Want to know what the number one tip for improving your photography is?
Look for the light.
The light is everything. After all, that's what a camera does: it reads the light, and turns it into a photograph. So the first thing you should always do before you take a shot, every time, is look for the light. Every other decision you make afterwards -- how you frame the image, how you adjust the settings on your camera -- it's all based upon the light.*
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I spent this past weekend taking lots of photographs, as well as culling through my archives for a personal project. The work had me thinking about the words we use to describe someone when we find them particularly striking: we call them "radiant." We say they "glow." We describe their smiles as being "like the sun," or we marvel how their eyes "sparkle."
Scientifically speaking, all matter on this planet are made of atoms and molecules, including humans. And, apparently, some atoms, when they come in contact with energy, produce light.
So I have a theory: I think the reason we use so many light words to describe people is because they actually emit light. I think there's a reason that when I describe my process for taking portraits, and I say "I look for their light" before I squeeze the shutter, that the description doesn't feel like simply metaphor.
Most simply, as Moby puts it, I think we actually are all made of stars.
And so ...
... want to know what the number one tip for improving your interactions with people, reducing the stereotypes we all hold about those who are different from us, and generally seeing the beauty that we all have?
Look for their light.**
* If you'd like to learn more about light and how to improve your photographs (and help fight poverty), consider subscribing to gratitude.2012. I'd love to have you. And if you do so in the next couple of days, you'll be in time to receive the April issue on April 1st.