Robert Capa Quotes
Few photographers are willing to pay the ultimate price for their photographs. The famous combat photographer Robert Capa did.
Who was Robert Capa?
Robert Capa was a Hungarian war photographer. His most famous photograph is the ‘Falling Soldier’ taken during the Spanish Civil war. He was the only civilian photographer who landed on Omaha Beach on D-day. In 1954, at the age of 40, he was killed by a landmine while photographing the fist Indochina war in Vietnam.
He was one of the founding members of the renowned photojournalist agency Magnum.
One of the most famous Robert Capa quotes is:
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
I’ve always believed this is true for the actual physical closeness to your subject. But there’s also a deeper level to his words. It’s about the connections you make with the people and the places you photograph.
Let’s explore both levels starting with the more obvious level.
Cross the Threshold
When I coach people in real life one of the struggles I see them having is getting close to their subjects.
There seems to be a fear to come close. And this is not just when they’re photographing people. I’ve seen it happen when someone is photographing objects or buildings, nature, etc. as well.
I guess there is a natural tendency to keep a civilized distance to the world that surrounds us and I get that. It‘s the personal space issue. And we seem to extend that to non-living things. To get close we need to cross that perceived threshold.
Are You Zooming?
Chances are you like to photograph with a zoom lens. For one because most kit lenses, the one that comes with your camera is a zoom lens. But it’s also the more convenient choice.
With a zoom lens, you’re able to keep your distance and still shoot from close by. Or at least that’s what it seems to be doing.
But deep down you know that bringing the subject closer to you is not the solution. You need to get closer to your subject to fill the frame.
Getting closer yourself helps you in several ways. When you use your legs you become a more active and involved photographer. Simply zooming in will bring the image closer but it doesn’t allow you to explore different points of view. Your point of view will stay the same.
The moment you start to walk toward your subject is the moment a wide array of different points of view start to open up for you. And here’s where the two levels coincide. Because when you walk around you start to observe and enquire. Asking yourself questions about what it is you’re photographing will connect you to your subject.
Read More about point of view in Do You Think We See The Same?
Photography is a form of communication. You want to share something with the world and tell your story. There’s a receiver at the other end who needs to see and feel that story. And you know what?
If you don’t feel it, the viewer won’t feel it. The viewer can’t connect to your pictures if you didn’t connect to your subject.
That’s why you need to be an involved photographer. You need to throw yourself in the experience and become a part of it.
Start to talk to people and try to gain an understanding of the places you visit. Come close by actually using your legs and walk toward your subject. You’ll discover this becomes way easier after you’ve made a connection.
Read More about how to connect to people in You Think The Best Spot Is Behind Your Camera?
Fixing Your Zoom
So what to do if you have a zoom lens and don’t wanna invest in a prime lens? You leave the lens at the same focal length. Basically, don’t use the zoom function! If you feel tempted to keep using the zoom a good solution is to fixate it with a piece of tape. This will also help you to get a feeling for how it’s gonna be like to shoot with a prime lens.
One of the major advantages of shooting with a prime lens is that it makes you more creative. Because it forces you to explore different strategies to get the image you want. A fixed focal length invites you to be active, to involve yourself and to come close physically.