What do you see when you look at my photograph? What comes to mind? How does it make you feel? The photo that I had created below was done in studio on a Tuesday morning. It wasn’t that difficult to create. Actually it was more fun and challenging. The fun part was using what ever you brought in to class that mooring to drop in the water tank. The challenge was the timing. You had to time the drop in sync with your camera shutter. I had chosen to bring in an incandescent household lightbulb. I wanted to use a CFL light bulb but their just to expensive to waste when your working on a college student salary. I was pleased with the over all image although the more you look at it, it looks blurry. It’s not suppose to be when your using flash. The studio strobes that I was using were not fast enough to stop the action of the lightbulb hitting the water inside the tank. Though it did give the lightbulb a cool effect as if it was blown to pieces. Wouldn’t it be cool if time actually stopped that image from happening? Actually it did in a way but just with a camera. A photographer has made an object stop in time & therefore produced an image afterwords.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Brian Smith, considers himself to be one of the luckiest guy on the planet. He’s told Bill Gates exactly what to do for an entire hour, appeared on The X Factor, exhibited at the Library of Congress, dined with the President and 3,000 of their closest friends, written an Amazon Best Seller, shared cupcakes with Anne Hathaway, gotten drunk with George Clooney and married the most beautiful woman he ever laid eyes on. I’d say he’s pretty lucky…and blessed. And now, we’re lucky enough to have someone like him on our latest podcast.
Rich Harrington and Brian have an insightful and informative conversation about shooting portraits, retouching, his advice on working with people and his latest projects.
For the past 30 years, Brian Smith’s iconic portraits of famous celebrities, athletes and executives have been used in…
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This was one of my images I had created for my mini portfolio of strictly candy. I had decided to photograph skittles. Their intimidating to say the least. You think photographing candy is easy but its not. How do you photograph just candy with several table tops & multiple backdrops? Throughout the session, I had ate many of them. They were so delicious but also I was running out of them because I only had brought one little bag. I never thought out of all 150 images I shot throughout the session that I would only need 3 skittles. Shocking right? One of my instructors said to my class “have you ever thought of using the graphic design drawing tables”? They’ve already been drawn on, painted, scratched etc. Its a different form of art, why not take advantage of it? So I’ve decided to use the graphic tables. Their kind of interesting aren’t they? Why should I go to some arts & crafts store to buy something when I have something right at my finger tips? I was very pleased when I took the shots. The skittles just sitting on top of the table with all the graphic design on top was just simply amazing. Some of the other photographs were pretty cool looking but its not about choosing your favorite photograph, it’s about choosing the right photograph for the assignment. Is it sharp? Does it have a interesting composition? Is it color correct? Does it have enough lighting? Sure I had plenty of other images I could of used, but this photograph below had won the competition. When graphic design & photography students work together, they create a work of art like no other. That is what I like about my college. Were “one of a kind”.
I was given a word assignment by one of my instructors. The assignment consisted of several words that the students would have to go out and photograph whether it was created in the studio or found outside the school. That particular week, we were given the word “Liberty”. At first I thought, “how am I suppose to create liberty”? When I think of liberty, I think of freedom, the Declaration of Independence, the statue of liberty etc. We were given two weeks for the assignment. I literally couldn’t think of what I can come up with. A week had gone by and I had nothing. It was in the second week I had thought of something. See, you can’t think and try to create an image. As a photographer, you must let it come to you. At first the thought might come right away but in time it will come. I was about to leave school, it was a monday. I sat in my car and I had three cents in my car at the time. I also wanted a hot cup of tea. Then it dawned on me. “The Boston Tea Party” I tried to remember as much as I can from when I had first learned about it in middle school at the time. I had went out and got the supplies only I didn’t have enough time to make the photograph look like the present time. The photograph you see is a modern interpretation of the tea party. For those of you who don’t know what “The Boston Tea Party” was, you can most likely go on google and research it for yourself. Basically the story is “Taxation without Representation” When I had put the image up on the wall for critique, my instructor didn’t understand it. The goal of the assignment was to create an image so when you look at the image you can interpret what word it meant. The whole class understood my concept and he eventually caught on. I had gotten a good grade on the image and well after the critique, we were given the next word to photograph. It only got more challenging.
”Photography was a license to go whenever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do.” – Diane Arbus
One of my favorite quotes by Diane Arbus. Whenever I pick up my camera I Free from anything and everything. I can go and photograph anywhere I want to in life. I can be in one place today and across the country the next morning. It’s almost as if I feel like its my job to photograph what others don’t see. I have a duty. That duty is to preserve a memory or some sort of meaning or event that happened in time. Photography is never the same. The principle is, but everyday you learn something different whether it’s about yourself, the model/client or the weather & light patterns. As photographer we see things differently with our eyes in everyday life more than the general public does. Some photographer’s don’t have an “eye”, they have the imagination where they simply create a stunning photograph in studio one day at a time. If only the famous inspirational photographers from the 1900’s were here, I wonder what other kind of advice they would give today’s learning photographers besides the famous quotes that they left behind.
Many people will come across this image and think who, what, when, where, & why? I decided to wait till almost sunset to photograph this specific place inside Eastern State Penitentiary. When I first uploaded this photo to Lightroom it spoke to me. I had used this image for my architecture assignment. The category was “old vs. new” architecture. There is an old decayed stone wall from years of abusive weather & then there is a brick wall almost like a chimney. When I had first scouted ESP, I walked past this very image many of times. I have a great eye for photographs and this was the image at the time of day. The sunset also helps. Think about it, if the sunset already went down, their would be no light, only darkness & it wouldn’t make a great photograph just a “dull” photograph. As a photographer, you just know when a photograph speaks to you. It was a cold day, but sunny & this couldn’t be taken at night. There is simply no light at night in ESP. You would need to bring a very large light source with enough power to light that building and make it into an image. Perhaps maybe the large spotlight they use to use at night to make sure no prisoner would try to escape. When any photograph is taken, it needs light of any kind. Whether it is daylight, shady, tungsten, florescent, cloudy, etc. When you first enter ESP, you feel a sense of cold, loneliness, & depression. Its not a place of happiness, but it is a place of interesting photographs of all kinds. Take a minute to look at the image I uploaded. Does it speak to you? Do you get some sort of scared feeling from years of decay? I certainly do. The sun is setting and darkness is about to set in. I do believe in ghosts. They are amongst you the whole time while your learning the history of ESP. I’m sure when people come and visit, they can feel a sense of coldness go right through them. It’s the soul of a ghost walking amongst them. The prisoners of ESP might be long dead already but the soul of each individual prisoners life still lives on & will remain in history with ESP.
One of my assignments was to go out and photograph a building that looked like a corporate office building for an annual report. I ventured my way into the city with a friend. We took the subway to broad street and walked the city the whole day looking for the right sky scrapper with the right lighting on it. The sun isn’t very easy to work with. Some days it is and other days its not. Walking the city all day was tiring, cold & as photographers were going to get the “image” no matter what it takes. When I was walking around the city, I just can’t snap photographs like one, two, three. As a photographer you must first see your image that you want to photograph and then push the shutter. A photographer’s eye’s see’s differently than the normal citizen of the United States. The image that I’ve posted below in my blog was not set up. I was simply walking on the sidewalk from the other side & I saw this rusted old stair case along the colored brick. It spoke to me in a way. I was not looking for anything, it just happen to be there when I was there. So I photographed it multiple times while the sun was still on it and walked away. I didn’t stay to long, maybe 5 minutes and just kept moving on with my day. When I had uploaded the images to my hard drive, I saw the image & thought… “complimentary color, monochromatic color, transition, & one more but I’m quite not sure”. I had originally used this image for “transition”. My instructor was intrigued by it. He had also said “Finally Jon, a decent image” At first I was appalled, but I knew what he meant. It’s not about looking for the right image, its about coming along and finding an image when you least expect it and making the image work for you & using light to create it.