The concept behind my first Your Shot assignment is simple: minimalism. I'd love for you to shoot new photos. Yes, you can submit photos from your archives. But I would like to believe that, if you are reading this, it is not only because you love and enjoy photography but that you aspire to be a better photographer. This new assignment will require you to focus on your composition and think about what is in your frame.
Merriam-Webster defines minimalism as "a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity."
So slow down. Take your time with your camera. Look around your world and see things differently. Think about what you've learned in other Your Shot assignments like "Silhouette.”
Find the minimalism in the ordinary and the extraordinary. I encourage you to observe the lines, shapes, and colors all around you. Double-check your composition before you hit the shutter. If you didn't get the photo you wanted, try again. Reframe your shot. Maybe take a step to the left, or four steps closer. Maybe kneel or find a higher vantage point. Be patient and wait for the moment to pass through the right light. Maybe introduce yourself and gain a more intimate perspective.
Also think about the concept behind this assignment—minimalism—in not just your composition but in the mood your photo evokes. Don’t forget that minimalism is also a feeling. There is simplicity in chaos—you just have to learn how to control it in your frame, like using long exposure to capture a roaring waterfall or the hustle from everyday commuter traffic.
Most importantly, take your time. You will be able to upload only three photos, so be confident in your submissions. Be thoughtful in not only the visual and creative intent in your photo but also in your written caption. Remember, captions are a part of the overall presentation of your photo. A good caption answers the who, what, when, where, and why. A great caption elevates the power of a photo by providing valuable and detailed information.
Have fun #YourShotPhotographer, and I look forward to seeing the minimalism in your life. Submission deadline is February 27, 2017 at 12PM EST.
Thank you for your contributions!
Editor's Update 07
In case you missed it, the Minimalism final story is now published and live. Thanks again to everyone for submitting to my assignment. I had so much fun. I hope you are participating in our other assignments — Saving Our Seas, Strong Women, Family Adventure, and Facing Our Fears — as well as our hashtag challenge #NGMHealth for your change to be published in National Geographic magazine.
Also today (March 17, 2017) from 1:00-2:00PM EST I will be joining Jordan Roth, special projects coordinator at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting on a live discussion board chat (on the “Strong Women” assignment) — the Pulitzer Center helped support National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing on her story Life After Loss, which was published in the February 2017 issue of the magazine. The Pulitzer Center is an amazing organization supporting photographers and writers report on international stories that need to be told. Jordan will be taking your questions about the Pulitzer Center, grant writing, how to research/pitch/produce personal project, or just about photography.
We have some exciting assignments coming up — Matt Adams and I will be launching called Follow Me soon to help everyone find Your Shot photographers to follow. And in April, I’ll be launching an assignment called Gift of Life. So stay tuned.
Editor's Update 06
Hi everyone. I am so sorry, but I wanted to let you know that I am not going to have the Minimalism story done today (March 13, 2017). I am down at SXSW in Austin, TX with Matt Adams representing Your Shot, and leading photo walks with National Geographic photographers David Guttenfelder, Cory Richards, and Aaron Huey. I thought I could do both, but I can’t.
I’ll launch the story by 12PM EST on Wednesday March 15, 2017.
I’ll share some photos from our photo walk tonight — so you can see what we’ve been doing.
I am sorry. I feel terrible. Thanks for understanding, and your patience.
Editor's Update 05
I wanted to update you on the “Minimalism” assignment. My goal is to launch the story on Monday March 13, 2017 at 12PM EST. I imagine many of you are wondering, “How is David going to edit 19,644 photos down to the final 20-30?” I’ll share with you MY process for THIS assignment:
1. What am I looking for? From the composition to the light to the moment captured in your photo, your frame needs to catch my eye — and make me pause/stop from moving onto the next frame. I need to want to react to your photo.
2. If yes, then I will look at your photo full-screen. Now I am further studying the composition, light, and moment in your frame. I will also read your caption — because sometimes my viewing experience will improve because of the details/story you’ve written. If I like your photo, it will now become part of my first/large edit.
3. Then I will look at my first/large edit and I will ask myself: Does your photo meet the criteria outlined in my assignment introduction? If there are similar frames, I will compare and contrast them together. My favorite photos from step 3 will now become part of my second edit.
4. Then I will look at my second edit and start selecting my absolute favorites until I edit down to my favorite 50 photos.
5. Then I will look at all 50 together, thinking about them in the context of one story. I will see how the photos play together and remove those that don’t fit. I will keep eliminating photos until I am down to my favorite 20-30.
That is my plan, and I encourage you to try this exercise yourself. “Favorite” and leave a yellow heart on those photos you like. Don’t forget to share with your fellow Your Shot photographers why you like their image.
I hope you are submitting to our other assignments — “Saving Our Seas,” “Strong Women,” and “Family Adventure.” We are currently running hashtag challenges including #SunriseThisMorning and #MyClimateAction; check out #NGMHealth for your chance to be published in National Geographic magazine. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Daily Dozen — it might even be your photo that could be recognized as the Top Shot. Go to natgeo.com/pod to see which Your Shot photo was selected as National Geographic Photo of the Day. And follow us on Instagram (@natgeoyourshot) where we feature editor and community favorites.
OK, that’s enough for now. Let’s tell stories together. #ThanksYourShot.
Editor's Update 04
Hi everyone —
I hope you’re all doing well.
I have a favor to ask — will you please fill out this 2017 Your Shot survey. The Your Shot team is so interested in learning more about your user experience.
Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Editor's Update 03
Hi everyone —
Thank you all for submitting to my first Your Shot assignment. I really do appreciate it. I hope you had fun; I did.
Now comes the hard part — choosing my final edit.
Some of you may be disappointed or frustrated in not being selected. I totally understand. I’ll tell you a story and one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. When I was applying for summer photo internships in graduate school, I kept getting rejected. 13 times to be exact — and yes I kept those rejection letters as a motivation tool. I went to my mentor, professor, and National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson, and asked her if I should change my portfolio from black and white photo essays to the more traditional newspaper portfolio. Lynn replied, “Keep believing in what you’re doing David Lee and someone will come along and believe in you.”
So I share Lynn’s advice with you: “Keep doing what you’re doing. I believe in all of you.”
I hope you bring the same energy and enthusiasm I witnessed here at Minimalism to the other Your Shot assignments. Keep inspiring and encouraging each other. Together we will all become better, and more thoughtful photographers.
I’ll be producing the Your Shot assignment “Strong Women,” curated and edited by National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing and Deputy Director of Photography Whitney Johnson; they are inviting you to share thoughtful stories and beautiful photos of strong women in your lives. Your captions will be important; don’t forget to answer their question: “What inspires you about the woman or women you photographed?”
Fun fact: the first time I worked at National Geographic — as an assistant to two magazine photo editors — I met Amy Toensing when she was the photo intern (in 1999). Amy was so inspiring, finding the extra time to talk and advise me as I was beginning my photo career. And now 18 years later, I get to work on a Your Shot assignment with her. So yes, dreams do come true…
Keep doing what you’re doing Your Shot. I believe in all of you.
Editor's Update 02
Hi everyone —
FIRST on a side note from what I wrote earlier today about “what you are learning here in the Minimalism assignment, you should be adapting to…” I should have used the word “COULD” instead of “SHOULD.” (Notice how one word changes the entire meaning of the sentence.) The beautiful thing about Your Shot is that each assignment is an opportunity where you can learn something. In my Minimalism assignment, I hope you are thinking about composition and the visual interpretation of a concept. Listen to what each curator/editor is saying, study the photos they and your peers like, and try to translate into your own photography. Use each assignment as a building block to become a better photographer.
OK now onto Minimalism… I want to thank everyone for submitting to my first Your Shot assignment. I am having so much fun. I love seeing everyone’s photos; I can’t believe there 17,786 submissions! Reminder: the submission deadline is Monday February 27, 2017 at 12PM EST.
What I really, really love is the engagement I am witnessing in the discussion board. I LOVE how you are all offering each other feedback and inspiration. One of the things I loved most about school is surrounding myself with others who also aspired to be better photographers, and listening to their feedback on not just my photography, but on my peers’ work as well. And that is how I see Your Shot — as a global community of photographers who all want to be better photographers and storytellers.
I know it is tough — and sometimes uncomfortable — to leave critical feedback on someone’s photography. I recognize how difficult this process often is. Naturally people usually seek positive reviews of their work. Obviously everyone wants to be recognized, everyone wants to be published and featured, and sometimes we all get distracted by this ambition.
Here is my advice for you:
When you see a photo you like/love, do leave positive feedback. And not just "Beautiful" or "I love it." Take the extra minute or two to explain why. This extra effort will do three things:
1) The Your Shot photographer will be grateful for the extra love and positive feedback.
2) The Your Shot photographer will pay attention, and may even check out your gallery to return the love. (FYI — Currently we are testing a FOLLOW feature where you’ll be able to follow your favorite Your Shot photographers. This is going to be awesome.)
3) By articulating why you love the photo (composition, light, moment, story narrative, etc...) will force you to really think about photography in a more intellectual way. And then you can adapt what you are writing about into your own photography.
The most important about leaving critical feedback is to take the extra time to offer some suggestions on how YOU would improve the photo. Offer ideas for the photographer to think about. Don't be just superficial in your notes. Think about what you crave as a photographer, and treat others in a similar fashion.
If you feel uncomfortable, please practice on my photos. Use me as an opportunity to get comfortable with your voice and become more confident. Practice makes perfect. Every day, I am still practicing. Because every day, I am trying to get better…
Editor's Update 01
February 15, 2017
Hi everyone —
I hope you are having fun. I am. I cannot believe there has already been 10,999 submissions already!
Before I forget, I am planning on doing a LIVE discussion board chat on Friday February 17, 2017 from 3-4PM EST. See you all then.
Now onto the assignment…
There are still 11 days for this assignment, and my advice for everyone is to be patient before submitting. I am excited that you are excited — but remember, you’re only going to get three (3) submissions — so you need to make each submission count.
I see a lot of people submitting and then asking for feedback. Honestly, I find this workflow counter-productive because once you have submitted, it’s final — so why ask for feedback?
My advice: inspire and encourage each other on the assignment discussion board with feedback and/or critiques on photos BEFORE submitting. Take advantage of this wonderful community. I love the engagement I am seeing; some of you are doing an excellent job. Yes, I am paying attention…
In the meantime, go out and shoot. Even if you have already submitted your three photos. Keep shooting; this is the only way you’re going to get better. Trust me, eventually you’ll have an A-HA moment in your photography and you’ll start to see the world a little differently through your camera. Look at the submitted photos that YOU like and study them. This is a fantastic exercise for each of you. Really think about why you like the photo, and adapt to your own photography. Really think about why the photo caught your eye among the thousands of submitted photos. Because that is what I am doing when I make my editor’s favorites. When you leave a thoughtful comment to the respective photographer, you are learning how to articulate yourself with more valuable feedback than just “Beautiful” or “Nice job.” Think about the feedback you crave, and then treat others like you yourself want to be treated. Because again, that is what I am doing when I leave my editor’s notes and/or comments.
We can talk more on Friday (February 17, 2017) on the LIVE discussion board chat from 3-4PM EST.
Until then, have fun taking pictures. #ThanksYourShot