We’ve spent way more time than we’d like to admit (especially to Stu!) scrolling through the Humans of New York gallery today. There’s a quality about these photos that’s immediately arresting. They play a fine line between environmental portrait and street photography, posed and improvised at the same time.
Alone, you could say the photos aren’t that different from any other street portrait. They are very competent photos. The subjects, in some ways, carry the photos more than the photos themselves. Of course, part of photography is finding the right subject. It’s also thinking outside of just the technical aspects.
Learning lighting is cool and fun. But the very best way to facilitate tremendous growth in your photography is to commit some time, energy and extended thought to a good project. Without exception, every good photographer I know uses projects as a way to shape and amplify their work.
Of course, knowing the technical aspects of photography is incredibly important. (That’s why we schedule OCF classes, for one.) However, what Humans of New York shows is that it’s important to have a cohesive idea, and to follow through with that idea. Not only do the photographs become larger with meaning as they are grouped together, but the captions are also a highlight of the project. As Stanton explained in a recent profile in Storyboard:
A lot of the quality in my content comes from the caption. The most popular photos are, meh, average. I messed them up. But then afterwards I’ll be having a conversation with a person and they’ll give me a great line. A great quote can really carry a bad photo.
We highly advise finding inspiration in Humans of New York. Then brainstorm a cool project and stick with it for a while, or go out into your own hometown and take some pictures of people (always ask for permission!).