National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale takes you on an adventure to Venice Beach, California, sharing her documentary photography techniques. Immersion and relentless observation are key in Ami’s practice. She always arrives at a place before the sun comes up and revisits it again at sundown to capture the best photos, understanding the place through patience and persistence. Ami will take you step-by-step through her best practices of finding the beauty in a person or an experience, and telling a story through that. This class is great for aspiring photojournalists, professional photographers seeking inspiration, and everyone who seeks essential tips and zen habits for documenting the world around them.
What You'll Learn
- Introduction. Documentary photography, though it shares common features with street photography and travel photography, is a distinct discipline unto itself, and Ami Vitale brings her expertise in photojournalism to this challenging art form to capture images that intrigue and inspire viewers. In these lessons, she will show you how to virtually become a natural part of the landscape, and therefore better able to take photos that genuinely reflect not just the people, but the spirit of a place.
- Project: Document a Place in 2 Photos. Ami’s approach to documentary photography involves patience and repetition. For this project, she recommends staying in one place for one hour and letting life unfold before you. A documentary photographer shouldn’t feel the need to chase down their subjects. Instead, they should become a part of the world they wish to photograph in order to see that place more clearly, which requires what she calls, “The Art of Patience.”
- Shooting Sunrise. Ami arrives at Venice Beach, CA before sunrise and explains the philosophy behind her approach. Sunrises and sunsets may have the same kind of light, but the energy is completely different. She gives her thoughts on how to best approach people, as well as what you should do after you take their photo.
- Equipment. Keeping a low profile is essential to capturing the most honest photos, and this includes streamlining your equipment. A giant camera can be an obstacle between you and the people you want to talk to, and Ami shows you what she carries in her camera bag, as well as a few items you might consider leaving at home. She also breaks down how and why you should have backups for your backups, as well as the importance of keeping your camera in working order.
- Perspective. Many photojournalism courses prepare photographers for a “Get in. Get photos. Get out.” approach. Yet, Ami’s class on Skillshare advocates for a much more complete approach. It takes time to tell a story, and in her career, she has found ways to get beyond the sensational and superficial to document the truth behind them. She shares a few stories from her travels that can help you avoid unwanted attention, tunnel vision, and other pitfalls of the traditional approach. She’ll show you how to embrace the situation and jump in, which not only leads to better photographs but also helps you see from the perspective of your subjects while also creating a bond with them that can help you find the story, wherever you are.
- Shooting Sunset. At the end of the day, Ami returns to Venice Beach, this time at sunset to rediscover the place she had seen only a few hours before. The empty, tranquil beach is now buzzing with nightlife, showing a completely different side of itself for your camera. She also shares some techniques on how to keep your images sharp, even in low light, as well as what to avoid in the background of your photos.