Why This National Geographic Photographer Doesn't Get Bogged Down by Technical Details

I bet you've never heard the top photographers arguing about what settings to use for a particular shot. If you want to know why, look no further than this video.

Here, Mark Silber, of Advancing Your Photography, sits down with adventure photographer, Cory Richards, to discuss some tips on how to improve your photography. Not content with explaining what settings he uses for a each shot, Richards instead focuses on why he chooses to shoot his subjects in a particular way. The first image he discusses with Silber was shot with a point-and-shoot camera, it was a selfie, and it wasn't even shot in raw format. However, as you'll note from the video, emotion and context are key. The photo ended up on the cover of the 125th edition of National Geographic magazine because of what happened just before it. Further proof that the best camera in the world is the one you have on you.

It's fantastic insight into the thought process of a top photographer, and, at least on some level, I can completely relate to the main thesis. The best photographs all have one thing in common: they can connect with their subject on an emotional level. As Richards says: it doesn't have to be technically perfect. If you can capture the essence of a moment, you're on to something. 

What was your main takeaway from the interview?

Mike O'Leary's picture

Mike is a landscape and commercial photographer from, Co. Kerry, Ireland. In his photographic work, Mike tries to avoid conveying his sense of existential dread, while at the same time writing about his sense of existential dread. The last time he was in New York he was mugged, and he insists on telling that to every person he meets.

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Very nice! It does not matter how technically competent you are if you cannot get the shot!

Like photographic feng shui. Freshly inspirational.

Mike O'Leary said,

"I bet you've never heard the top photographers arguing about what settings to use for a particular shot."

Actually, in my genre - wildlife photography - they do argue, or at least emphatically discuss, the settings that are used for each image.

I spend a fair amount of time with several of the world's most successful wildlife photographers. The guys who are making their entire income from licensing their wildlife images for publication - not just guys who lead photo tours or workshops or whatever (technically, those people aren't even pro photographers, they are pro tour guides or pro educators).

Anyway, the world's top wildlife photographers are very concerned about the technical aspects of the images that they take, and spend a lot of time, effort, and research via trial and error, to ensure that they use the settings that will bring them closest to technical perfection.

Many stock agencies and publishers have very stringent submission guidelines, with an extreme emphasis put on the technical requirements of any photos submitted. Any images that one submits is being scrutinized on a 5k monitor way beyond 100%. If you're trying to make you living by licensing hundreds of images every month to publishers and agencies, then they had better be darn near perfect, or they will not be chosen.

natural light is best. really like it.