Shoot from the gut

“My photography is not ‘brain photography’. I put my brain under the pillow when I shoot. I shoot with my heart and with my stomach.” – Anders Petersen

Anders Petersen is one of the most influential contemporary master photographers. He shoots with a simple point-and-shoot film camera (Contax T3) and shoots soulful black and white images which he refers to as “personal documentary.” He makes himself and the people he meets as his main subjects, and he shoots from the heart.

A photograph without emotion is dead. The problem that a lot of photographers make is that they try to become too analytical with their photography. They are too preoccupied with composition, framing, form, nice light, and they forget the most important thing of making a memorable image: creating an image that has heart, soul, and passion.

When you’re out shooting, try not too be too analytical. Shoot from your intuition and your guts. If you find anything even remotely interesting, don’t self-censor yourself.

Don’t let your brain tell you: “Don’t take that shot, it is boring, and nobody will find it interesting.” Take the photograph anyways, because you can always edit it out (remove it) later.

But when is it time to become analytical?

“It is more after when I am shooting when I am looking at my contact sheets, and then I try to analyze and put things together.” – Anders Petersen

Shoot from your gut when you’re out on the streets, but use your brain when you’re at home and editing (selecting) your shots. Analyze your images after-the-fact as a post-mortem, and learn how to “kill your babies” (weak photos that you are emotionally attached to, but you know aren’t great photos).

Separate the shooting and editing sides of your photography. They use different parts of your brains, and if you try to do both of them at the same time, you will fail.

As a practical tip, turn off your LCD screen when shooting, and refrain from looking at your images immediately after you’ve shot them (they call this “chimping”). Why? It kills your shooting “flow.”

Furthermore, let your shots “marinate” by not looking at them until a week after you have made your images.

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