The Real Stuff; Want To Know Why I’m Sick And Tired Of Talking About Equipment? Buckle Up And Read On Page 2

My wife, Shannon, was an art director and art buyer for 10 years. She's one of the reasons I'm in stock photography today. A decade ago I'd see her bring home royalty-free disks of images, and I'd peek over her shoulder as she searched for pictures. As I watched I'd often say things like, "That's intriguing..." or "That shot isn't technically that good; why did you pick it?" Well, often she chose an image because it satisfied a concept, a headline, or the theme of a project she was working on, but most of the time her choices were based on the emotional content of the picture. I'd say, "This isn't a very good shot. Now, this one is a good shot--look at the lighting here. He backlit this, probably used three heads, probably f/8..." And Shannon would say, "Jack, first of all you lost me with the three heads business, and secondly, who cares?" Eventually I got the message: the emotion of a picture is so much more important than how it was taken. Three magic words: emotion trumps craft.

These days I look at my pictures and they have nothing to do with the cameras and lenses I used to take them. They have everything to do with the day I was having, my spirit on that day, the friendliness, cooperation, and trust of the people.

I wasn't very technical to start with, and the older I get, the less I care about the tools I'm using. And I think my photography is getting better every year. Not because of the cameras I shoot with, but because of who I am and the connections I make with the world. Stick a camera in my hands, any camera, with any lens, and I will come back with the shot.

The photos I take for commercial jobs, for tourist bureaus, or self-assignment stock are probably a little out of the realm of the work you might do. Although I shoot my share of non-professionals, many of the people I work with are professional models. But what I'm most concerned with is exactly within your realm and experience, and that's emotion. It's what we both want to capture.

Chances are you're going to be photographing people you know, and that's your advantage. You know their personalities better than I'll know the moves of my models. You know where they like to hang out and what they like to do. You know their habits, reactions, and expressions. And if you're photographing people you meet on your travels, that's where empathy and kindness, diplomacy and psychology come into play. How you photograph people has nothing to do with the camera in your hands; it has to do with the ideas in your head.

Prime or zoom? Pixels or silver halide? Who cares? Think instead about what you're giving to the people you photograph and what you're getting from them. The photos here show emotion, and they are the result of working well with people. The cameras and lenses I used? I'm not going to tell you, and you shouldn't care.

Grab your camera and share some emotions.