What I learned during Jack Simon’s workshop
A little over a week removed, I attended my first street photography workshop through Streetfoto San Francisco Festival. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful weekend to go out and shoot the streets of San Francisco. Before I expound on my experiences with the workshop and what I walked away with, I’d like to first thank all those who have contributed to my gofundme campaign to make this all possible. I would also like to thank Festival Director Ken Walton for organizing and bringing streetfoto to reality, my wife who allowed me to go on this adventure and endured two crazy boys on her own for the weekend and finally, Jack Simon, his son Brett, and Harvey Castro for making class more than worthwhile.
And now for the good stuff:
Cropping your photo can either make or break your image
I think I have pretty good understanding of the importance of the crop tool, however, I’m not a big fan of cropping your photos unless absolutely necessary. Usually when I do choose to crop my photos it’s to centralize the viewers’ focus or if there’s too much dead space. During the workshop review process, Jack and Brett did an exceptional job analyzing each person’s work and really breaking it down on a granular level, pointing out details that would just go above your head or you wouldn’t have thought of. Both explained how slight cropping of a photo can enhance the story behind the image, which I think most people understood. But the biggest takeaway I received was when they discussed how not cropping a particular photo could also amplify the story. Leaving the extra space in your photo or choosing not to centralize your main subject can help add another layer of emotion to the image. Let the entire environment that’s within the frame help tell the story and not bank on just one thing or person to pull the whole photograph together.
2. Follow your heart, your gut, your instincts, your impulse
I mentioned in class that half of the time when I’m out shooting I’m pretty indecisive on when to click my shutter. I might notice or see something somewhat interesting but then I second guess myself and think “Would it make a good photo?” Usually, when that question enters my mind, I end up dismissing the scene or subject and move on. Jack and Brett mentioned something that was very insightful, “take the damn photo.” You don’t know if it’s going to be a good one until you look at it afterwards and sometimes revisiting that photo weeks, months, or even years later may change your mind about it. But initially you don’t know a good photo until you take it. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll just have another bad photo to add to your collection.
3. Keep it Simple
In my opinion some of Jack’s best works are the simple ones. Single layered, not clustered with people or objects, the frame isn’t always full like what I’ve seen with other street photographers’ works. It has one or two layers that are easy on the eyes, yet so striking to the soul. These photos are simple, in color and have a strong emotional engagement to it. You feel like you’re there in that moment. I’ve always photographed with this goal, because in my opinion, I think that’s what makes a great photo. I believe a strong photo needs to have some kind of mystery to it, makes the viewer curious or wanting more. It should allow the viewers to interpret the photo in their own way. To successfully do this, the photo needs a strong, emotional focus as the base and then include other elements within the frame, whether obvious or subtle, as just the icing on the cake.
Hope you enjoyed this read and found it insightful. In the meantime continue shooting, continue looking, continue to learning and have compassion for life.