Take a look at what you're looking at 

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
This may not make a whole lot of sense at first, but you don’t have to be a brilliant photographer to photograph the truth.

Think about it: A camera is a tool that faithfully records what’s put in front of it. Photographing your subjects in a truthful way doesn't require any more than using this tool correctly.

I’m reminded of this when I find myself trying to do too much with my camera, like crazy compositions or lens choices that exaggerate the subject matter.

As I live my photo life, slowly but surely I realize that I don’t need to dramatize what’s in front of me. Rather, I need to use the camera to record what my eye sees.

A mentor of mine often quoted photographer Jay Maisel: “Take a look at what you’re looking at.” It sounds trite, but it's profound.

Few of us truly see what we’re looking at. It’s the photographer's job to take an honest look and a as witness and truth-teller.

For example, a couple of years ago I spent an afternoon at the Marion House with the reporting staff of the Indy. We interviewed and photographed subjects who shared their stories of homelessness.

I purposefully made the portraits of these homeless men and women as simply and as straightforward as I could. The truth in these is seen in the faces of these men and women, not any fancy artistry or the technique on my part. They’re truly living hard lives.

The lesson here is to simply stay out of the way of your picture-making and take a good, hard, unflinching look at what you’re looking at. Make a record of it with your camera. The results may surprise you. 
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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