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A constant request I get from my friends is to “teach me to take photos like you do.” I find I have to stop myself from responding like George Costanza: “That’s like asking Picasso to teach me to paint like you paint.” The arrogance of the statement is only half of the issue; the other half is that it’s very hard to explain how someone visualizes a photograph. Many times I don’t even know what has drawn my eye to take the picture until I sort through my photos later.

Abstract photos are particularly difficult to explain. Take Erin’s photo above, a great abstract photo. What drew her eye to take this photo? If it was the peeling paint, she could have cropped it more like this. Was it the contrasting colors in the scene; the dull tones of the paint, with the muted reflected colors? It’s easy to say it was all of the above, but it could have been the shape of the window. Or perhaps even something I am missing. How does what explain finding and taking this picture?

And if the aim was to get something abstract, there are many types that could work; ceilings, portions of railings, shadows on sidewalks, even reflections of signs.

The ultimate answer is you shoot what catches your eye. It’s a carefully cultivated talent, that is unique to each person. I, or any photographer, could no more teach this skill than Picasso teach us to paint like he does. Each person just has to go out there and take photos the way they take photos.

Brian is so DC. Born on Pennsylvania Ave (not there) to a lifelong Federal worker father and a mother who has worked for Garfinkel’s, the Smithsonian, and Mount Vernon. Raised on the “mean streets” of Cheverly, MD; went to high school at Gonzaga College High School (Hail Alma Mater!); and now trolls the corridors of Congress as a lobbyist, you couldn’t write a more quintessentially DC back-story. When he isn’t trying to save the country from itself, Brian can be found walking DC looking for that perfect photograph.

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