Business
David H Wells - Literary Journals List.pdf
David H Wells -
David H Wells -
David H Wells - Sample
David Wells - Keynote Day 1.pdf
David Wells - Keynote Day 2.pdf
David Wells - Keynote Day 3.pdf

bonus material with enrollment

David H Wells -

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