Pancho Bernasconi (floodthezone) is VP of Editorial Images for Getty Images in New York.
The images of the iStock Editorial collection have a great diversity, in the locations where the images were made and in the shooting styles and experience levels seen in the work.
One thought that came to mind at varioius points while doing a deep dive on the Editorial Collection is that there are a good amount of photographers that are "almost there." That the next submissions will raise their personal "photographic bar" with more seasoning and continued experiences.
Here are some observations on how photographers can cross that 'almost' gap.
There are a great deal of snapshots in the collection. For example there are a lot of images made while the photographer was boarding a plane, and shot part of the aircraft while waiting. So what you have is a poorly composed picture of maybe the whole aircraft, or maybe you have part of the tail or wings cut off. This is an example of not stopping and actually framing the photograph you really want. Pictures by and large are not happy accidents (although those do happen) but the result of thought being put into the image before the shutter is clicked.
There is a phrase that is somewhat overused in the professional editorial world, which is "What a terrific picture he made." Made is the operative word and refers to the fact that a good image is the result of the framing, care for the background, lighting choices, shutter speed, and the host of other choices and actions the photographer makes.
Here are some great examples of well-composed images that the photographer put care and planning into creating:
I mention backgrounds and while that can seem obvious, it needs attention. Go and look at great news, feature or sports photography and you will notice that the backgrounds are clean or at least clutter-free. Backgrounds help keep the viewer's attention where you actually want, and not viewing something distracting.
These images were shot with the background in mind to enhance the composition:
It may be a pet peeve of mine, but I find images of people staring right at the camera to be overused and not super appealing (let's leave Mary Ellen Mark out of this conversation). There is something about having the subject of your portrait looking away from the lens making a connection with something that is off camera. That tension makes for a portrait with a deeper dynamic than just the simple staring at the camera and smiling image. Good portraiture is very hard — you could argue it's one of the toughest types of photography to do very well. That's because you have to connect with your subject and they have to be open to you capturing their image. I think we all have this connection in our personal lives and with our personal work — look at all the great imagery of people on Instagram — but it's harder work to do it well professionally with someone you just met.
These photographers made great portraits without relying on the subject looking into the lens:
Of course, when done well, a camera-aware photograph can also be successful:
Bend your knees! Don't just shoot every picture standing straight up looking straight ahead. Show us your world from a unique angle. Photography is all about perspective and that can be achieved via your own body position relative to your subject. Your lens choice makes an impact as well. There is a great story of a photo editor at a large daily newspaper that was tired of telling one of his photographers to stop using a zoom lens and instead get physically closer to his subjects. The photographer would not listen, so his boss took the zoom, put it on the widest position, and then duct-taped the lens to that spot. Then he took all the other lenses out of the photographer's camera bag. The photographer was forced out of his comfort zone and had to approach his subjects in a new way that enabled a fresh perspective.
Interesting perspectives are the key to why some images work so well:
This means many things but one of the first is always be aware of the sun. Try not to shoot at a time of day when your shadows will be harshest. I know you want that picture of the giant cruise ship on the dock, but a picture of a huge bright white ship taken at noon in the Caribbean will not be good. Wait till the morning or evening light so there will be some texture to that ship that isn't possible with the sun directly overhead.
Watch where you crop your images, both in the overall framing of what you want your picture to say, as well as to the subjects within the frame. If you are going to crop off someone's head, be sure it works in context of the frame. Will I, as a first-time viewer of the image, understand why the head is gone, or will I just think it's a sloppy photograph? Nothing gets under a picture editor's skin faster than sloppy photography.
Don't just shoot a subject as evidence to prove it exists (unless you see the Loch Ness monster!) The power of photography and of successful photographers is the ability to see past the obvious and capture a fleeting moment that exists but for the exact 1/500th of a second that you clicked the shutter and gave it life.
Photography is all about connecting with others. Great photography helps explain things (both big and small) to an audience that has never been more ready to consume and share all manner of visuals. This is the opportunity and challenge we all face as photographers. The wonderful thing about photography is that it is very forgiving. It always allows us to become better the more we engage with it, the more we allow ourselves to explore the boundaries of both our equipment and our imaginations on how to best capture our world.
Children Jumping Off Pier in Puerto Morales Mexico by Adventure_Photo
Salt workers in the Danakil Desert, Ethiopia by guenterguni
Airbus A380 by the_guitar_mann
Shoe shiner in the Burlinton Arcade by epicurean
Senior Man reading Newspaper in University Library by Mlenny
Street musician in Barcelona. by SensorSpot
Pa-O Minority Woman, Burma by hanoded
Burmese monk by yai112
English Soccer Match from behind the Goalkeeper's Net by PeskyMonkey
Istanbul Culinary Institute by gioadventures
Surfer walking out into the Pacific Ocean at sunset by epicurean
Beijing National Opera: "The Egg" - China night skyline by fototrav
woman and boy surrounded by pigeons in istanbul by THEPALMER
Men celebrating Mubarak’s step down in Tahrir sq. by ramihalim