Many people travel around the world to photograph in exotic locations, but there are numerous opportunities to make a great photograph right in your own community. This assignment can be as simple as an everyday moment or as complex as a nuanced image that says something about the universal human experience, the things that are common and universal across all languages and cultures, such as love, joy, sadness, or humor.
Daily Life images can come from a fleeting moment you see as you go about your day, that special moment when it all comes together with light, moment, gesture, or emotion. More …
Editor's Note: Anyone is welcome to participate in this assignment and the Your Shot community, however in order to be eligible for the contest prize associated with this assignment participants and submissions must adhere to the Official Rules.
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I’d like to talk about photographing people. That is a big hurdle for many people and something we all encounter. How do you approach someone and photograph him or her? There is the fear of what might happen if you photograph them, but if you speak with them first you might miss the moment, they will be aware of the camera and you lose the spontaneity and the moment is gone. You have to size up the situation and try to read it. In certain places and with certain cultures it can be more difficult. Sometimes I lift the camera halfway to my face and see how people react. I’m hoping they will go about their business and forget about my camera and me. A long lens can also be helpful in this situation.
I see it as two different approaches, one is to shoot when you see a great moment because if you don’t it will be forever gone. The other is when you see a situation that has potential, you talk with the people, ask them about themselves and tell them a little about you - your motivations - why you are interested in photographing them. What you saw that sparked your interest - make a human connection, then ask if you can photograph them and wait until they forget about you. Usually you have to start to photograph and they will be aware of the camera and posing and feeling awkward, but keep photographing and working the scene and they will eventually forget about you. Then wait for real moments to occur and wait for the magic to happen - the right light, the by passer who adds an element or a bit of interaction.
Daily Life images are generally candid moments but there also have been some very strong portraits submitted and some are my favorites. So let’s talk about portraits since we are talking about photographing people.
There is the portrait and the observed portrait. In documentary photography and photojournalism there are ethical considerations. It comes down to credibility that we want people to believe the scene was as we depicted it. So there is a portrait where there is eye contact and it is clearly a portrait so you can direct people and ask them to pose and look one way or another. And there is the observed portrait, an authentic moment shot in a documentary style where you did not influence the scene; you photographed it as you saw it unfold. Once you are photographing people there is the question of eye contact. We love candid moments but sometimes a portrait with eye contact is more powerful.
Approaching people takes practice. Sit and observe daily life closely and look for the special moments. Once it starts to come together, the person has forgotten about you or is completely comfortable with you, then work the scene. Look at the subtleties, the backgrounds, the gestures, the light and let the magic all come together and become one of the images that inspire us all.
I’ve looked at thousands of images so far that have been submitted to the Daily Life assignment. It is inspiring to see all these photographs coming in from around the world.
I saw many images that were very close to being great but had just one flaw. I’ll list below some things that could elevate a photo from average to exceptional.
Technical: Some photographs are too overprocessed. Try to keep the image looking as real as you saw it with your own eyes. Also watch the technical aspects such as focus. We want the images to be sharp as a tack.
Composition: I’m seeing many photographs that have the subject in the dead center of the frame. Try to compose the photograph using the rule of thirds.
Perseverance: Some of the images are so close but lacking just that extra something. Sometimes I see a perfect scenario and it just takes time until everything falls into place. Look for that extra something—that magic when it all comes together; light, mood, moment, emotion, color, and gesture. If you are drawn to something that has one of these elements, wait until another one of these elements comes into play, possibly at a different time of day. Spend time when you see something worthwhile.
Framing: Be careful not to crop off body parts like feet and hands.
Eye contact: A portrait vs. a moment. In certain situations, as in a portrait, eye contact works and at other times it doesn’t, so when possible, try both. Generally speaking, for daily life images it is best when the subject is unaware of the camera.
Compose your images so that everything present within the frame is there for a reason, is thought out. Look from edge to edge and clean up the composition; there should be nothing extraneous.
Look at different angles; consider shooting from a lower angle, a higher angle. Show us a sense of place: What does it feel like to be there? Show us the mood, look at the quality of light, and plan the time of day for the best light.
If you see something you’re drawn to, work it. Don’t give up on it. Keep working to improve the image.
Layer images with information and elements. If you see a background you like, work the composition from the background forward with layers. Find an interesting background and wait until the foreground comes into the frame. Be patient—maybe a beautiful moment will happen.
Build the composition by moving the camera angle left, right, closer, farther away. Elevate the mundane into something exceptional.
Put yourself in a position where things are likely to happen. When you walk around with your camera, be prepared for any situation or moment that may present itself. Have your camera set for the situation: When the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture are set, you are ready. Get so comfortable with your camera that reacting to these moments is intuitive.
If you don’t know where to start go to a place you like. If you like music, go to a music festival. If you like sports, go to a sporting event. Think of what you're passionate about or what you're interested in; visit that and the rest will come easily.
When photographing people, talk with them, build trust, tell them why you're drawn to photograph them. Then, once they get comfortable with you, step back, let them forget about you, and watch for something special and authentic to happen.
We're hoping for surprising and unpredictable moments in the spirit of Henri Cartier-Bresson or Elliott Erwitt. Look at their work for inspiration.