Photographer George Steinmetz has won numerous awards for his distinctive photography. As a regular contributor to 'National Geographic' magazine, he is almost constantly traveling somewhere new. Unlike many photographers who take pride in being extremely close to their subjects, however, Steinmetz prefers to shoot from above the fray. Really far above it, in fact, using a custom-designed, motorized paraglider. The resulting images (which have been collected in three books: 'African Air,' 'Empty Quarter,' and 'Desert Air'), are stunning and feature utterly transporting, rarely seen perspectives of our planet, with a particular focus on the beauty and danger of the world's extreme deserts.
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The technology of photography has completely changed since Steinmetz first began shooting professionally 30 years ago; the techniques haven't, according to Steinmetz. For him, photography is less about the tools and more about passion, point of view, and craft. "There's a language to photography and you have to be in control of it," he says. "You may have a zoom lens, but that doesn't mean anything. What are you trying to say as a photographer?" Before you can dream big, though, you have to learn the fundamentals of your tools. We asked Steinmetz to offer his insights. He took time off from a shoot in China to guide us through a mini master class of what it takes to snap great photos.
Tidy up your photo library.
If your photos are scattered across different computers, hard drives, and mobile devices to the point where you can't find anything, then it's time to start a single archive immediately. For Steinmetz, it's not about which type of software you use to keep track of everything – he uses Media Pro, in case you were wondering – it's about picking a system and sticking to it.
He suggests setting up a system that lets you easily search images chronologically: "Every time you download a picture to your hard drive, give it a unique number," Steinmetz says. "Start with the date, as a year-month-day system, then add a number for each photo. That way, all your pictures show up in your archive in order. Once you do that, you'll be able to more easily edit your material, and see your mistakes and successes. That's the only way you're going to get better."
Credit: Photograph by Ant Green