Taking Good Pictures

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Before I became a picture editor, I assumed that “good photographers” took “good pictures” because they had a special eye. What I found was that good photographers take good pictures because they take great pains to have good subjects in front of their cameras. Reflect a moment on what cameras do, and this makes sense. Good photographers anticipate their pictures. What good picture editors do is help them.

John Loengard

more on  Scott Kelby’s Blog via Colin Pantall.

There Are 16 Comments On This Article.

  1. It’s much more than that. Good photographers “take” good pictures because they create them. Composition, lighting, subject, lens choice, format, technique are all part of that.

  2. I think a lot of different factors are involved in distinguishing “good photographers” and “good pictures” from not good ones… And having a “good eye” (or a “special eye”) is just one of those contributing factors. But I do firmly believe in the notion of a having a good eye, and I pretty much believe it’s something you either have or don’t have.

    So while you can improve your “techniques” through learning and practice (e.g., to create good photographs in addition to “taking” good photographs), it’s much more difficult to “learn” to see… Because all tied up in the notion of seeing/having a good eye are things like: [an innate] feel for composition and framing; [an innate] feel for how to see and use light; and also a way of seeing or viewing the world, which has as much (if not more) to do with feelings…with the stuff you carry around in your brain and your heart –like empathy, maturity, compassion and passion– as it does with the mechanics of vision.

    But hey, them’s just my two cents.

    • [an innate] feel for composition and framing; [an innate] feel for how to see and use light; and a way of seeing or viewing the world, which has as much (if not more) to do with feelings… with the stuff you carry around in your brain and your heart –like empathy, maturity, compassion and passion.

      how true and wonderful.

  3. Wow, I just read the whole post. I would kill to work for a photo editor with that attitude. Of course his background as a great photographer himself informs that position. Imagine having that kind of backing. It explains why very few magazines have ever even approached the photographic brilliance of LIFE MAGAZINE.
    I know I’ll sound like an idiot but…is he still working as a photo editor somewhere?

  4. This post about models and prep above hit home. I am a perfectionist on preparing BEFORE the shoot. Herb Ritts talked about the models making all the difference. He was spot on.

    I am the kind of photog freak who goes to locations the day before, and test shoots at the exact same time of day (weather permitting) if outside and access is avail.

    I keep a punch lists for models/clients which may get emailed to them to assist them in preparing for the “magic hour(s).”

    Once I had a young lady show up in bright green toe nail polish. I had to have someone drive off location 1/2 hour EACH WAY to a little store in the middle of nowhere, in search of nail polish, while everyone stood there. Smacking head! All the while pretending all was okay and smiling –> I was completely furious. I think all photographers have those moments we can recall where you go “WTF?” No matter how prepared you are, there can always be that THING that you have to adapt and move around. Pros get it, and go with it.

    On the other hand, I have had people show up over-prepared and YES! I proclaim to the mountaintops! I LOVE THAT! THANK YOU TO ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO DO THEIR JOB TO HELP MAKE GREAT IMAGES! I love you!

  5. A classic revisited. Well to read this again although here we can find anymore this kind of relationship with an editor. I recommend the book of interviews by Loengard about the photographers of Life magazine. Saludos

  6. I loved reading his insight. I fully agree that the subject, especially with regards to portraiture, is of utmost importance. Sometimes subjects drain my energy, and sometimes I am energized by them. It’s great to hear that Mr. Loengard giving solid advice to both editors and photogs.

  7. This quote “Photographers don’t like leaving their pictures to chance.” really states it all for me. Making the images, a production approach, and the planning, are the things I really enjoy the most.

  8. What if you have an assignment and cannot choose your subject? A good photographer will come home with a meaningful image of the assignment be it the war in Afghanistan or the high school city basketball playoff. A commercial/editorial photographer doesn’t so much choose subject matter. What makes a “good” photo is one that draws the viewer in to see the subject and the emotion surrounding the subject. The viewer is unaware of the photograph itself as an artifact. The viewer comes away with an understanding of the subject of the photo and not an appreciation of the photographer. 98% of the people who look at your pictures are not photographers, they are just regular people. They don’t know an f-stop from a backstop. Ultimately, I think the best photographs are the ones that you do not recognize as photographs but as re-creations of some reality or interpretation of reality. The medium should be transparent. That is the best application of our craft. Slink back into the shadow.

  9. Agree with the quote for the most part, but to be a GREAT photographer you have to be able to do everything including edit, that’s more than half the battle. Editors help you hone your edits for specific clients, galleries, ect.