Since the first photograph was taken in 1826, it’s estimated that we’ve snapped 3.5 trillion photos – more than 4 billion of those will be in this year alone. Now that we live in an image-conscious world and nearly everyone walks around with a camera phone in his pocket, we should all be a little more skilled at the art. But just because we are taking more photographs than ever in history – with umpteen apps and filters at our fingertips – doesn’t mean we are pros.
To refine our skills, we asked a few experts with serious credentials to share some of their wisdom with us. Miller Mobley is an Alabama-born portrait photographer and director, now based in Brooklyn, who has shot an impressive portfolio including Kevin Spacey, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jamie Foxx, Brad Pitt, Seth Meyers and Heidi Klum. Eric Ryan Anderson is a commercial and editorial photographer from Texas who now calls New York City home. His clients have included Atlantic Records, Kate Spade, American Express and Ernest Alexander. Eric’s work has also graced the pages of Bearings a few times, as seen in our stories on The Lone Bellow and Passavant and Lee.
When you look at their work you are instantly reminded that all the technology in the world can’t replace talent, skill and artistry. But we can all improve, and here’s how:
Shoot what you know. “Use your camera to document the people and places in your life and community. Don’t try to shoot like another photographer in a different place. Become your own and embrace where and who you are.” –Miller
Filter out filters. “Instagram is wonderful. VSCO is an incredible tool for processing images. I use both regularly. I would encourage you not to rely on these tools for your photography though. A boring image is boring whether it is black and white or high contrast or has 100 different film filters on it.” –Eric
Pause before you post. “Try to sleep on your photographs before posting or sharing. Come back to them later with a fresh set of eyes, and it will often give you a totally different perspective. Then you can throw a filter on the good ones if you’d like.” –Eric
Eat your food. “Eat your delicious bacon, don’t photograph it. As unique and amazing as it looks and smells, unless you’re a professional food photographer, it’s probably best kept to yourself and enjoyed with your mouth.” –Eric
Loosen up. “Don’t take yourself, or your Instagram pictures, too seriously. Have fun with it, and remember what you photograph in life says a lot about who you are.” –Miller
Get off the phone. “We’re so bombarded with incredible imagery at every turn, it’s easy to feel your photographs start to look like everything else out there. Spend some time off the phone and be inspired by real life. Visit a used bookstore and check out the old photography books, go see a movie, spend some time in the great outdoors. You never know where inspiration will hit, but it’s usually not on Instagram.” –Eric
Show your work. “Pick up Austin Kleon’s new book. It’s a quick and effective read about sharing your creative process with your peers. Whether you’re photographing a new project, writing a book or simply trying a new recipe, any creative endeavor is going to be more fulfilling when you share it.” –Eric
Explore. “Remember to take your camera into the unknown. Being out of your comfort zone, you will usually find that’s when you create your best work.” –Miller
Shoot a roll. “Believe it or not, most convenience stores still process film. Take a weekend and shoot a few rolls of film with that old camera you have in the drawer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheap point-n-shoot or an old SLR, take an adventure and get the photos processed. Order a CD with your prints and they’ll be on your computer just like any other images. You’ll remember how much fun it was to do things the old way and you won’t even need to filter the images afterward.” –Eric
Lead photo by Eric Ryan Anderson