“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough” – Robert Capa
We've all heard the famous quote by the great Robert Capa, we've all read articles about this topic and here's another one. Why? Well, whenever I take people on a photo tour, guess what's the thing I keep telling participants… - you guessed it: "get closer". Whenever a beguinner asks me to review his or her work, more frequently than not, you could draw a circle in the middle of the frame and there's the photo. Everything outside that circle should have remained out all together. In other words, the not so experienced/successfull photographers tend to forget the very insightful words of Robert Capa and every once in a while, it's important to be reminded.
Why should we get closer? well, two main reasons and one bonus reason:
- The subject becomes much bigger therefore much more impactful.
- It cleans out all the clutter and the distractions, focusing the attention on the subject.
And the bonus is…: No matter what the subject is, if you get closer, your image will be better. You might be photographing your kids, your cat, a vase with flowers, sports, it's not important, get closer and you'll get better.
When we go out with the intent of taking pictures, say in a photo walk or photo tour, we might come across situations where we should include part of the surroundings. If you photograph an interesting character and leave that yellow cab in the back, suddenly everybody knows where the photo was taken, creating a sense of the place. Keeping at least part of the working place, helps tell the story of the person. Maybe the shirt looks great with the background. In any case, if we decide to open the framing it should be a conscious choice, not by accident or mistake.
So, we all know the theory, we even agree it works but in the moment of truth, when it's time to press that shutter, we keep forgetting to get closer. If that's the case try this exercise:
Next time you're out shooting, when you come across to a non moving subject, keep getting closer until your lens are unable to focus then take a step back, focus and shoot. This way you'll get in the habit of getting closer and perhaps realise that your lens are able to focus much closer than you thought.
"Get closer to your subject." - is this a composition "rule"? actually, the "rule" says "fill the frame". But fill the frame with what? it's suppose to be with the subject of the photo but you can also fill it with rubbish and clutter and believe me, a lot of people end up doing just that. That's why I prefer to say "get closer to your subject". Whether it's a rule or not it doesn't really matter. Bill Brandt once said "photography is not a sport, it has no rules". Think about it, the rules of basketball don't exist to help the player, they exist to organize the game and make it possible. As a photographer you don't need your "game" to be organized, we are free to "play" it in any way we like but every once in a while we all could use a little help. The so called composition rules are nothing but tips that really make your photography better and whenever I hear a photographer saying "I don't use them", I ask "what's wrong with you?" - no, just kidding - I just wonder why not.
Anyway, the important thing is this: when you think you're close enough to your subject take a step further.
...take a step further.