How to be a better photographer

by justin on February 15, 2013

in Learn, Photographers

When people ask me how they can become a better photographer, I always have a number of suggestions. And one of the ways I suggest isĀ  to look at the work of other photographers. But not just any photographer–it’s important to look at those folks who are creating work at the highest level of this visual art, people who have shaped the medium of photography.

The best way to see their work is to look at the actual prints because that way you see the finished piece exactly as the artist intended. So, you go to their exhibitions. This isn’t always possible, of course, so the next best thing is to buy their books.

I try to take my own advice in that regard and recently picked up two new books–both beautiful, both inspiring.

First, The Vanities, by Larry Fink. As an event photographer myself, I loved seeing Larry Fink’s approach at fancy parties. It’s so interesting what’s he’s drawn to, what he responds to, and what–for him–is an accurate interpretation of the night’s events.

I love this book and wish I could be at one of those parties–not to see the celebrities–I’d love to watch Mr. Fink do his thing.

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The other book I bought is from the fashion/celebrity/editorial photographer Michael Thompson. The people in this book are all recognizable and you’ve no doubt already seen some of these pictures in Details, Allure, Vanity Fair and the list goes on and on. The work is all highly staged, stylized, and intelligent. Looking at these pictures you get the sense that it’s a heavy collaboration between the photographer and the subject. These images are so different than the kinds of things I shoot, but the clever choices and surprises in these pictures are what inspire me about Michael Thompson’s photography.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite photography books?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica Rascon February 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

“LIFE: The Classic Collection” and “LIFE Legends: The Century’s Most Unforgettable Faces”. Both incredibly inspiring. I also try to pick up some TIME Magazine issues whenever possible. I will definitely look into those books you mentioned, I’m excited to build my collection.


justin February 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Yes! Those are both great. I don’t own them but checked them out from the library.


Amy February 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

This post is so well-written and fun to read. I love how you talk about art and the craft of photography, and what inspires you. It’s inspiring.


Joel March 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm

David Burnett’s “44 Days” about his time covering the Iranian Revolution is always an incredible inspiration to me… not only because of the incredible pictures he was able to get but because he shares his personal notes on what it was like to put aside his fear and do his job in such dangerous conditions. Opening that book when I’m nervous about meeting a client or shooting a wedding really puts things in perspective!


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