London School of Photography Blog

My First Photo Tip for you: Slow. Down. Take the time to look at the world!

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In my professional career as a photojournalist and photography trainer at LSP I always had the good fortune to be surrounded by amazing people who helped me along this challenging, competitive and rewarding photographic journey.

These people, from my first photography teacher to my editors during my time at AFP, my students, and people I photographed through the years have helped me to see the world with a different eye. So in this blog I am going to share with you a few tips from the best of the best, tips that you can use whether you are photographing with a £10,000 DSLR, iPhone or even a disposable film camera.

“Hey man great shots, what camera you using?” You would be forgiven to assume that photographers depend on expensive equipment to get great shots. Expensive cameras are helpful to professionals due to their durability, are able to shoot over 10 frames per second, and are dust and water resistant. Expensive lenses are sharper, offer wider fixed apertures and are also dust, water and even shock proof. They offer image stabilization and ultrasonic motors. High-end cameras offer ridiculous ISO values with relatively low noise levels nowadays.

Now I want you to think back to the days of the analogue camera and to the great masters of photography, like Alfred Eisenstaedt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White and Robert Capa. Their cameras didn’t shoot 10 frames a second. They were not that water resistant and dust resistant. They didn’t even have autofocus, or even a light meter. Some cameras even came with a fixed prime lens meaning they were not able to zoom in or out. They would have to use a very important photographic tool: Their legs.

Long exposure view of a Sikorsky S-51 helicopter on the ground, the lights on is rotor blades leaving a trail in the night sky, Anacostia Naval Air Station, Anacostia, DC, February 1949. (Photo by Andreas Feininger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

They did, however, have a couple of big advantage over us modern day photographers, with the first being that they didn’t have a display in the back of their camera. The display on our DSLRS is both a blessing and a curse. That’s because we spend more time looking at it than we do looking at our subjects, or the world around us. A street photographer for example needs to be alert and ready to capture a fleeting moment. Think about how many fleeting moments you lost while you were trying to see if the last picture you took was ok.

The second huge advantage the old masters had over us is that they were using film. And film only came in 36 exposures and it was expensive. So every shot had to be good, there was no wasting clicks so photographers back then simply took their time. We, on the other hand, use memory cards that allow us to shoot thousands of photos and this has frankly turned us into modern day Rambos. We shoot a camera like we would shoot a machine gun. Spray and pray they call it. Pray that you hit something. Or pray that you get a good shot out of the 100 continuous clicks you took.

Uniformed drum major for the Univ. of MI marching band practicing his high-kicking prance as he leads a line of seven admiring children who are all trying to imitate his flamboyant technique while marching across the campus lawn.

So my first tip for you is simple: Slow. Down. Take the time to look at the world around you. Turn off your display or cover it with something and avoid looking at the photos until you go home. Limit your daily shots to two rolls of film, or just 72 shots. Make every shot count by thinking that every click you make is costing you money. If you pretend you are using a Kodak Tri-X 400 film that today costs around £6.50, then tell yourself that every click is costing you 15p. Finally, shoot what matters. That’s what the old greats did.

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