Marc Silber is a best selling author, photographer, filmmaker, and producer of the very popular Youtube series Advancing Your Photography, where he has interviewed scores of some of the biggest names in photography.
He started out learning darkroom skills and the basics of photography at the legendary Peninsula School in Menlo Park, CA, in the '60s, and moved on to hone his skills to professional standards at the famed San Francisco Art Institute. Marc moved into teaching photography in workshops all over the country, he became renowned as an engaging and helpful speaker and coach, as his greatest joy comes from helping others.
He loves adventure and you'll find him out backpacking surfing or snowboarding, or maybe just chilling, taking a walk through Carmel with his wife and Golden Retriever.
In This Episode You'll Learn:
How Marc got started in photography
Where Marc got the idea for his new book Create
What surprised Marc most when interviewing non photographers about creativity
Common misconceptions people have about creativity and where it comes from
Key tools Marc learned from seriously talented people
Simple ways we can increase our creativity
When a piece stops being a photograph and becomes art
The most actionable takeaway Marc has for photographers who read his book.
Did you enjoy this episode? Check out more recent interviews with other great guests!
Full Interview Transcription:
Disclaimer: The transcript was transcribed electronically and may contain errors that do not reflect accurately what the speaker said. Because of this, please do not quote this automated transcript.
Raymond: 00:00:00 Hey Raymond here from the beginning of photography podcast and today we are learning about tools from seriously talented people to unleash your creative life. So let's get into it.
Intro: 00:00:13 Welcome to the beginner photography podcast with Raymond Hatfields, the podcast dedicated to helping you grow your photography skills. Raymon interviews the world's top photographers in their field to ask questions that will get you taking better photos today. Now with you as always, husband, father, Ho brewer, La Dodger Fan and Indianapolis wedding photographer Raymond Hatfield. Welcome to the [inaudible].
Raymond: 00:00:42 This week's interview, as always, I am Raymond Hatfield, your host and Indianapolis wedding photographer. This has been a a quite a week here in the Midwest. It has been extremely hot. There's been a lot of times spent in doors and when you have kids who kind of have to stay indoors because it's, it's almost unbearably hot outside at the, you really don't get a lot done throughout the week. I've realized a, so I am ready for to cool down for sure, but I know that this has affected like I think they said 220 million Americans. This, this heat wave that we got going on. So, uh, if you're out there and you're listening, um, you know, I'm with you. I'm with you here today. So hopefully soon it'll cool down and, uh, it'll be a lot more comfortable. But this week, this week, I am, I'm, I'm very excited, uh, because I have the pleasure of speaking with past guest who's been on the show twice before mark Silber about his brand new book called create tools from seriously talented people to unleash your creative lifestyle.
Raymond: 00:01:47 So this book, um, is, is mark interviews a lot of people who aren't just photographers. That's mainly what Marka focuses on himself, but, and all of his past books, in fact, he has a youtube channel called advancing your photography. But in this book he talks to CEOs, uh, motorcycle instructors, uh, just a ton of people who aren't maybe what you would think traditional creatives. Um, and then he kind of breaks down their creative, how they've created a very, how they've created, know how they created a very creative life. And, uh, it's just a wonderful, wonderful interview. And talking with mark. I always know what's going to be a fantastic interview, just loaded with great tips and takeaways. And his book is exactly the same. So I actually got an advanced copy of his book and I can tell you that if you like the style of this podcast, which is a lot less technical than a lot of other photography podcast and more about the why and how, then you're going to love his new book.
Raymond: 00:02:51 So if you're interested, you can get a on Amazon, his new book starting tomorrow, July 23rd. Um, or you can just swipe up on the podcast player and check out the show notes. I will have a link to where you can buy the book now, but if you want to win a copy of Mark's new book, I have some great news for you today. I am opening very limited enrollment to my new online video course, Auto to amazing. Now you're thinking, I've heard you talk about this before, so you may be may remember that actually launched through this course last month to a group of Beta students. And I'm not going to lie. It was a whole lot harder than I expected. Um, and there were some, there were some rough spots within the course that I didn't see at first. But with the help of all of the Beta students we worked together, I took their suggestions, I added additional trainings, modified the format.
Raymond: 00:03:58 And I'm pleased to say that this course is better than ever. So in order to amazing, I promise that you will learn how to shoot manual in 30 days or less guaranteed. This is the fastest way to learn photography. The course is broken up into four weekly modules that are prerecorded so you can actually watch them whenever is convenient for you. So in week one we cover exposure and this is where we learn how to know what settings to change and when. And this is where we get into shooting manual. Week two we cover composition and how you can immediately improve the quality of your photos just by changing where you point your camera. Week three is all about light, different types of light and I'll show you how to see light. So you always keep your subject looking great. And then in week four we kind of wrap it up by bringing it all together in a series of exercises designed to solidify your understanding of photography and how to shoot in multiple situations.
Raymond: 00:05:00 So each week, some module we'll end with a simple practice exercise that focuses on that week's topics. So in the first week, which is all about exposure, I challenge you to get out and actually take your first photo in manual. So this course is not for somebody who is already comfortable with manual or or feels like they have a good grasp that they need to get to the next level. This is for those of you who are starting from zero, are shooting in auto and are ready to finally take control of your camera. And you know, take the photos that you've seen in your head and not the photos that your, that your camera sees. So after each week's a simple exercise, then we take those photos and you can come into the private auto two amazing Facebook group, share your photos, get feedback and ask questions to get you learning even quicker.
Raymond: 00:05:53 And I'm so confident that you will learn how to shoot manual in 30 days or less. But if you complete the course and you do not feel like you've learned to manual, I will give you double your money back. I'm serious. That is how confident I am in this course. If you follow it, you will learn manual. So enrollment is open today and closes on July 31st so that we can start training the next day, August 1st so August is going to be probably one of the most transformative months of your entire life. If you, if you sign up for the course as it is the month that you will learn photography. So to enroll in order to amazing, you can do so right now by hitting over to learn that beginner photography, podcast.com again, that is learn l e a r n. Dot. Beginner photography, podcast.com and I have a huge bonus also that I know you will love.
Raymond: 00:06:56 Students of Auto to Amazing. Will get access to four live Q and A's from past guests who are professional photographers. Yes, this will happen within the Facebook group. I'm talking photographers like Andrew Helmets who is also the host of the beginning of, I'm sorry, on the host of the beginning of photography podcasts Andrew Helmitch is the host of the photobiz exposed podcast. He has decades of experience and he is going to share how to best prepare for your first page shoot. We're going to have nick church in there to answer your questions, who went from zero to full time in 24 months and we'll share what you actually need to learn and what is completely, you know what is not necessary, so what you should be focusing on to get you to learn as fast as possible. There's also going to be Matt
Payne, who's a landscape photographer and he's going to walk you through how he finds locations and how he prepares for his incredible landscape photos.
Raymond: 00:07:57 So this is your opportunity. There's also one more photographer who I can't share yet because they're still confirming whether or not they will be able to commit. But I'm extremely excited. So this will be your chance if you enroll in order to amazing and become a student. This will be your chance to ask your questions, your personalized questions, questions that maybe don't apply to other people or, or you know, because of based on where you live or the gear that you have to ask your questions to these professional photographers. Oh, alive. I'm so excited about this. So again, this is only available to students of Auto to Amazing. But the bonuses aren't over. Yes. If you enroll in auto two, amazing before July 31st I guess. Yeah, by July 31st you are also going to be entered to win one of 25 different prizes totaling $1,365 I'm serious, $1,365 worth of prizes.
Raymond: 00:09:03 I am giving away prizes like today's guest, Mark Silber's brand new book, create tools from seriously talented people to unleash your creative life. So for a list of prizes and to enroll in audit too. Amazing. Just head over once again to learn that beginner photography, podcast.com that is a learn l e a r n dot beginner photography podcast.com right now. I really hope that you can tell how excited I am about this course. So much work went into it and I truly want to see each and every one of you succeed in wherever you want to go with photography. So again, if you want to enroll in audit too. Amazing. Just head over to learn dot beginning photography, podcast.com. Okay. That is it for now. How about we get on into this week's interview with Mark Silber?
Raymond: 00:10:04 Today's returned guest is a listener favorite. Today's a photographer and creative Mark Silber is back to talk all about the process of how to become creative, which a he has documented in his brand new book, create tools from seriously talented people to unleash your creative life. Mark, welcome back to the podcast. Raymond, happy to be here. As always, a pleasure. It's always nice to see a familiar face. It's fun. I feel like it is, we just have these a, it's like every time you come out with a new book, we get to another face to face. And a, I just want to let you know that I truly enjoy these, uh, these meetings and I know that the listeners do as well. So I know that this is going to be a great interview. Fantastic. Yeah. So, uh, I want to, I know that you've been, this is now your third time on the podcast. You weren't on back in episode 65 and episode 97. So for anybody who's listening, go back and listen to those because, uh, they're just, they're just wonderful. Um, little, uh, little bits of insight into Mark's life and, uh, um, I'm excited for today's episode, but for those who haven't, uh, maybe those who are new to the podcast, the podcast has grown quite a bit in the past year. Can you remind us how you got, uh, to, to where you are today?
Mark Silber: Raymond:
Wow, okay. There's a lot with a very simple question. Well,
definite point where I became a photographer. Um, here's the before point. I was shooting with a Brownie camera, taking the rolls of film to a drugstore and getting back, very disappointing prints that were muddy, small, very uncreative. And I, uh, really never felt like a photographer. One day my teacher in the seventh grade said, hey, uh, I have a dark room. Would you like to see how it works? And I thought, yeah, that would be cool. So we developed the roll film and that was the first point of magic. You know, you, you, you put the film in, you shake the can around and you come out with a roll of film. But the real magic occurred when we put it into the enlarger and all of a sudden, instead of these mighty tiny little prints, they might've been five by sevens, maybe even an eight by 10. And all of a sudden we could, uh, adjust the contrast. We
you know, I started as a photographer at age 12 before there's a
could crop. We did all these magical things. That's when I became a photographer age. Well, in fact, in my new book and previous books, I, I have photographs from that time period.
Raymond: 00:12:38 You know, it's funny because, uh, I've seen those photos in the past and I didn't know the story behind them until I read your newest book and some of your photos that I saw that you took on your trip down in Mexico just blew me away. And at the time you were still like a child, you know what I mean? Like you're still very young and developing, and yet these photos that you were producing were, uh, uh, were wonderful. The technical skill that was required to take those photos was a fantastic
Mark Silber: 00:13:05 thank you. You know, they even surprise me because not even, well, you know, I was 17 years old and even PR, yes, I had the technical skills down already by them. But really I can see that I put these people at ease because when you go to, especially a third world country, a lot of times you just get these very stiff poses as soon as you pull out a camera or worse. I've had people shake sticks at me for, oh wow. Oh yeah, come right after me with a stick. But you know, because there, there's a feeling that you're going to capture their soul. Right. And to some degree we do that as photographers. We hopefully don't do it in a negative way, but there's, there is that feeling of uncomfortability that you have to break through. And that's, I see that in my photographs, I was kind of amazed that I, at that age even, I was able to chill these people out enough to, for me to take a photograph that had some meaning to it rather than it just, you know, stiff pose like this.
Raymond: 00:14:05 Yeah. Well, I don't want to give away a too much of the story that, uh, that you shared there in the book, but I would imagine being able to get out of your high school and go to this brand new location must have, uh, uh, just kind of put you in this new mindset. And I think what a brain, oh, I bet. I bet that's, I bet that's exactly what it was. And that is, uh, that's a great chair. So I, I apologize for cutting you off there halfway to, but uh, so you started very young. Uh, and then where did it go from there?
Mark Silber: 00:14:31 Well, I, you know, kept honing my own skills, uh, largely self- taught as a photographer. I did go to the San Francisco Art Institute, um, which, you know, the main thing, the takeaway from that was all of a sudden I was into the world of other photographers because before that it was kind of just me and my own little universe showing my work. And now I'm in a more competitive situation. You know, you're dealing with a lot of other really good photographers you're getting critiqued in that started to sort of prove me up to what it was like to be a professional photographer. And from there I just kept my own learning process. I actually went in and I talk about this in the book. I went into to a completely different direction and came back to photography, uh, in the early two thousands when digital was just starting to become something that you could actually employ as a tool rather than a kind of a toy.
Mark Silber: 00:15:29 A, I, my first camera was 3.5 megapixels, you know, so, you know, it wasn't a very serious camera, but then in 2005, I really jumped into the digital world and so had to really train myself all over again. Yeah. And then from there I learned video and became a videographer and a video producer. So I just kept going on that same path and that's how I ended up doing my youtube show of, you know, the many, many photographers I interviewed over the years, which I'm still doing. Yeah. My books have grown out of that, of those conversations to a large extent.
Raymond: 00:16:06 Yeah. You know, it's a, it's funny, that's kind of where it, right. Where I was going with, uh, with my next question here is that like, you are a photographer, like that's where w where it all started for you, this kind of journey of creativity. But in your book you don't exclusively interview other photographers, which I enjoyed a ton to be able to hear
everybody else's take on, on creativity. I want to know. Um, well, I guess first can you tell me a little bit about the book and then where did you come up with the idea for the book?
Mark Silber: 00:16:38 Okay. Uh, I'm not even sure where I came up with the idea of, uh, you know, it just sort of bubbled up. Uh, I believe it was, you know, for me it was the whole transition from, okay, I feel like I've talked about photography enough at this point. I want to talk about the bigger picture, uh, of creativity because really a photograph is, is a way of communicating. It's one means of communicating what you feel or what you see, but there's a lot of other ways to do that. And I'm kind of involved in many different forms of creativity, uh, aside from photography. So I just decided to tackle this subject Kinda head on. My process at this point is to take the subject and take it apart as best I can. But then to augment that, my own learning process and what I've come across with interviews from other people that I admire in one way or another.
Mark Silber: 00:17:34 And that's basically this the same approach I had with this book. So I decided, you know, the book is an interesting thing. It kind of develops as you go. Yeah, you should, you know, you should put an outline together and you should try to follow that as best you can. But it's a big work in progress and I can imagine. Yeah. You know, it's, it develops as you go. And, um, part way through. I decided wouldn't it be cool cause I knew I was going to do some interviews but I thought wouldn't it be cool to get a variety, a wide variety of different creatives so that I wasn't just talking to photographers, I was talking to musicians and um, digital other digital artists and even a friend of mine who's a serious motorcycle racer, you know, these are all different forms of creativity. And I thought it would be interesting to see what the commonality was. So that was my premise and it paid out. You know, we did find certain common denominators, certain things they had to overcome that were very similar from person to person. And, um, to me it was a delight. Every time I did one of these interviews, I was learning something to, yeah, which has always been the case for me. I'm going to take a little sip here.
Raymond: 00:18:49 I love that because that's always been kind of like the thesis of this podcast. You know, I, you know, you can only learn, um, so much from like actually doing something, you know, and you can be like really great at it, but it's not until you get kind of the collective mind of a society, uh, that you can really learn and grow and expand on, um, these new creative ideas. And I think that's why I resonated so much with the book. I truly did take away a lot from it. And in fact, my favorite interview for sure was when you were sticking with, uh, your friend Keith Cole for sure. It was, uh, um, just really insightful, you know, as somebody who has written motorcycles before, as somebody who also photographs a, to see how the two connected, uh, really, really expanded my idea of exactly what creativity is. So,
Mark Silber: 00:19:38 yeah, I'm really fun, Buck. Well. Thank you. Yeah. I think the other thing, Raymond, is that, you know, as photographers, we shouldn't just divorce ourselves from other forms of creativity and you'll find many truly outstanding photographers have also been multitalented. Ansel Adams is a good example. He was a classical pianist. In fact, I did not know that. Yeah. As a matter of fact, he was groomed to become a, a, you know, professional pianist. And he then found photography. So He fell in love with photography. He had to make this decision which way was he going to go because he knew that you really couldn't pursue them both professionally and he decided to go with photography, yet he continued to play a piano. Uh, you know, you know, and he wrote and you know, he was involved with other creative skills than just photography. Another one of my mentors, Henry Cartier EBR Song also became a filmmaker and also a pen and ink artist. Uh, you know, I think he just transitioned to the point where he wanted a little more challenge. And I do believe that happens with some photographers that get to a point where, okay, I need a bigger challenge. And for him it was drawing and pen and ink. Wow. But no matter what the skills are, there are these common points, which is what I try to put together in the book. Okay.
Raymond: 00:21:04 W that's kind of interesting. Um, hearing, hearing everybody else's take. Now you interviewed, um, quite a few people for your book. Yeah. I want to know, um, because you interviewed a lot of non photographers, I want to know, uh, who surprised you the most with maybe one of their answers?
Mark Silber: 00:21:23 You know, um, to me the most startling and the most kind of insightful interview is with the photographer, but he's not known. He's not a pro photographer. And that's Chris McCaskill who is one of the, you know, he and his family founded smugmug, which has now become huge, really, really huge. And they, they ended up acquiring flicker. So they're kind of the biggest in the industry. But Chris's interview, I knew something about it because he had told me this story kind of a while. Actually, while we were setting up for a workshop, he sort of told me a little bits and pieces of this story and I couldn't believe it. I always thought I wanted to come back and find out more. But basically what happened was he grew up on the streets of Oakland homeless. His mother was a schizophrenia and she just lost it.
Mark Silber: 00:22:14 So she had actually, you know, been a research scientist and whatnot and somehow, wow, they ended up on the streets of Oakland homeless. But the short version of this story is that he was able to get back into society. He earned his MBA at Stanford. He became a serial entrepreneur. And along the way, I worked with Steve Jobs, but one of the things that kind of blew me away is that he said every single day he didn't take for granted the things that we have in our culture. The fact that you could open your refrigerator and it's stocked with food, that you could get on a bus and go skiing, that you could take a warm shower, that there were educational facilities available to you that anyone can access. So he said every day is a joy for him because he knows how bad it can be. And I found, I found that to be really remarkable because I think we can overlook the fact that, wow, we were pretty privileged no matter where we are now, what our station is as a whole, as a culture, we're pretty privileged and we can forget that a lot of people aren't living that way.
Mark Silber: 00:23:27 Sure. And overcoming that is pretty remarkable to go that far.
Raymond: 00:23:32 So that's, that's, that's really interesting. Do you think that it's because of his, uh, now obviously you can't speak for him, but do you think that he got that point of view because of his, of, of, of being homeless and having, having nothing?
Mark Silber: 00:23:46 Oh, absolutely. You know, he went from homeless to up kind of an upper middle class family. And for instance, he said, you know, the fact that you could go on a bus and go skiing was just unbelievable. Yeah. You know, he had a comparison point for the rest of us. You know, we're, we can go along with things to the point where it just seems normal and natural, but for him it was just such an on off switch, you know, nothing to something in a very short period of time really caused him to be aware of all the, all the cool things that we have available to us. And I think his love of photography really is part of that.
Raymond: 00:24:26 How do you equate that, that mindset, um, to, uh, I don't want to say being more creative, but adding creativity into somebody's life. Does that make sense? Does that yeah. Shouldn't have substance?
Mark Silber: 00:24:39 I think so. And I, I think it's kind of the story of most of these interviews, these, every one of them had something to overcome. You know, some were personal hardships. Some of them were like Nancy Cartwright, who is the voice of Bart Simpson, you know, and something like nine or 12 I lost track other voices on the Simpson. Oh yeah. As well as all sorts of other voices that you wouldn't even know. But you know, she tells the story about coming from catering Ohio, which isn't exactly the Mecca for an actress. Sure.
Coming from catering Ohio to going to UCLA, obviously in the middle of Hollywood near Hollywood, and getting her career launched and it just, as she was launching her career, her mother died and it was a huge setback and a huge turning point for her. Do I go home? What do I do?
Mark Silber: 00:25:34 I mean, what am I doing now? Her mom was obviously a really important part of her life and then just after that her brother died. So she was hit by these two really traumatic experiences that could have thrown her off track. But you realize the importance of even to honor them to remain on her creative path. And I'm not exactly directly answering your question, but I think that the answer is that each of us has to overcome certain things. We've all got, you know, whatever it is, financial or emotional or inner demons or whatever that we have to push through and push over and push past to achieve the goal of, of being a creative. And it's not just a finger snap, you know, something you have to work at.
Raymond: 00:26:22 Yeah. Well that, that's funny cause I think, um, before I read your book, if you were to ask me where creativity came from, I probably would've said a place of pressure and like out of spontaneity. But now after reading your book, I can now see like that I was looking at it all wrong. What do you think are some other misconceptions that people have about creativity?
Mark Silber: 00:26:50 You know, Raymond, I think the most common misconception is I'm, I'm not creative. So some people are, you're born, you're born creative, you're born with a paint brush in your hand. You know, Pablo Picasso, it's like he must've been a great artists from age two or uh, you know, Chase Jarvis was a stellar photographer and had no hardships or whatever, or Chris Burkhardt, you know, it just became an overnight success if you're not familiar with him on Instagram. But let's, let's take Chris as a, as an example. You know, he said it was a lot of work. It was like a 10 year overnight success. Yeah. And you work hard at it and you persevere. And I think the most common misconception is some people haven't and some people don't. And I don't believe that's true. And a number of my guests at the same thing, I believe everyone has some area that they can be creative in.
Mark Silber: 00:27:46 And let's expand the idea of what creativity means. It doesn't just mean being a great photographer. It could be in any form of art, including life itself. You know, I, I believe that, uh, you know, somebody who's a great cook that's creative. Obviously you're making something, which is what creativity means. You're creating something out of raw material and you're using your imagination to put it together, which is what you do with a photograph or you do with a painting or you do with decorating your house. So the, the key I believe is this, find your passion, find your area of creativity and roll with it. And then just expand from there and know that you do have the ability to be creative no matter what it is. So that to me is the most common misconception.
Raymond: 00:28:35 I love that. And I want to share a personal anecdote real quick. Yeah. And that's, uh, every year I have a pretty short wedding season. I don't like to book too early. I don't like to shoot too late. Um, and I always find that like, uh, I'll have a good year and then come, you know, may when it's time to start shooting again, I feel really, really rusty. And when I get out there and start shooting, it's nowhere near as good as the photos that I take towards the end of the year. Like October when I've done that practice when I've put in the work and when I uh, you know, just made that time to be doing more photography. So um, I can, I can vouch for, for that statement right there is that you're either born with it or you or you're not. Because in May I would say, ah, what am I doing? Like people are gonna find out I'm a fraud, but in October I'm like, I'm feeling good. Like I need to be doing some of those. Yeah, exactly.
Mark Silber: 00:29:24 Yeah. You know, it's interesting cause that kind of ties in with the whole cycle of creativity that I go over, which might be a good point to just touch upon that. Absolutely. So at this, at the starting point at the center, which actually never ends, is the idea of visualization, which is vision for whatever it is you want to create. If you're a wedding photographer, you have some vision of the, of the wedding, you have some idea who you're going to take photographs of. You have a shot list. You, you have a style that you've already visualized it. Maybe you've talked over with the, with the couple, you know, that's your visualization. Ansel Adam said it's the most, or he actually said it's the key to a photograph. So he, he was somebody who talked about visualization all the time because if you just press the shutter without visualizing first, you're missing that whole artistic process and to become a reporter.
Mark Silber: 00:30:19 Yeah, yeah. You're, you're snapshotting and you're recording rather than creating the second, uh, step in the creative process is knowing your tools and what you described is, you know, if you're a little rusty, you got to kind of get back into gear with your tools. Right. And we all have to do that. Unfortunately, you know, you leave something, sit there on the shelf for awhile, you got to get back into the groove of it. Absolutely. But knowing your tools is incredibly important. Bob Home said, don't let the camera get in the way of your photography. I love that. And you know, we've all had that happen. We've had the camera get in the way of our photographs. So you got to know your camera so well that it doesn't get in the way. Then you work your craft, you get into production, you do whatever it is, whether it's photography or shooting film or writing a book, it's just work.
Mark Silber: 00:31:09 You know, it's, it's, it's a job not in a bad way, but it's, you have to look at it like that. Writing a book, you have to sit down every day. And Ryan, if every day you don't write the book doesn't write itself, wouldn't be nice. It would be nice. Uh, photographs don't take themselves, you take them. So it's working, making sure you have a schedule, a work schedule, and overcoming the biggest barrier that I believe the biggest excuse would be time. And I devoted a whole chapter to overcoming that barrier. But um, from there you edit and you refine. We all have to, you know, obviously I never let a photograph go anywhere without editing in some way, you know? I'm sure you're the same way. Oh yeah. You know, it doesn't go on Instagram for my camera. It goes via Lightroom and then it goes to Instagram.
Mark Silber: 00:32:04 But editing has all sorts of different forms to it. You know, there's, there's uh, editing in terms of how to put a body of work together. There's editing your writing, there's editing, even your life, cutting out those things that are distracting. Yesterday I gave advice to somebody, you know, and I said, uh, how many hours a day are you watching TV or playing video games? And I s it was a, it was a fairly sizable number. I said, why don't you invest three of those hours into learning your skills instead of that? Yeah, I mean that's just common advice I would give anyone take that time that you're, you don't feel you have, cause you're using it for something you really don't need to do. It's just, it's an investment. So invest it wisely just like you want to invest money wisely. And then finally, after you've edited, then you're going to share it with others.
Mark Silber: 00:32:54 And that's the final part of the creative process. And it doesn't mean giving it away for free. It means putting it out there to the world. In some form, whether it's putting it on your wall, a print, you know, that's nicely framed or putting in a book or putting in in an exhibit or in a case of wedding photographers, you know, sh obviously you're sharing it back to the bride and groom and a family, but you're getting it back to the world. You're giving it back to the world and if you get paid for it so much, the better.
Raymond: 00:33:25 Yeah, no kidding. No kidding. But uh, it's, it's a lot harder to, to pay the bills when you're not getting paid for sure. Yeah,
Mark Silber: 00:33:31 it really is. I find that extremely satisfying. You know, there's a lot of different ways you can make money, but I think the most satisfying is through a creative process and if you enjoy my creative process, all the better, all the better, all the better. Absolutely.
Raymond: 00:33:46 As I said earlier, your interview, you have interviewed a lot of people in this book and uh, my favorite was your interview with Keith Cole, who again, as you mentioned earlier, is a motorcycle, not only rider but instructor. And it was his process of taking action with new ideas that really got, uh, my brain flowing. That was cool. That was very cool cause it wasn't, it's not that he's creating something visual to show people, it's that he's creating a process to uh, give to others so that they can create something to show people, I guess in a way, in a way. Uh, what did you find are some of the, uh, other key tools of seriously creative people or I'm sorry, seriously talented people.
Mark Silber: 00:34:30 Yeah. Well they're both talented and creative. Yeah. You know, here's the biggest one that I think was just that resonated through everyone of these interviews and that's perseverance and persistence because it does take a while sometimes to get your ideas out there. And he is a good example of a guy who really did persist and has become the number one motorcycle. Uh, he has number one training school for motorcycle enthusiasts. Um, but it's, it's getting past those hurdles, especially the inner ones. And virtually everyone of the people I interviewed mentioned something about the inner demons that you have to overcome. It's a really mentioned it, the real thing. You mentioned it just a minute ago, you know that imposter syndrome, you know, they're going to find out, I really don't know what I'm doing. This camera, you know, it's like we all run into this stuff and unfortunately a lot of those can come from an external source.
Mark Silber: 00:35:29 Somebody who's negative a troll essentially. And you know, the worst thing you can do with that is bring it into your own mind and start using it against yourself. And that just takes some discipline. So I again, I believe that that we each have this inner ability to be creative. I think it's part and parcel of who we are. Uh, whether you consider that it's a spiritual quality, which I haven't to Bambi can trial who I've interviewed a number of times. One of the most amazing portrait and wedding photographers said, you know, look, here's what I consider a photo shoot is all about. It's finding that spirit, the spirit of the person. Anyone can learn to use a camera, but not everybody can cut through and put the person at ease the way she does. Yeah. And, and allow them to show themselves. And those are the things that we have to be able to do to really master the craft.
Mark Silber: 00:36:31 Geez. Yeah, that's, that's, that's a very good point. That's a very good point. What would you say to, to people who feel like they can't, like they're not good at connecting with people enough to, to, to see their soul, I suppose. Yeah, it's definitely a skill that one has to acquire. And, um, you know, one of these days I might give a workshop just to address that because at the end of the day, you know, you have your, you have your technical skills as a photographer, but then you have your people skills. And, you know, I've done a lot of interviews, not just the, the ones with photographers, but a lot of commercial interviews with CEOs and you know, people who've created incredible startups and so on and so forth. And not everybody's comfortable on camera, as you probably know, right? Very much. Ah, they, they get nervous. They freeze up.
Mark Silber: 00:37:23 They even start sweating and feel really uncomfortable. And I consider my job. Uh, of course we're going to capture it technically, but my real job is to put them at ease. So it's a set of skills and unfortunately I, you know, the book is a little beyond the, it's beyond the scope of the book, but who knows, maybe I'll teach a workshop just on that because there's definitely skills that want to, one can acquire and using them helps people
feel who they really are, you know? Yeah, absolutely. I would imagine having that ability to just calm people down is very important tool to have in your tool bag, I suppose it is. So what do you think are some, I guess, why do you think that we need a set of tools for, uh, creativity? Well, in any creative field, whether it's photography, I mean, that's pretty obvious.
Mark Silber: 00:38:16 Your tools or your camera, your lens is a, you know, all your various pieces of equipment. Like you've got a physical tools. Yeah. Tripod behind you. You know, you've got all these physical tools. Those are pretty obvious in any craft. You know, if you're a writer, it's either, probably not going to be writing with a pen these days. Yeah, no, but you might, you might have a voice recorder. I'd record. I did some of the book, a hidden, a little anecdote about the book. Um, I'm a surfer and uh, I, I had a fairly long, it was like a 45 minute drive to go surfing. And I thought, well, let me try recording some chapters and see how that turns out. Well, it turned out okay, but it turned out I had to do a lot of editing to make it work. Some people I guess can turn on a recorder and it just flows right out.
Mark Silber: 00:39:07 But for me, I had to, I had to almost do as much work as writing it from the original, but it did give me a framework to work from. But that's a tool, you know, recording, transcribing. These are all various physical tools one uses. And then there's the, the nonphysical tools of knowing how, you know, your editing software works and frame what framing you should use and your, your skills of composition. Uh, you know, these are other tools. You've got to know all those tools because they're all part and parcel of how you're going to create something. You know, I, I walk into a kitchen, I, there's about three meals I have that I can do really well. You know, I've maybe five, maybe I could bump it up to five if I really had say five. Yeah, we'll make a second. Let's say there's five.
Mark Silber: 00:39:56 I can make incredible pesto. I can barbecue great chicken, I make great salad, and the list kind of dwindles out from there, but at least I can get away with it. And people think, wow, he's pretty good cook. Well, yeah, with those three meals. But then I look at somebody else and another friend of mine who's just totally at home in the kitchen, they know what utensils to use, what, you know, temperature, this, that, and the other thing. They have a wider variety of things that they can master. So knowing those tools is, you know, it's just an extension of your skillset. Because remember, what creativity is, is it's basically making something out of nothing or out of raw materials. First you have to visualize it, but then once you visualize it, you've got to put it together. So, you know, there's all sorts of ways to do that.
Raymond: 00:40:47 Yeah. I don't know if you've seen that a, that I don't know if it's a new show. Maybe it's an old show on Netflix called, uh, a fat, uh, acid salt. Oh, wait about, there was one episode specifically where, uh, the host, and I forget her name, uh, if she's listening, I apologize. She's not listening, uh, where she goes and she, uh, she's in Italy and, uh, she is creating pesto like from scratch with somebody who has been doing it for like generations. And watching that alone. It's funny that you had said that because watching that alone made me, made me, uh, uh, see it in an entirely different light. You know, the way that she, she almost like weighed like, like counted the pine that's the Geo put into this recipe. And I was like, wow. Down, like down to the, the, the, the smallest little, um, ingredient, you know, she used the tools of this is what works, this is how I know to make this and this is what I'm going to do. And uh, I remembered that I thought of that scene specifically when I was, when I was reading through your book, looking at the, the five elements or the five stages of, uh, creativity. So that was cool that, that you are also a, a, a connoisseur of Pesto as well.
Mark Silber: 00:41:54 I don't, I, I may, I do make really killer Pesto and I met, I probably will never reveal the secret. Oh no, that's gotta be your last book. That will be my last book making remarkable Pesto.
Raymond: 00:42:07 Uh, in a recent study that I had sent out to, um, my audience, 23% of the people who answered this survey, uh, of the listeners claimed that they were not. Yeah. And I've thought that that was a, a huge number for people who are trying to get into photography. What would you say are just some simple ways that we can increase our creativity in our everyday life?
Mark Silber: 00:42:32 Okay. I think, you know, Raymond, I actually believe that number is higher than the average person because think about it, you know, they're already at least photographers, but I think if you walked down the street, I think it becomes a much lower number. Like maybe 40% believe that they are creative. So maybe 60% think they aren't the easiest thing, and this is really simple and it's something that if you follow it, it will improve your creative skills. And that is going to museums, go to museums, look at works of art and it doesn't matter. It doesn't even have to be in your genre at all. In fact, it's sometimes best if it isn't. But, um, whatever museum you have nearby, go to it. Because what you're finding there is you're building your visual library up. What resonates for you? You know, what is it about that Picasso that you really like?
Mark Silber: 00:43:30 What is it about, you know, Rembrandt, what is it about that sculpture or even, you know, other forms like movies? You know, when I watch movies, I'm looking at the camera shots and I'm looking at, you know, how they framed it and how, you know, how they edited it and timing and music. All these other things are kind of like going into my kind of visual or my library, my mental library and I, you know, that's really cool how they did that. And sometimes the oddest things can stimulate your creativity. One of the guys I interviewed a while ago, Joseph Holmes, fantastic landscape photographer, he, I asked him who his inspiration was and I expected to hear, you know, the usual ansul Adams or Edward West. And he said the Beatles. Wow. Really? He was at the last beetle concert in 1966 and it just blew him away.
Mark Silber: 00:44:26 And something sparked for him creatively. But you wouldn't, I wouldn't look at a landscape photograph and think that had anything to do with the Beatles, but for him it did. So that's the simplest thing. Just sat out a course of following, you know, various artists and going to museums, looking at them, but really go past, wow, I like this, I don't like that. Try to look at it in terms of what really resonates for you. And I mentioned that in the book. Take a notebook with you and jot these things down. You know, because you're going to come away with, with the ideas that you can then use later. And they may sit there for a long time before you pull them out. It might be years, but you go, you know, I remember something that Leonardo Davinci said, this is actually pretty cool. He said, go around and walk around and look at people, look at them in all sorts of situations.
Mark Silber: 00:45:27 Look at them when they're angry. Look at them when they're upset. How do they move their hands? What are their feet look like? What is their facial expression look like? That's just material that you can kind of again, plug into your understanding of how people really react in life. Yeah, and he used those little illustrations. You know, he drew, he drew these things and later he came back and used them, uh, you know, in really remarkable ways because he had such a realistic idea of what people actually look like. That's something that really strikes us. You know, that he really observe people and that's a key skill right there.
Raymond: 00:46:10 And then when it came time to replicate that in one of his pieces of art, he could use that visualization. The last supper reference. Yeah.
Mark Silber: 00:46:16 Yeah. He'd go, you actually have little sketches of people that he found in various places that he used in the last supper painting. You know, it's pretty amazing.
Raymond: 00:46:25 I did not know that. I did not know that. That is really cool. Jeez. Yeah. Uh, so, um, I got, like I, I, I mentioned, I think before we started recording, I got a few questions from the love to hear the group. So I asked what kind of questions do you have about creativity? And I thought there's nobody better to ask about this. And surprisingly, I got a lot of questions about composition, so you know, that I link them to okay. Because it's, it's hands down just the best resource, uh, for composition. So the first question came from Wayne and Wayne actually asked a a great question that I think that we covered in our first, or at least that we touched upon in our first interview together back in episode 67. And he wants to know about bridging the creative gap. So he wants to me, he said, bridging the creative gap between what you envisioned and how you make that a reality. He said, I don't know about anybody else, but I have crazy photography based dreams of photos that I would love to capture. And then when I wake up, I have no idea how to start the process. What would you say to Wayne?
Mark Silber: 00:47:26 You know, Wayne, that's a really good question. That's a discussion I had with Chase Jarvis back in 2008 we had this, uh, we were talking about the creative gap. You know, it just, it's just something you have to work towards and it's a matter of not compromising with your vision. You have a vision, which is great. Just keep working towards it and finding ways to express it because really, ultimately it comes down to your skill. If you can start to match and we're trying to close that gap, you know, maybe it starts out a pretty wide gap between what you visualize and what your actually your visualizations up here and your ability to produce it is here. But as you keep working at, you're going to close that gap and that's really what it's all about. It's just increasing your skill in that area until you can close that gap.
Raymond: 00:48:22 It takes a lot. It takes a lot. It takes a lot. And I think that, uh, one thing that has helped me in the past when I've had an idea for a photo is a digging your advice. Just having that notebook, kind of writing it down, thinking about, well, what would I say to the person in front of me to get them to look the way, uh, that I want to and enabled to know what I want to say. I have to know exactly how I want them to look. And there's there's or that visualization, uh, comes in. But exactly. I think of the day like it's all, it's all just like putting in the time, putting in the time behind the camera, doing the work, getting to know everything about your cameras, situation, how it reads lights so that when the time comes you're just that much closer. Exactly. Yup. Okay. So the next question that I got was from Charlene and she wants to know this is, this is one that a lot of people struggle with. She wants to know, I'm curious as to when a piece stops being just a photograph and it becomes art.
Mark Silber: 00:49:16 Oh boy, that's an age old question. Yeah. When is it art? When is it just a, a reproduction of what's in front of you and that discussion has been going on for, you know, really it, it, Ansell Adams is one of the first photographers that crossed that gap in and I think that it, it really has to do with, you know, what is art? Art is something that you're creating, but it's very subjective also. You know, what's beautiful, what isn't beautiful. You know, music is a perfect example. Um, you know, there's a lot of rap music that Rosemay the wrong way, but then I can hear, let's say m and, m I think. Wow, that's pretty cool. I just listened to the rhythm and it's very poetic, but it's, it's, it's very subjective and photography is the same way. I'd say the answer to that is if you're just being a recording person, you're recording a scene by pushing the shutter.
Mark Silber: 00:50:15 Uh, that's not necessarily being an artist. It's not necessarily being creative. But if you're doing something beyond that where you're, you're highlighting the, or, you know, Ansul Adam said, you know, people consider me a, a realistic photographer. It's just not realistic. You don't see skies that are black and, and pure white and pure black. And he said he's manipulating this whole scene, you know, in the dark room. But that makes him an artist because he's changing something about what's out there. Or He's putting it in a certain
way that, you know, you can stop and see the beauty of it. But my only advice, because this is really a discussion that's a really a pretty fundamental philosophical discussion, um, is to, to really understand what it is you're trying to create. And the best way to do that is get your dictionary out and look up some of these keywords.
Mark Silber: 00:51:17 Look up creativity. Look up are, I do have these definitions in my book. I make it a little easier for you, but by understanding those words, this is something mark Isom, who's a musician friend of mine, won multiple awards. A, the guy is just unbelievable. But he said really understanding, uh, that these concepts in these words really helped him out with his art. So, because at the end of the day, it's something we all have to decide for ourselves. What is art, what it is, what's your art? You know, I know the difference between, for me, you know, I take a lot of pictures just to record the moment, you know. Sure. Somebody's birthday party. I'm not trying to turn that into work of art, right? But I want to, I want to take a shot. I want to remember it. I know that I'm not creating art at that moment. Sometimes you surprise yourself though.
Raymond: 00:52:12 No. Okay. That's a good point. I want to ask you then because I think as, as we become more skilled, as we build those tools, uh, that we have suddenly for us, maybe just a snapshot has some artistic intention, right? The photos that we take, we're now framing in a different way than just pulling up our phone and taking the photo. We're like true. Pulling the camera up and pointing it down or something. Is that, is that still just a snapshot because now you've introduced that artistic intention?
Mark Silber: 00:52:38 No, I don't think so at all. I think that what you're doing is so natural to you as a photographer that it doesn't seem like much, but to the average person, you're doing something. Okay. Here's a perfect example. Uh, I was at a restaurant with a friend. Um, the head chef came over to give him something. They actually gave him a bottle of, uh, olive oil that had been brought over from Italy. And, uh, so he said, would you take a picture? You know, and I took, you know, I held up my iPhone and I said, hey, move over here, move there, change the bat, you know, clean up the background a little bit and took the photograph. It didn't seem like anything to me. I wasn't, I wasn't thinking I was creating a work of art. Uh, I may have even put it on mode to blur the background. Even if I did and I cleaned it, certainly cleaned up the background and framed it. And my friend said afterwards, you know, watching you is amazing because I saw your skills come out and just the iPhone photograph. But to me, I didn't even notice. It just seemed like brushing my teeth, you know? Okay. Hey, you're doing a good job, mark. Really, I'm just brushing my teeth. Yeah. So I think it's, yeah. So maybe I could turn that into, um, a work of art
Raymond: 00:53:55 there for that line is, is so blurred. It's so blurred. You know, it's interesting stuff. Well.
Mark Silber: 00:54:02 Okay, look at some of these artists like Banksy or, uh, Andy Warhol, you know, with, with the classic, uh, Campbell Soup. Yeah. How come that's art, but it is, it definitely is.
Raymond: 00:54:14 Yeah. Yeah. I think, uh, yeah. I don't know. I mean it's so, it's so subjective. It's so hard to tell. It really is it really true to it? Um, so you are a photographer, so I'm excited to get your perspective on this. I want to know what you think is one of the biggest actionable takeaways that, uh, one of the listeners can take away, uh, from your book.
Mark Silber: 00:54:37 Wow. Read the whole thing. Let's start there. That's step number one. The biggest takeaway is this, I would say is that one can improve their creative skills. It's not just something that is inherent or there's no control over it or whatever. This is similar to my premise when I started my composition book because uh, you know, I realized a lot of people
had asked me, you know, for advice with composition and I really didn't have a good answer for them because I felt that it was a fairly intuitive thing that you had to just sort of learn the feel of it and blah, blah blah. And then I realized, wait a minute, that's not really, that's not how you learn how to cook. So how you learn how to paint, you know, you follow some sort of template, right? So I thought there must be a template to composition and sure enough, you know, like I came away with these 83 compositional elements.
Mark Silber: 00:55:35 Now it's really important to understand those are not in dolls right there. They're just elements and you still have to put them to work. You still have to, you know, put the rest of your creativity in, into the photograph. But if you know these skills, if they're in your mind, chances are you're going to be able to pull them out and use them when you need to. And I think that the biggest takeaway that I hope people get is that you can improve your creativity. You, it isn't something that, you know, levels off and that's it. You can work at it and you can strip away the things that get in the way of your creativity. And I tried to give people exercises. By the way, at the end of every chapter I have summary questions where I try to ask questions that get people to really look at the material they've just read because it does absolutely no good to just intellectualize it. You have to put it to work, you have to make a change. Otherwise it's like reading a book on um, Yoga, but never doing one yoga exercise,
Raymond: 00:56:42 every photography, Youtube video on the Internet and not picking up a camera,
Mark Silber: 00:56:46 not picking up a camera or watching cooking shows and never going into the kitchen. So you've got to go past the intellectual phase of this thing. That's why I asked those questions. And at the right below that I give action steps. And in my action steps, one of the things I asked for excuses that you had for these various things, like I brushed on it and we don't really have time to get into it in detail, but time is probably the biggest excuse. I just don't have enough time, you know? Yeah. We have to make the time and we have to carve out, you know, the excess stuff where we're wasting time and put it to use where you want it to go.
Raymond: 00:57:26 I've got to admit, uh, as I got to the end of each chapter, I, uh, was looking forward to and both dreading that part because it was like, oh, here we go. Now I gotta look at myself and face all of my flaws. Uh, but it was truly helpful and that was definitely the hardest question of, of, of, uh, what excuses can you come up with to not do that. So, uh, but overall wonderful. Uh, mark, I truly enjoyed our chat today. I know that we're running out of time and I truly enjoyed our chat today. Can you let the listeners know where they can find you online and where they can get a copy of your new book?
Mark Silber: 00:57:58 Absolutely. So mark Silber on Amazon, m a R C S I l B e r will lead you to my books and create, you'll find we'll be there, uh, or go to probably a better yet. Go to my website, Silber studios.com and that's sil, B as in boy e r studios.com. From there you'll see links to the books. This one and my previous books. You'll also see resource pages. We're adding resources for what's in the book so you can easily look things up and follow up on things. But those are the easiest ways to find the book. And I even have a preorder bonus if you order it, uh, and come back to my website. There's a free download, which is a quick start guide to creativity. How about that?
Raymond: 00:58:49 Really? That's interesting. That's, yeah, that's really exciting. That's really exciting. Um, I dunno if this will be in, I'm not sure exactly when the a episode will come out, but um, when does the book officially launch? July 23rd July. Oh yeah, no, it will definitely be out by then. Okay, perfect. Perfect.
Mark Silber: 00:59:06 So, so if you, or if you order it before then just go ahead and get your preorder bonus. You'll get it shipped as soon as the book comes out.
Raymond: 00:59:14 Awesome. Well, again, mark, thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and thank you for putting it together. These books that have so
Raymond: 00:59:22 many people including, uh, my audience. Uh, it was a pleasure to talk with you today. Thank you Raymond. My pleasure as well. It is always a pleasure chatting with mark. He has this down to earth approach to some, you know, sometimes pretty complicated ideas and you know, just hearing his view is really refreshing. My biggest takeaway for this episode was just how much, how much creativity can truly be incorporated in our everyday lives. It doesn't have to be the main thing. You don't have to create one thing to be creative. And you know, creativity doesn't have to be all a bright colors and a whimsical design. It can be everywhere in meal planning, in how you pack your camera gear in, how you learn something new. It is everywhere. It is everywhere. And that that I hope that I know you are going to take away, uh, definitely from his book if you pick it up.
Raymond: 01:00:22 So again, you can pick up a copy of Mark's new book on Amazon and again, a highly recommend that you do so. Or You can win yourself a copy by enrolling in auto two. Amazing today. So to learn more about auto to amazing, just head over to learn dot beginner photography podcast.com or click the link in the show notes now. So that is it for this week's interview. Until next week, I want you to get out. I want you to keep shooting. I want you to focus on yourself and I want you to stay safe. All right, that's it. I love you all.
Outtro: 01:01:01 If you enjoy today's podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes or your favorite podcast player and continue the conversation with Raymond and other listeners of the podcast by joining the beginner photography podcast Facebook group today. Thank you. We'll see you again next week.