10 Things I Learned from Irving Penn

Irving Penn is either the best or second best portrait photographer of all time. Depending on the day, he’s either ahead of or behind Richard Avedon. At least that’s what I think. Mr. Penn’s resume is stacked, to say the least. He shot for Vogue from 1943 to 2009, creating 165 covers – more than any other photographer in history. That’s 66 years! He made some of the most iconic photographic portraits in history, including those of Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Truman Capote.

For Father’s Day, Here is Your Photography Mission

I picked up a camera in 2008, and I laid my mother to rest in 2010. Guess what I never got around to? That’s right: I never created a real portrait of her before we said goodbye. Back then, I knew I wanted to be a portrait photographer. I was starved for subjects. And after 12 years of fighting leukemia, I knew she was on borrowed time. There was no reason not to do it, except one: Avoiding the portrait meant avoiding the inevitable. I didn’t want to admit the clock was ticking. So here I am with plenty of
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The 10 Commandments of Portrait Photography

Art has no rules. Right? Wrong! Call me cranky, but I don’t like the latest photography trends. I love simple, classic portraiture, and I admire legendary photographers like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Albert Watson. That’s why I put together my 10 Commandments of Portrait Photography. ​I used the word ‘Commandment’ for a reason. Some people will believe, and some don’t. And that’s okay. ​This is just the truth as I see it.

Commandment #1: A Portrait Is About the Subject, Not the Photographer

We create portraits because we want to say something about a person and because we want
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Review: ‘Avedon: Something Personal’ is Incredibly Detailed and Frustrating

Avedon: Something Person is a​ downright staggering account of legendary photographer Richard Avedon’s career. Weighing in at 720 (yes, 720!) pages, no detail is left out. ​While it’s jam-packed with interesting stories from his assistants and collaborators, this book has some issues with the facts.

My Initial Reaction: A Stunning, Expansive Piece of Work

Richard Avedon was one of my first inspirations when I started my photography journey in 2008, so I’ve had a deep attachment to his work ever since then. And when I stumbled across Avedon: Something Personal by Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson, I
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Review: Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass is a Disappointment

When MasterClass announced Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography, I was pumped. I’d already taken ​the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass and loved it. In just a few hours, I got a crash-course in fiction writing with plenty of actionable tips I still use every single day. So when MasterClass finally released Annie’s class on December 14, I yelled: “Take my money!” I’m an Annie fan through and through. I own several of her books, and I’ve watched her interviews with Charlie Rose about a dozen times. Here is the MasterClass trailer in case you haven’t seen it:

My Expectations

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The 11 Stupidest Things Photographers Say About Gear

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I’m like a lot of photographers. I want to shoot more often. And one big reason I don’t shoot as much as I like is that I waste too much time reading about gear. Now I’ve been shooting since 2008, which means I’ve been reading about photo equipment for 8 years. That’s not an eternity, but it’s long enough to realize that when it comes to cameras and lenses, photographers have a bad habit of making dramatic statements that have zero basis in reality. Here are my 11 favorites:

11) Any Sentence Including “Microcontrast” or “3D Pop” or “Medium Format Look.”

What happened to the word sharp? Because it seems like there’s a new breed of photographer that seems hell-bent on sounding like a lens company marketing department. Whenever I hear pseudo-science mumbo jumbo like “microcontrast,” I think of a photographer trying a little too hard to justify a
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