EVERYONE NEEDS A HERO
For the last two weeks I had the distinct honor of being one of four photographers involved in judging the graduating class at a high-end photography school.  The students pay 60K to learn and master the art of photography and come from all over the world.  Before graduating each student must produce a twenty seven-image portfolio of his or her finest work.   The student portfolios are judged by an outside panel of working photographers who judge each photographer on the merits of their work.  During the judging process the students have their work critiques and receive helpful advice to guide them in the transition from student to working photographer.


In this image of a beautiful model, you almost don’t see her. She becomes the canvas and the hero of the image is the Butterfly.

By the end the judges worked with 160 students and viewed 4,320 images.   Hopefully the lessons learned will last a lifetime for all involved.  The two lessons that stand out the most to me are the importance of starting a portfolio, or website, with your most powerful image and finding the hero in your image.  Starting your portfolio with the most powerful image is critical if you want to make a great impression with your work.  You can never assume any potential client will look at all of your work.


This is from a recent ad I shot for Wells Fargo.  In this image shot on location, the focus and hero of the shot is the father and baby son.

Equally as important is finding the hero in your image.   The hero element is the focus of your image and helps the viewer understand your reason for creating the photo. The hero element can be as simple as a great smile in a portrait or an intense stare in the portrait of the Mona Lisa.  The image of the model show has the hero element focused on the hair but the hero can be complex, subliminal or screaming from the image.


This is a group of three celebrity subjects. But the focus is all about the guy, actor Shemar Moore from “Criminal Minds,” who has two beautiful woman kissing him on the cheek.

Take the photo of Hillary Clinton taken during the mission to capture Osama Bin Laden. There are many people in this image, including President Obama but the hero in this image is actually Hillary.  Take a good look at the focus of this image and her expression.  Everything else in this image works to create this powerful moment but the photographer focused directly on Hillary and she is the hero or focus of this powerful image.


This is a group of horses in Iceland, but the hero of this shot is the horse in the center of the image that looks directly into the camera.

Who’s the hero of your images?

Today, start thinking about how you can make your images stronger by finding your hero.  There are many ways to do this from using depth of field, to lighting to direction of your subjects when possible.  For the landscape photographer the hero might be color, or shape but every image has a hero and from this day forward I hope you find your photo hero.

You can see more of Matthew’s work at MatthewJordanSmith.com, and get photography lessons at Gallery.MatthewJordanSmith.com