Lessons from Masters, Photography

7 Lessons from Alan Schaller.

Alan Schaller is a London based photographer specializing in black and white photography. His strong ability to intermix high contrast lighting on the street with architectural composition makes him stand out. Playing with light and shadow, Schaller takes us into the heart of an unknown city by capturing the abstract form where humans are less important than the space that overwhelms them.

In a video by COOPH, Alan Schaller, the co-founder of Street Photography International (a collective of street photographers who formed with the aim to promote the best Street Photography from around the world, and to provide a platform for unrepresented photographers with talent), gives seven invaluable tips and insights on getting better at the craft.

alan Schaller
  • SHOOT BLACK AND WHITE ON PURPOSE

This advice is highly debatable because most photographers believe it’s better to capture colored photographs and turn them into black and white during post-processing. In that case, you still have the original colors which are otherwise lost while shooting in black and white. However, Alan Schaller says that a photograph that works well in color may not always look good in monochrome – a red-colored dress may stand out in your photograph, but during post-processing, you may find that it does not stand out from the surrounding when all the colors are removed. Shooting in color requires a different skillset. He recommends practicing shooting in black and white for thirty consecutive days – to make some noticeable improvements.

  • FOCUS ON WHAT MAKES BLACK AND WHITE INTERESTING

Most color photographs take into consideration how one color interacts with the other and how one of them stands out. However, Alan Schaller points out that when you are shooting in black and white, you have to use texture, contrast, tonality, and light intelligently while not getting distracted by bright hues. To begin with, you can start looking for light variations in a scene and capturing the contrast in your pictures.

  • ADAPT TO YOUR LIGHTING SITUATION

When you are out in the street with your camera, you have literally no control over the lighting. If it’s cloudy outside and you want to capture high contrast images, it’s almost impossible. So do not force it. Look for something else instead. Schaller reminds us to take whatever we have and roll with it – there is no such thing as bad lighting!

  • CHANGE PERSPECTIVE

If for several months your photographs feel boring to you, it’s time to change your perspective. Alan Schaller suggests switching to interesting angles in order to present the world in a different way through your photographs.

  • MAKE GOOD USE OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Be mindful of the surrounding that you are in. Look for geometry, reflections, and context to get creative with your street snaps. It’s more than just focusing on the human element. You will surely do great if you combine a good subject with a good background and lighting.

  • CAPTURE A GOOD RANGE OF CONTRAST

Remember how the Zone System by Ansel Adams represents every tone in the image? Similarly, Schaller encourages to include the whole tonal range to make a successful image. There should be both pure black and pure white. This tip works great for street photography.

  • POST-PROCESSING SHOULD BE WISELY DONE

We have to be creative while pressing the shutter. We can’t push our photos excessively during post-processing, we can only improvise on what we have already captured. Some photographs will not look good no matter what – learning to accept that is an important part of becoming a good photographer. Schaller describes post-processing as “varnishing a table that’s already been well made.”

In case you are residing in or near London, you can receive one on one coaching from Alan Schaller for one whole day. Check the details here.