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Move closer to your subject to make better pictures


  • © Sean Cayton / All Rights Reserved
The famous war photographer Robert Capa once said: “If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.”

I’m reminded of that quote whenever I attend the Manitou Springs Emma Crawford Coffin Races. Every year I bring my camera to this fun event that features teams of ghouls and goblins racing coffins in the street.

This year it happened before the snow fell and on a beautiful blue sky day in Colorado. This kind of light can be very difficult to photograph in, and the scene is also quite busy. Hundreds of visitors wander the streets and check out the hearses, coffins and the teams who enter the race.

I tend to avoid photographing the race itself and concentrate more on photographing the participants before the race starts.

Last week I wrote about how to isolate your subject matter using a wide open aperture. For the coffin races, however, I bring my walk-around camera the Fuji X100f, so I don’t have an easy way to shoot things with a super shallow depth of field.

Instead, I take Robert Capa’s words to heart. I get close. By getting close, I can make some great portraits and isolate my portrait subject. That way I keep distracting elements like signs or people who aren’t in costume out of the frame.

Getting close takes some courage. You can’t be afraid to walk up to someone and get the camera right in their face. Fortunately, this event is one that is meant to be photographed and the participants love having their photo taken.

So, the lesson here is pretty simple. By physically moving closer to your subject, you can isolate them, keeping distracting elements out of the frame, which makes better pictures.

Give it a try and happy shooting!
Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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