David McLain is one of the greatest photographers of his generation. He shoots assignments around the world for National Geographic and he creates feature-length documentaries and short films. His 2016 award-winning documentary Bounce (created with Jerome Thelia) explores why we play ball. In his storied career, McLain has developed and stuck with a core set of principles. In this 6-part series, we'll explore how those principals shaped his images and his success as a professional photographer and filmmaker and how you can apply them to your own career.
How you see the world and what you have to say about it (also known as point of view) is the single most valuable asset you have as a photographer. Developing a strong point of view has as much to do with what you read, think, and have seen as it does with how much time you have spent behind the camera.
There are lots of photographers who can shoot nice pictures but far fewer who have a strong point of view. Spend as much time developing your point of view as you do thinking about the technical aspects of photography. Take a look at the great photographers (I’m biased, but National Geographic has a lot of them) and think about how their images reflect a strong and particular point of view.
Where you live, the way you grew up, who your peer group is, what your personal interests are, and what kind of things and subjects you are attracted to all work together to make you who you are. For me, empathy and respect for all different kinds of people coupled with an optimistic outlook on life form the bedrock of my own point of view. Photography is just a vehicle to explore these interests, not an ends to itself. Take a look at the images above and think about how they reflect my particular point of view.
What’s your point of view and what do you need to do to continually nurture and develop it? How can you use your love of photography to be a reflection of this point of view? The more time you spend exploring these questions the stronger your work will become as a photographer.