Brian Smith at MOPA

With Pictures of the Year International in our galleries, MOPA has been focused on photojournalism lately. We had a great workshop by Sam Hodgson and more recently a presentation by Pulitzer Prize winner, Brian Smith. I wanted to share some of what Brian shared back on August 1st.  I certainly won’t do him justice, as he is a very charismatic speaker and his career has been a rather dynamic one. But, in an effort to share what I learned, here are some highlights.

Shoot 50 Strangers
One of the main ideas Brian communicated was that to shoot portraits, the subject has to be comfortable with you.  That also means you have to be comfortable shooting them. To help this process he suggested, if portraits are something that interest you, that you go out and shoot 50 strangers. 

Swing for the Fences
Especially while you are starting out, why not take some big chances. What do you have to lose? So if you are shooting something along with numerous other photographers, don’t take the safe shot that everyone is getting. Try and get that unique shot that will make you stand out. It may work. It may not. But you won’t stand out from the crowd if you take the same shot as everyone else.

Sweat the Small Stuff
I loved this comment. Brian mentioned how you always hear, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” But photography is about the small stuff. You should consider every element when shooting. Pay attention to details.

Shoot One for Yourself
This was the point that I think resonated best with the room. If you are hired for an assignment, give the client what they asked for. Some clients will apparently give you a laundry list of the exact shots they want. Give them those shots. But, before you are done, get the shot(s) that you want. Regardless of whether the client asked for it, if you see a great opportunity, take it. That could very well be the shot that gets chosen.

Those are only 4 highlights from Brian’s presentation. He covered much more and gave everyone some great food for thought as well as entertaining stories. If you ever have the chance to see Brian speak, you should treat yourself. And if you are in San Diego and want to learn more about photojournalism, be sure to check out what MOPA is currently offering.

You can also see other little tidbits from Brian Smith on our Twitter feed @MOPASD and by following #mopajournalism.