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Masters of Photography

Lesson 8 of 25

Finding Subjects And Stories

Steve McCurry

Masters of Photography

Steve McCurry

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Lesson Info

8. Finding Subjects And Stories

Lesson Info

Finding Subjects And Stories

(crowd talking) (light music) (mumbling) Yeah. I'm not sure about that place, but we're gonna walk right... I think you have to engage the street and the people and I think you have to be playful, talk to people, get to know people. You need to be a part of the scene. You need to meet people and be one with what's happening, and the only way to do that is to talk to people, meet people and joke with people, find out what they're about and what they're doing, what they think, then... You get to know people, then people open up, then they allow you into their lives, and I think that's exactly where you wanna be. You don't wanna be standoffish. It's like, you know, I don't wanna mix with the local people. I think just the contrary. You wanna be in with the local people. You walk into a bar or restaurant, talk to people in front of their homes, then I think meaningful pictures will result. (inspirational music) My style has a very minimal approach. One camera, one lens, some memory cards...

in my pocket, and that's it. There's nothing extra. There's not... I don't carry a tripod or lights or other lenses. I think if you're going to be out for three our four hours in the street, you need to be comfortable, you need to be relaxed. You don't wanna be encumbered with a bunch of equipment. I think photography, street photography's almost like a performing art. You have to be able to move and be agile and be quick, and you can't do... You have to be unobtrusive, you have to be invisible. If you have a lot of equipment, it's just not gonna work. You have to be very minimal and you wanna blend, you wanna blend in with your environment, and as soon as you start looking like a camera store or if you start looking like, you know, like somebody from a camera club, it may be a little bit off putting. I think you wanna make yourself as unobtrusive, as invisible, as possible, and then people are more relaxed, it's more casual, you're not coming in with all this equipment, plus, it's just... It's more... You're gonna be more comfortable just to move around on the street with less equipment. My recommendation would be to photograph where the lens is really invisible. You know, you're not aware of some kinda super wide angle lens with a lot of distortion, you're not shooting with some huge telephoto, which is not going to really replicate the what you see with your eye. I think you wanna photograph with a lens which allows you to work in close to your subject so you can actually talk to them and relate to them as you're shooting. If you're way off there with a long lens, you're not able to have that personal connection. So, I think the best lens is one that allows you to talk to people and be right there close to people and not that has some super wide angle lens, which is going to distort and make people look unnatural. I think you wanna lens which is gonna be natural, the way you see with your eye. I think that's your best choice. It's probably best to shoot at a fairly high shutter speed and to increase your ISO so you have a shutter speed so that you can stop action. Other times, you might wanna blur the scene. I don't think you can really have a rule that encompasses, I think it's just something that you have to learn by trial and error. What shutter speed works best for you in the situation you're trying to photograph might be fast, might be slow, but I think, in time and with a lot of practice, you'll start to understand sort of what's working and what isn't, but you're gonna have to put in the time to start to see a pattern of what's working, what kind of photography works best for you. I have friends who work at a very slow shutter speed and a lot of things are blurred, and that creates a wonderful sort of effect. Other photographers prefer to work at a very high shutter speed and have things really sharp. So, again, there's no right, there's no wrong, you just have to find the your style and what works best for you and your photography, but you have to do that through a lot of practice. Regarding where to stand or where, high or low or whatever, I think you're gonna have to decide what's best for you and your photography. I would encourage you to look through history of photography and what you find interesting, what you think is working, and then after you've worked, practiced, and you start to show pictures to friends, I think you're gonna start to understand what works for you, what people respond to. I don't think there's a right or a wrong, I think you could lie down on the ground if you want. You know, you could... But I think you just have to, at some point, see what's working, what's harmonious, what's something which is respectful of people and what, you know... But I don't think there's any right or wrong about where to point your camera. It's just that, at some point, you'll start to find the right solution for yourself and your own sort of style. I think it's important to take advantage of the whole day. I think there's great things to photograph early in the morning, there's all different kinds of things that take place late in the afternoon, and I think, at night, that's also a really great lighting possibilities after dark. So, it's good to really get out and get full advantage of the entire day. Of course, in the middle of the day, take a break, have lunch, get some rest, but be ready to get back on the street in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe sometimes go until seven, eight, 9:00 at night. I spent a lot of time photographing at night in Kabul, Afghanistan, and one of the things which I was a bit disturbed or surprised with these young boys were out off and late into the night selling fruits and vegetables in these dusty streets full of traffic. And I thought, you know, these children should be home, should be playing, should be asleep. Unfortunately, the way the world is, these children have to go out and help their family earn money, and I photographed this one vendor, this one boy who probably was 11 or 12 years old, and I used the flash because it was so dark. And what I like about this picture is his expression, his eyes, the story he's telling through his demeanor and his expression. I think it's one of a little boy who's out late at night trying to earn his keep. It kinda breaks your heart in a way to think of this boy who's should be home asleep or playing with his neighbors or family. But I think it's a powerful story and I think these stories need to be told. It's important to remember that you don't have to travel thousands of miles or, you know, go to another country. There's great pictures to be made in your own community, in your own town, in your own village, in your own family, for that matter. So, I wouldn't feel as though you have to go some other place to do great pictures. I know of friends of mine who've done incredible bodies of work on their own family, in their own city, in their own town. So, that's very important to remember that... In fact, you don't even have to leave home to do interesting work. So, I would encourage you to take your camera, whatever kinda camera it may be or cell phone, and walk around and experience life on the street. Meet people, engage people, look at the incredible world around us and find things that speak to you, that are fascinating, and photograph it. I think that it's a great pleasure to go. It kind of has visual experience where you really get in that kind of hyper aware sort of meditative state where you are seeing things which you normally may pass by without, you know, appreciating. So, I think that.. Really, I think that this is one of the great pleasures of life and photography, to observe and to engage and to meet people and to learn about the world that we live in. (upbeat music) Well, I think it's an interesting situation here because the light now is... It's past sunset, the street lights have come on, there's a lot of activity, there's cars and people walking by and rickshaws and vendors. A lot of life going on even well past sunset. I think you should photograph in the morning, late afternoon, on into the night. It's a really nice time to work because the light is completely different, but life goes on. There's all sorts of stuff happening long into the night, so sometimes when I'm sort of have the energy, I'll come out and work 'til eight, nine, 10:00 at night. I think if you don't get out, it's a wasted opportunity. I think that there's so much fun to be had. Forget the camera, just walking around at night is great fun. With a camera, it takes on another dimension. You can make some really wonderful pictures. So, you know, this is the place to be, right here on this street. (inspirational music) Oh, wow, look at that.

Class Description

Steve McCurry has been one of the most important voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years. Masters of Photography is bringing Steve’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his iconic career. Steve will teach how to:

  • Find a subject to photograph
  • How to shoot in all types of weather condition
  • Understand the light at different times of day
  • Improve your compositional skills
  • Blend into the environment so that you can capture impactful street images
  • Use his 8 key tips in order to capture the best portraits

Watch and learn with Steve as you accompany him through the fishing villages of Portugal and in the vibrant streets of Havana. See for yourself how he creates images, as he shares ideas and experiences, and explains how to make great photographs. Steve will also suggest some projects for you to try for yourself.

You can use any device from camera phone to’s all about the image and storytelling.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Adriana L-G

For me this is not a class, is more the photographer talking about his photos and his experience. It is a little repetitive but I enjoyed. From Masters of Photography I loved Joel Meyerowitz's class and I recommend it strongly. In case you need to choose.