Documentary Photographer Daniel Milnor Breaks Down One of His Images

A core value in being able analyze, interpret, or critique a photograph is the knowledge gained which can then be applied to your photography. Furthermore, applying those same observations in an honest way to your own images is a powerful tool for creative growth.

Coming to you from the educational YouTube channel, Advancing Your Photography, documentary photographer, Daniel Milnor, dissects one of his own images in order to explain to us why he thinks it works. If you're not familiar with his work then I would implore you to click on his link and have a browse through his inspiring portfolio. His black and white images are characterized by strong compositions and high contrast scenes, often evoking ethereal tones. Refreshingly, you won't find him often on social media — although he does have an Instagram account — as he shuns it in favor of real interactions; which most likely plays a role in how he is able to connect with his subjects in the way that he does.  

In his short break down of an image taken with a Leica M4, of the land speed record trials held in the Mojave Desert, Milnor takes a detailed look at his composition, in particular.

What I first noticed about the image was the not-so-horizontal horizon. Coming from a landscape and interior photographer's point of view, my initial reaction was to try to straighten the shot in my head. This might sound silly to all you street and documentary shooters, but I just couldn't get my tiny rigid mind around it until I actually brought the image into Photoshop, straightened it, and compared it with the original. What I found was that after I had applied my photographic view of the world to that of Milnor's, the image had lost something in translation. It didn't feel as dynamic nor did it evoke the same feelings as before. To think about it a little further, Milnor's goal here is not to document the landscape, but to photograph an event that takes place in "a very strange place, filled with some very strange people". The sloped angle not only enhances that notion of peculiarity, but also fits nicely within the theme of speed — because the car appears to be going "downhill".

What's your take on the image?

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Clay Wegrzynowicz's picture

Great analysis. Also thank you for turning me on to his other videos, they're quite good.

Jan Holler's picture

Just great, I am curious to see the other videos. I looked at it and tried to explain to myself why your photo works before I watched it. But clearly your expertise dwarfs mine. I learned, I hope and I like your photo very much.

Bert Nase's picture

Oh well... really?