Photography Tips & Insights from Steve McCurry

Scott Schuman was granted the pleasure of interviewing iconic photographer, Steve McCurry, earlier this year and was kind enough to edit the footage together into a five part video series. Each of the videos covers a different aspect of the life of a professional photographer.

In the first episode, McCurry discusses the importance of light when shooting street portraits. As a rule of thumb, McCurry plans his shooting days around the light. His daily itinerary puts him outside when the sun is most flattering, typically in the morning and evenings, and indoors, such as in a market or temple, when the sun is overhead and harsh. This ensures he has good lighting all day:

We all draw inspiration from the work of other photographers, including McCurry, who says one of his most admired photographers is Magnum Photos founder, Henri Cartier-Bresson. McCurry is drawn to Cariter-Bresson in part by the timelessness of Cartier-Bresson’s work and also the Frenchman’s impeccable eye for composition.

For McCurry, the day starts at the first sign of sunrise and continues until the sun has set, taking just a couple breaks in between. To be able to spend such long hours shooting, McCurry knows the importance of packing lightly and being comfortable. Even on days when he isn’t feeling quite up to the challenge of day in the field, he pushes through and forces himself to go shoot, a process which McCurry feels is essential to improve one’s photography.

Unfortunately, creative blocks will eventually affect anyone who finds themselves inside an artistic field, photography included. The importance of being able to work through the slumps is something McCurry figured out early in his career. One of the ways he prepares for these times is by going out to the streets with his camera and just start photographing things–even photos he knows aren’t quite what he is looking for. Sometimes, McCurry adds, just getting out and warming up is enough to get him back on his game.

As someone who has taken some of his most famous photographs on slide film, McCurry has no qualms about the digital takeover. In fact, he’s pleased with the way gadgets such as camera phones make photography so accessible to the public. McCurry, a firm believer that people should document their lives, says he, too, occasionally uses his iPhone to make a photograph.

“It’s mostly failure walking around taking pictures, some of them are okay, but you’re looking for some special spark. You have to look at the percentage, look at the big picture and realize at the end of the week you will have pictures you like.”

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