“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t wide enough”

The great conflict and war photographer Robert Capa famously said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He meant that, in many types of photojournalism, documentary, and street photography, you need to be physically and emotionally close to the action to get the shot. Agree.

But let me propose a different perspective: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not wide enough.”

When you take a photograph, whether, with a standalone camera or a phone, you usually want to have a single focal point. This is your main subject or content. In artistic terms, this is often called the “positive” space.

All the space around your subject is the context or the “negative” space.

Remarkable and memorable photos often strike a balance between content and context, positive and negative space.
When I shoot portraits, I feel the urge to get close like Capa. I want to capture the intimacy and humanity of the face-to-face encounter.

But when I shoot travel, landscapes, and general scenes, I tend to go in the opposite direction: wide rather than close.

The wide shot is a different kind of intimacy.

In these wide shots from a recent visit to Cape Cod, I realized that my wide context was, indeed, my content.



Jack Hollingsworth