Saturday, March 15, 2014


The Why Not 100 is a blog about creativity. Books, poems, films, quotations, characters, settings, descriptions, ideas, words, pictures. So why not take a detour into photography, too? It is setting as story, moment as description, picture as poetry.

George Lange is a world-class photographer ( Not only can he turn the everyday moment into a masterpiece, he has photographed icons ranging from the Obamas to Adam Sandler. He has photographed Ewan McGregor with his head inside a lion’s jaws, Jonah Hill watering some mysteriously floating flowers, Jim Carrey with eight clothespins attached to his rubbery face, Sophia Loren holding a leaf blower, and the cast of “Will and Grace” tossing martinis at the camera.

Oh, and my family, which is more like the cast of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

That was about three-dozen years ago when my parents, my siblings and I were visiting his family in Pittsburgh. You see, George is a cousin of mine. He must have only been about 19 or 20 at the time, but he led us to his backyard and photographed us against a stark white background. The photos still hang in my parents’ second-floor hallway.

My point is this: He can make anything look good. And he recently wrote a book offering suggestions to allow the rest of us to take perfect pictures, too.

The Unforgettable Photograph by George Lange with Scott Mowbray offers “228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life.” Each tip is accompanied by a fantastic photo representing that very notion. It’s a gorgeous yet practical book—inside information to get you to think outside the box.

Here I’ve chosen 88 of my favorite tips, starting with an obvious preference:

1. Take your “Why Not” pictures
2. Prepare, then improvise
3. Get intimate with food
4. Take a fast family portrait
5. Create a bit of imagined peril

6. Get close to the grotesque
7. Move past the “I Was Here” postcard
8. Isolate a single moment
9. Ease into intimacy
10. Don’t sweat the group shot
11. Move to baby’s eye level
12. Don’t force a smile
13. Catch the last bit of sunlight
14. When in doubt, hold them upside down
15. Find the right distance for intimacy
16. Play with your subjects

17. Submit to the chaos
18. Don’t worry: people won’t mind
19. Let it breathe
20. Move your eye away from the main subject
21. Negotiate with shyness
22. Look for the stories that light reveals
23. Avoid the flash
24. Move outside and shoot in
25. Move inside and shoot out
26. Play people against geometry
27. Keep an eye on the shadows
28. Play with the dynamics of a duo
29. Wait for those fleeting moments of baby attitude
30. Block the shot
31. Use an object out of context

32. Cut off their heads
33. Find  a patch of light
34. Shoot their tears
35. Embrace the awkward
36. Don’t be afraid of the dark
37. Shoot young people with old things
38. Create funny moments
39. Let the kid work the picture
40. Get close to a big, wet kiss
41. See the moments you cannot make up
42. Move to a fresh angle of the action
43. Embrace the energy of blur
44. Cover the face

45. Play with the mystery of water
46. Move to a tight, simple angle
47. Crop while you shoot
48. Know where the best light in your house is
49. Shoot the quiet
50. Catch the rhythm of the action
51. Move around, 90 degrees
52. Find intimate light
53. Move down, look up
54. Move underneath
55. Push the lens out of focus
56. Play with scale
57. Shoot the dirt
58. Put babies in surprising places
59. Face them into soft light
60. Anything is a prop

61. Move into the action
62. Use the drama of hard light
63. Turn up the volume
64. Just dive in
65. Keep the funny simple
66. Balance light and dark
67. Let the kid play!
68. Pan the camera
69. Use things the “wrong” way
70. Play with depth of field
71. Push their limits
72. Shoot the distance between people
73. Write on a blackboard
74. Capture splash and spray

75. Try an out-of-focus foreground
76. Capture two gazes in one shot
77. Use a dramatic sky as your backdrop
78. Drop to the floor
79. Move to a bird’s-eye view
80. Shoot against backlight
81. Make a scene dreamy
82. Use the macro setting on your camera
83. Pose people with their pets
84. Shoot gorgeous people in gorgeous light
85. Try portraits at low shutter speeds
86. Be patient
87. Find beauty in the every day
88. Remember, there’s almost always enough light

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