Open for Questions: Pete Souza

Uploaded by whitehouse on 28.10.2010

Kori Schulman: Good evening and welcome to the White House.
Every week we invite people around the country to get online
and join us for a live chat and today we're so pleased to be
joined by Pete Souza who is the Chief White House Photographer
and Director of the White House Photography Office.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Pete Souza: My pleasure.
Kori Schulman: For the past couple of days we've been collecting your
questions on Flickr, on the White House Flickr photo stream.
We've gotten tons of great questions.
There's also a live chat that's happening right now on Facebook.
If you go to there is a link to jump
into the Facebook discussion and we'll be taking your questions live.
So without further ado, we want to get to as many of your
questions as we can.
I'm going to jump right into your questions.
So the first one comes from Flickr.
Flickr member Dubtastic.
And Dubtastic wants to know: Not quite sure how best to word it,
but I'm looking for your thoughts and perspective on
"getting the shot" while being in sometimes challenging
locations with very important people.
Meaning are you comfortable getting in the way or do you try
to stay invisible?
Peter Souza: Well, I try to stay out of the way as much as I can.
I mean, I think by now, after doing this for two years, both
the President and the staff are very used to me being around.
And, you know, if I'm crawling around on my knees in the Oval
Office or whatever, it's pretty much expected at this point.
So usually it's not -- that's not an issue for me.
Kori Schulman: This is another question from Flickr.
Summerspot wants to know or it says: Hi, again, Pete.
Your photos provide an unprecedented degree of transparency.
How does the selection and approval process work for the
photos we get to see on Flickr?
Pete Souza: So that's a good question.
We try to post a new batch of photos on Flickr every two weeks.
Alice Gabriner is the photo editor, White House Photo
Editor, and she makes the initial selection which I
sometimes refine and then we show those to Josh Earnest in
the press office and he just takes a quick look.
And I'd say 98% of the pictures that Alice and I come up with
are the ones that make it on Flickr.
Then occasionally we use Flickr as a way to release a daily photo.
For instance, when the President was having his Afghanistan
meetings leading up to his decision on the new strategy in
Afghanistan, we would release a photo, you know, within a couple
of hours after the meeting on a Flickr as a way for
publications, the TV networks and other people, to be able to
see the photo almost instantaneously.
Kori Schulman: Okay, we've got a question coming in live from the chat.
If you're just joining us go to
You can jump into the Facebook discussion.
We've got a lot of good questions coming in for you.
This one comes from Scott Nudson and he wants to know how often
do you plan a shot in advance and how often do you just do it
on the fly?
Pete Souza: Again, another good question.
I'd say, you know, 99% of the pictures I take are on the fly.
I mean, I know when a meeting is going to happen most of the time.
But in terms of how it's all going to unfold it's pretty much
done on the fly.
There are exceptions.
For instance, when we did our official Cabinet photo, really
the whole team led by Chuck Kennedy works for weeks planning
out that particular photo.
But again that was a little different because it was a setup
group photo, you know, that was lit.
So a much different circumstance.
So I hope that answers the question.
Kori Schulman: Okay, we've got a question a couple people are asking.
They're photo journalism students.
This one is from Flickr member Stephen Masker.
And we also have -- Stephen Masker is also on the live chat
and submitted a question on Flickr, so we're going to answer it.
Pete Souza: He's working it both ways, you know?
Kori Schulman: Yeah!
He's going to get his question answered.
So Stephen wants to know: I'm a senior photo journalism major
graduating in May from University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.
I want nothing more than to accel in photo journalism and
practice persistently.
What advice do you have for a senior photo journalism -- for
senior photo journalism students preparing to graduate into an
unpredictable and perpetually transforming industry, which is
photo journalism?
Pete Souza: Well, that's a good question.
I mean, before I took this job I was teaching at Ohio University
and, you know, a lot of my students had the exact same question.
It's a changing market.
I think that every photo journalism student coming out of
school now has to be prepared to work as a freelancer because
there's just so very few staff jobs available.
However, I would also advise if possible to try to get a job on
a small newspaper where you can learn a lot just by the variety
of assignments that you would get.
You'd learn deadline pressure.
So, you know, if possible, I would urge the student and other
students to get some good experience working at a small
daily newspaper.
Kori Schulman: Okay, here's a question that comes from Rob Fix,
a Flickr member, and he wants to know: It would be
interesting to hear your list of typical photographic
considerations in order of importance when shooting
especially when in the face of a new and unfamiliar situation and surroundings.
For example, considerations like composition, content, exposure,
backgrounds, contrast, point of view, subject placement, et cetera.
How do you respond to a difficult or rush situation when
one or more of these elements is comprised?
Pete Souza: You know, I've been doing this so long that it's like osmosis.
I mean, I don't -- that's a hard question to answer because it
sort of just depends on the situation.
I mean, I look for, you know, light and color and subject
placement, all the things that the questioner asked about.
And it just sort of depends on the individual situation and how
it presents itself to me.
So that's kind of a hard question for me to answer
because it's kind of all going inside my head and I'm just
reacting to the scene in front of me trying to make an
interesting picture.
Kori Schulman: Okay, this question just came in from the live chat on Facebook.
Kayla Bengor wants to know: Mr. Souza, I'm a big admirer of
your work and saw your dedication when I attended the
President's speech at USC last week and noticed you climbing up
on a ledge in order to get a different angle.
And she attached a photo that she took of you.
Pete Souza: I actually saw that photo that she attached which
was pretty amusing, yeah.
I think the secret service agents are always amused by me
trying to do things like that because, you know, they're
always, I think, afraid I'm going to fall or something like that.
But that was sort of an easy one.
I mean, he, the President, was shaking hands in a crowd and
everybody was reaching their hands towards him.
And right behind him was this ledge.
So, you know, I just climbed up on the ledge and tried to get a
different angle.
Kori Schulman: So and her main question is how do you keep photos
of the same man fresh even when taking tens, more
likely hundreds of thousands?
Pete Souza: Well, I think a lot of it is, I like to, one of the things
I like to do, and I will actually go to a photo here for
an example, but I try to watch how people react to him,
especially when we're on the road.
This was in Normandy, and this was a veteran who had been
trying to get to shake hands with the President.
And you don't even see the President in this photo.
You just see the man reacting to him shaking hands.
And so to be and I'm always aware of how people are reacting
to him as another possibility for an interesting photo.
Kori Schulman: Okay, here's another question that comes from Flickr.
The member's name is Dwayne Rap.
And Dwayne wants to know can you describe your workflow and how
many people are involved from tripping the shutter to
releasing the photo for usage on Flickr, et cetera?
Pete Souza: Well, I do have a staff and on any given take, you know,
a couple people are involved.
I -- my main responsibility is making the photographs.
And then I have staff that will make sure they get properly
captioned and ingested into our archives system.
Every photo -- and this may answer another question -- every
photograph that I or my staff takes is saved.
We don't delete anything.
So we save every single picture.
So somebody ingests those into our archive, captions them and
there is -- maybe this will answer another question, too --
we do we little toning.
Just sort of your basic shadows and highlights and trying to get
the color temperature correct.
But not much else beyond the sort of basic things, uses of photo shop.
We don't do much toning beyond the basics.
So I don't know if that answered the question or not but I sort
of went off on a little bit of a tangent there.
Kori Schulman: This question comes from Flickr member picture photography.
His name is Rick.
And he wants to know if you can tell him about a photograph
during Obama's time as President that really stands out in your
mind and explain why, i.e., your favorite image.
Pete Souza: You know, I'm going to copout and say I don't have a
favorite image.
My favorite image will be the one I take tomorrow because
that's sort of what keeps me going is trying to come up with
a good picture tomorrow.
And I'm sort of scrolling through here and I'm just going
to kind of randomly -- not randomly, but I'm going to, you
know, show one, you know, maybe one of my favorites just so you
can -- let's see, I'll go with this one just because it's a
little bit unusual.
But this was a day when I was -- let's see, hang on a second here.
I'm having a little bit of -- here we go.
I was sitting outside the Oval Office and the President's
daughter Sasha came by and started sneaking into the back
door of the Oval Office.
And the President was at the desk talking with his personal secretary.
Neither one of whom saw Sasha and Sasha was kind of creeping
up behind the sofa.
And here you see her, Katie, now, the secretary, has left the
office, and Sasha is all the way to the edge of the sofa.
And the President is working at the desk, and at the very last
minute, she jumped up and, you know, tried to scare him.
And he basically, you know, as he said later, well, you know,
Sasha can't really scare anybody.
But to me it was such a funny picture and it just, you know,
and I think it shows a lot about this Presidency where you have
these two young girls that are always around.
And so, you know, he is a father, but he's the President.
So this is one of the pictures that I sort of like because of that.
Kori Schulman: So the next question comes from Steve Rhodes on Flickr.
And Steve wants to know how is it different working in the
Obama White House from the Reagan White House?
Pete Souza: So just as a little bit of an introduction I worked
as a junior White House photographer during the Reagan
administration, when I was 12.
I was 12 at the time.
And so, I mean, I think the big difference is that the
technology is completely different.
I mean, we were shooting film then.
And now, everything is digital.
President Reagan was almost, like, 50 years older than me and
now I'm a few years older than the current President.
This President's a lot younger than President Reagan.
So those are the sort of differences that I see.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
This question comes from Annabella Is United on Flickr.
And she wants to know: Hi, Mr. Souza, how are you doing?
I'm going to keep it short and sweet --
Pete Souza: I'm doing good!
Kori Schulman: Okay.
She has a second part to her question.
Pete Souza: Oh, okay.
Kori Schulman: What does it feel like to photograph such an important
time in U.S. history?
Pete Souza: You know, I don't necessarily have a chance to sit
down at the end of the day and sort of reflect like that.
I mean, I certainly realize the importance of this particular Presidency.
But I'm so focused on just trying every day to make
interesting pictures, that I sort of haven't really had time
to, you know, totally reflect on the significance of what I'm doing.
I mean, at some point in time that will happen.
But now I'm just so focused on every day making sure that I'm
trying to make interesting pictures.
Now, I will say that as the -- back in -- I sort of like lose
track of time -- I think it was in March when the Health Care
Reform Act passed, I mean, those last few days as they were
getting close to the number of votes that they needed, I mean,
that really, really felt the sense of history on those last few days.
Kori Schulman: If you're just joining us, go to
There's a live chat that's happening on Facebook and I
encourage you get in there and ask your questions for Pete.
We have one that just came in from Nolan Houser.
And Nolan asks: Does the President ever ask you to get a certain shot?
Pete Souza: You know, not really.
I mean, he, like I said, he's so used to me being around that,
like I think sometimes he doesn't even -- he sort of
forgets that I'm in the room.
And so he's not -- I mean, there's been--oh, here's one
that just came in the other day, and we don't even have that on
the screen yet because it just happened.
But we were in -- I'm trying to think where we were because --
oh, we were in Portland and he saw one of his old high school
friends who had just had, his wife, his friend's wife had just had a baby.
And they rode in the Presidential limousine from the
airport to the site that we were going at and so the baby was in,
you know, in the baby seat and they put that in the limo and it
was the first time that a baby seat had ever been in the
Presidential limousine ever in the history of the Presidency,
according to the Secret Service.
So the President asked me to take a photograph of that.
Which was a rare occurrence.
He usually, you know, doesn't make those kinds of requests,
but for that one, he wanted to have that documented, so --
Kori Schulman: I look forward to seeing it on Flickr.
This question comes from PixelDust on Flickr.
And she wants to know --
Pete Souza: Where do people get these names from?
Kori Schulman: PixelDust.
Pete Souza: Yeah.
Kori Schulman: You know, there are a lot of creative names but
PixelDust was wondering on average how many images do you
shoot of the President on any given day?
Pete Souza: So I probably average between 500 on the low end to,
you know, maybe 1100 on the high end, so somewhere in
that range just depending on the President's schedule that day.
And then on, you know, like Inauguration Day, the day that
Health care passed, you know, probably exceeding 1500 pictures.
Kori Schulman: This question comes from Shea Cam.
Shea Cam asks: Just curious what you enjoy shooting when you're
not photographing the President?
What would your hobby -- what's your hobby shooting?
Pete Souza: I don't do any hobby shooting.
Right now I do sleeping when I'm not at work for the most part.
So, you know, my background is as a newspaper and magazine
photo journalist.
And so in the past I've done that kind of work.
I mean, I occasionally I have done nature photography, but
that -- I'm not doing a lot of that right now.
I just don't have time.
Kori Schulman: This question comes from Linda Moore.
It just came in on Facebook.
She asks: Do you have all access or are there times when you're
not allowed to take photos?
Pete Souza: I pretty much have open access to any meeting that
the President has.
I, during a one-on-one meeting, if he's having a private meeting
with someone, I sort of have learned over time what's an
appropriate time to stay to let them have their private
conversation but still make sure that I've gotten good pictures
from that meeting.
So the one-on-one meetings I tend to not stay as long as, you
know, the bigger, more historic meetings which I usually stay in
for the whole meeting.
Kori Schulman: This question comes from Pasha on Flickr.
And she wants to know, or he, Padilla Pasha, what are your
best tips for getting great candid photos of people?
Pete Souza: Well, I think that people have to be comfortable with you.
And, I mean, I think that it's just something that's difficult
to explain how you do that.
But I think you sort of have to be true to yourself.
You know, you have to blend into your surroundings.
You know, usually I'm not engaging the President during
meetings or anything like that.
I sort of just do my thing, I think.
And as I said over time people have gotten used to me being
around so it's not usually an issue.
I think, you know, for somebody that is just going into it cold,
I think you've got to establish some kind of a rapport with your
subjects so that they feel comfortable with your presence.
Kori Schulman: This question comes from Lizzie Cookson and she
asks: Mr. Souza, if you were only allowed to shoot with one
lens for the rest of your life, what would you use?
Pete Souza: I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do it.
No, I'd probably use a 35-millimeter which is kind of a
semiwide-angle lens, I probably use that lens the most.
And then probably the lens that I use the second most is a
telephoto lens 135.
So those are the two lenses that I probably use the most.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
Pete Souza: And I would want both of those with me. Not just one.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
Well, hopefully that's good enough for you, Lizzie.
So we've had a couple of questions come in like this:
Recently on the White House blog you published your favorite ten
photos and there is one really nice one where the President and
First Lady are touching hands on a rail.
And so Donna Zoll and a couple people have asked: Is it
difficult capturing intimate moments with the President and First Lady?
Pete Souza: So here's the photo.
This was -- they had gone down to the Gulf Coast and were on a
boat and I, you know, noticed them touching their hands like that.
And I thought that was an interesting photo.
Somebody commented that they wished the President wasn't
wearing a watch, it would have been a better photo.
But, you know, that's the way it was, he wears a watch so that's
the reality of the photograph.
I mean, again, I think that they're so used to me being
around that, you know, they sort of just go about their business.
And I try to be not intrusive when I'm taking pictures.
And, you know, and it leads to moments like this.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
If you're just joining us go to
There's a live chat that's happening on Facebook and we're
asking Pete a lot of your great questions, this one just came in
from Ricky Blanco.
He asks: Are there times when you will shoot film or do you
ever carry a film body nowadays?
Pete Souza: I have not yet.
I mean, there's a possibility that I may shoot some film at
some point during the Administration.
But, you know, it's just, logistically it just becomes
almost a nightmare now because, you know, we'd have to get the
film developed and then you'd have to scan in the negative and
then it almost becomes too much of a logistical problem.
So maybe at some point.
But as yet I have not shot any film.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
This question comes from Nada on Flickr.
Nada asks: What's the most unexpected thing about your job?
Also, what shoes do you usually work in and how many pairs have
you gone through since you started?
Pete Souza: Well, right now I'm wearing my tennis shoes because
it's off hours.
But during the working day, I have got a pair of Echos that
just were really comfortable shoes.
They're, you know, more or less dress shoes but they've got a
rubber sole so they're really comfortable.
And I need a new pair, though, because I've kind of worn them
down to the point where it's starting to be a little bit
noticeable that they're worn down so I need to get a new pair.
And what was the first part of the question?
Kori Schulman: What's the most unexpected thing about your job?
Pete Souza: Oh, the most unexpected thing.
You know, I think every day there's something unexpected
that happens.
The, you know, just like for instance in the morning I
usually check in with Brian Mosteller and Katie Johnson.
Katie is the President's secretary and Brian runs the
Oval Office operations.
And usually Beau comes by for a visit so that's always nice to see.
Beau and I always joke that, you know, he and I are both
Portuguese, you know, so we sort of have our little thing going.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
This question comes from Donna Zoll on Flickr.
She asks a whole bunch of questions but I'm just going to
ask a couple: How old were you when you first got -- when you
got your first camera?
Pete Souza: I think I was, probably not until I was, like,
20, I want to say.
Not until I was in college.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
One of her other question, she has about five so we'll --
Pete Souza: We could do rapidfire if you want.
Kori Schulman: Rapidfire?
How -- this is all Donna Zoll, we're just going to go right
through it -- how do you get the sweet gig of chief official
White House photographer?
Pete Souza: Oh, see, that's not -- you can't do a rapidfire with that.
Kori Schulman: You can't do a rapidfire?
You could try.
Pete Souza: So that was mostly because I had been working for
the Chicago Tribune when Barack Obama became the Senator from
Illinois in 2005 and I spent a lot of time with him in 2005
because we kind of covered his first year extensively for the
Tribune so I got to know him and his staff in 2005.
And I think he liked my work.
He liked the way I worked.
So, you know, one thing led to another when he was elected President.
Here I am!
Kori Schulman: We'll just keep running through Donna Zoll.
She's got some good ones.
Your images always have a thoughtful appreciation for your subjects.
Are there some key words or feelings that you're looking for
in your subject matter?
Pete Souza: You know, I'm just trying to capture what, the true
sense of what's happening in front of me.
I mean, I don't know how else to say it.
You know, whether, you know, I had seen the President on good
days and bad days.
And I try to, you know, capture that depending on the situation.
Kori Schulman: And beyond documenting your subjects' lives, what
element of yourself do you strive to have present in your images?
Pete Souza: What element of myself?
That's getting a little --
Kori Schulman: This is not easy rapidfire here.
Pete Souza: I mean, I think that, you know, there are so many things
going through my mind when I'm trying to make pictures.
I mean, like, for instance, sometimes great photographs can
be made because of the lighting.
You know, there just happens to be a certain kind of lighting.
I mean, one of the things that happens in the Oval Office is
the light changes coming through the windows depending on the
time of the year.
So now that we're getting closer to winter the sun is a little
lower and at some times I can already see that it's starting to
get some interesting light in the late afternoon coming in
through the back windows in the Oval Office.
So I'm aware of those kinds of things.
Another thing that -- I don't know if this really answers the
question but maybe it will answer some other question --
another thing that I try to do is provide a variety of images.
In other words, sometimes the scene setter is an interesting photograph.
And sometimes, you know, the closeup.
We saw the closeup of the hands so I'll show you this scene
setter from the roof of the White House during the 4th of July.
So this is, you know, the President is not in this photo.
He's actual standing next to me and I'm up on the roof watching
the fireworks with him.
The Killers, I believe it was, was playing on the South Lawn
and the fireworks started so it made kind of an interesting
scene setter.
So I'm trying to keep these kinds of pictures in mind as
well as the ones that, you know, maybe show more emotion or more
close up, more intimate, so I'm trying to provide a variety as
much as I can.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
This is the last of Donna Zoll's questions.
Pete Souza: Oh, my gosh.
Kori Schulman: I know, we got through them.
What about photography inspires and attracts you to the medium?
Pete Souza: I don't -- you know, I went to college because I wanted
to become a sports writer and then I found that writing
was too hard but I started taking pictures and to me it was
more fun being able to capture a moment that can sort of live on.
And, you know, it's hard for me to describe it.
I just like what I'm doing and I love the idea of the still image.
That it can be instantaneously recognizable.
If you think of some of the historic pictures from the last
50 years you can, a lot of times you can just describe the photo
and everybody instantly can draw up in their mind that image.
LBJ getting sworn in on Air Force One, you know, things like that.
People know the picture I'm talking about.
It becomes, the still image becomes seared in your mind.
And so, I don't know, I've just become attracted to capturing
the still image.
Kori Schulman: So Donna closed by saying: I could go on, but I'm
the only question asker in -- I'm not the only question asker in the world.
Thanks for sharing yourself. I love your work.
Her all-time favorite picture is the one of Robert DeNiro and
Bruce Springsteen, the Christmas photo with the President.
Pete Souza: Oh, well, I'll have to show that because I think I
have that here.
Kori Schulman: She calls it magical glee.
Pete Souza: Oh, maybe I don't have that.
I thought I had that--oh, there it is.
Okay, here we go.
So this was a great moment for me, too, because I am a huge
Bruce Springsteen fan and, you know, and how can you not be a
fan of Robert DeNiro, one of the greatest actors of our times.
But this was just the reception before the Kennedy Center Honors
when both DeNiro and Springsteen were honored.
So that was great.
It was just a great -- so this was an exciting day for me, I
have to say, just because I was in their, and not only in the
President's presence, but in the presence of Bruce and DeNiro.
Kori Schulman: Okay, we've got a question that's just come in
from Facebook.
If you're joining us now go to,
there's a link to Facebook and you can ask Pete
some of your questions live.
This one comes from Nate Dean. Nate asks --
Pete Souza: I don't know any of these people, by the way.
Kori Schulman: You don't know any of these people?
Pete Souza: No, I thought like all of my friends would, you know,
take over the site or something.
But, whatever.
Kori Schulman: Oh, well.
Next chat we'll e-mail to your friends.
Pete Souza: Yeah.
Kori Schulman: Nate wants to know: What's your biggest challenge
photographing the President?
Pete Souza: Oh, I think the biggest challenge is, you know,
trying to make interesting pictures every day.
I mean, I call it the daily grind when, you know, there is a
lot of similarities from meeting to meeting and so, you know,
it's a challenge trying to make interesting pictures on a daily basis.
So I think that's probably my biggest challenge.
Kori Schulman: Marissa Roman asks, this is a question that came in
from Flickr: What's a typical day for you?
Do you constantly follow the President around daily to all of
his meetings?
Do you go with him on overseas trips?
Has he ever asked you not to photograph something?
Pete Souza: Yes, yes and no.
Kori Schulman: All right.
Pete Souza: How's that?
Kori Schulman: That's good.
Jay Lor-- Jaylor Seima asks, well, he sort of has a statement
and then there's a question: Don't you ever get bored
shooting the same kinds of meetings, handshakes, press
conferences, et cetera, over and over again?
Almost everything is planned in detail so there's not much spontaneity.
That must be hard for a photo journalist at heart.
Pete Souza: There's a lot of spontaneity.
I mean, I think, as I said it is a challenge daily to come up
with interesting photos but there's definitely a spontaneity.
So let me find an example.
This is like on a typical trip.
We were in Texas and walking through the locker room and
Marvin Nicholson, the trip director, saw the scale and
decided he had to weigh himself and as he's weighing himself,
you can see, unbeknownst to him, the President is sticking his
foot on the scale and Marvin keeps pushing the lever to the
right thinking, oh, my God, I've gained a lot of weight.
And if you can tell by the people's reaction in the
background, everybody is in on the joke except for Marvin.
Marvin's the only one that didn't know what was going on.
And, like, this moment it just sort of happened, you know, this
is as spontaneous as you can get.
So there are lots of spontaneous moments in this job.
You know, I just have to be alert enough to capture them.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
We've got a question from Flickr member Carlie: What's your
favorite part of your job?
Pete Souza: I think, you know, like every part of it.
I mean, you know, I get to walk into the White House every day
and get to walk into the Oval Office and be in the presence of
the President and, you know, there's really, every part of it is good.
Kori Schulman: Karen KT, another Flickr member, wants to know:
Have you ever had a run-in with the President or his staff about
getting in there to get a shot?
Pete Souza: You know, I can't say that I have.
You know, I think early on he, the fact that I was in every --
well, let me go back.
He just wasn't used to being photographed, you know, every
day at every meeting because he, you know, he's never -- he had
been a Senator and that certainly didn't happen as a Senator.
So I think it took a little bit of an adjustment for him.
But I think now he's so used to, like I said earlier, he's so
used to me being around that it's really never an issue.
I mean, one of the things that happened when he was
interviewing candidates for the Supreme Court, there was a lot
of sensitivity because they were sneaking the candidates in, and
they didn't want anybody to know who he was interviewing and so I
explained to the staff, look, I'll make sure nobody sees these
photos until he's chosen who his candidate was.
So that took a little bit, but not that much, you know, that
was actually a fairly easy sell.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
We have another question that's come in from the Facebook chat.
Linda Moore asks: Is there a photo opportunity that you
completely missed or regret?
Pete Souza: Oh, but I'll never talk about those!
Kori Schulman: Okay, so sorry, Linda, you're out of luck.
Pete Souza: I miss, I, you know, occasionally I miss a picture,
you know, and it, it keeps me up at night.
But hopefully it doesn't happen that often.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
Anthony Schultz asks: So do you try new techniques or do you
stick to tried-and-true techniques?
You said you're always working to make things fresh.
Have you gone into a situation with a completely new piece of
equipment, a lens, et cetera, just to see how it works?
Pete Souza: You know, probably the answer to that is I stick
with the tried and --well, how did they describe it?
Kori Schulman: The tried and true.
Pete Souza: Yeah, I probably stick more with the tried and true.
I do, you know, I do try different angles and but I like
to stick with -- I primarily use four lenses and I try to stick,
stick with those and, you know, push those to their limits.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
Ryan Thompson asks: How do you avoid the staged photo ops that
must constantly fall into your lap?
Also what are the other photo journalists that you look up to?
Pete Souza: You know, I'd say that, you know, 90% of my work
is, you know, just capturing spontaneously what occurs.
There are some, you know, there are and maybe 10% is too high a
figure, but there are some handshake photos that I do.
If a staff member is departing we usually do a family photo,
you know, in front of the desk so there is a fair amount of
those routine types of pictures.
And I forget what the second part of the question was?
Kori Schulman: The second part was --
Pete Souza: I'm putting you on the spot.
Kori Schulman: No, that's fine.
Pete Souza: Because you're looking for the next question already.
Kori Schulman: -- who are some other photo journalists that you look up to?
Pete Souza: Oh!
So, I mean, you know, the photographs, the photographers
that I look up to and I'm sure other photo journalists look up
to, but from long ago W. Eugene Smith. Cartier-Bresson.
Today James Nachtwey.
Bill Allard from National Geographic.
You know, I could go on and on and give you a list of 20 people
that I admire of photographers.
Kori Schulman: Okay, this question comes from Jordan Emmit.
And Jordan wants to know: Clearly you sit on -- sit in on
some pretty important meetings.
What kind of security clearance process do you have to go
through before becoming a White House photographer?
Pete Souza: You know, you fill out a big form and, you know,
I don't really know the process, but it takes, I think, like six
months to get your final clearance and--
Kori Schulman: Here you are.
We've got a question from Griffin Morse.
What has been the most memorable photographic experience you've
had while in the White House?
Pete Souza: I think, you know, just the experience as a totality.
I mean, I just think everything.
The entire experience has been memorable.
That's kind of a copout to that answer -- I mean, to that
question, but that's sort of the way I feel.
Kori Schulman: This question comes from Paul James80, a Flickr member.
Paul asks: Your photography career is astounding and I love your work.
That's a statement.
The question is coming: When you decided to go digital and use
the 5D Mark II after years of using film, what was your
biggest challenge?
Do you prefer working with digital or film?
Pete Souza: Oh, I think now I prefer working with digital.
It's made all aspects of photography a lot easier in
terms of the instantaneous quality of it.
Being able to archive the images almost as soon as they're shot.
Whereas with film, like I said before, you'd have to get the
film processed and scanned in.
So I think digital just makes so many aspects of this job a lot easier.
Kori Schulman: Okay, this question comes from Brit Bradley on Flickr.
Brit asks: How many people work on the White House photography staff?
And how are photo assignments handled?
Are staff members assigned different subjects for a reason,
divided by specialty simply by schedule?
Pete Souza: So I have three photographers that work with me.
And Chuck Kennedy, Samantha Appleton and Lawrence Jackson.
And Samantha primarily covers the First Lady.
Chuck sort of organizes the schedule for everybody.
And the three of them do a really good job at, when there
is public events, making sure that the best angles are covered
for those public events.
I mean, I'm sort of with the President coming in at the last
minute and oftentimes at those big events my angle is not going
to be the best one.
So for historical documentation purposes, you know, any time
we're doing big events at the White House, it's so important
that we have those main angles covered for the archive.
Kori Schulman: Okay, this question comes from Stephen Bluitt:
What's your ISO in the Oval Office?
Pete Souza: ISO is film speed, for you laymen out there.
So in the Oval Office I use anywhere from ISO 400 to 800.
Sort of again depending on the light coming through the windows
in the Oval Office.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
We just -- we're almost out of time.
We're just going to take a couple more questions.
Karen French, who is in the Facebook chat wants -- she says
I love the photo you took of Bo in the snow in front of the
White House.
Is he easy to shoot?
Pete Souza: Bo is not easy to shoot because -- let's see if I
can find that photo.
I don't know if this is the one, but this was, this was --
I'm trying to think, this is actually during one of the
snowstorms this last year and I was outside just wandering
around the White House grounds trying to make some interesting photos.
And Bo was out there with one of the groundskeepers, and so as
I started walking around the grounds, Bo started following
me just because he wanted to play in the snow with somebody.
And so I made this photo of him.
But Bo is hard to shoot mostly because he's a black dog.
And for, I mean, black in terms of color, and it's hard to get
good detail sometimes in him because of that, because he's so dark.
And I think it helped in this case that he had a lot of snow on him. So --
Kori Schulman: Okay.
This is going to be our last question.
Jake Bloom asks: What kind of scrutiny do your shots undergo
before they're shown to the public?
Pete Souza: I mean, I think I described the process of uploading
pictures to Flickr which is, you know,
Alice Gabriner, the photo editor, will choose images.
I'll okay it.
Or, you know, sometimes we'll go back and find something
different and then we just get Josh Earnest in the press office
to signoff.
And that's it.
Now, there's instances, like for instance, with National Security
Meetings we've got to make sure that there's no sensitive
paperwork showing.
And so occasionally I'll run pictures by the National
Security team just to make sure that there's not a classified
document, something like that.
But usually it's just myself, Alice and Josh that make the
decisions on what pictures get out.
Kori Schulman: Okay.
We're going to take one more, if you don't mind.
Pete Souza: Okay.
Kori Schulman: This is a great one that came in on Flickr and then
we'll finish up the chat.
But this comes from another unique user name Bad Bad Leroy Brown.
Pete says: I like all the gear talk.
We could really talk about gear until we're blue, but I'd love
to hear more about your perceived impact of photographs.
Are you aware of significant changes that have been made in
policy or relations from your photographs?
Or what's the most notable impact you're aware of that your
photography at your job, at this job, has made?
And if you are ever in the San Francisco Bay Area, he'd love to
help out.
Pete Souza: I mean, I think others need to answer that question.
I'll just say this.
I mean, I think this Administration has gone to great
lengths to provide a lot more transparency.
The fact that a lot of these behind-the-scenes photographs
are being released to the public now as opposed to 20 years from
now is extraordinary.
I mean, it's never really happened before.
And that's a decision that the Administration made from, you
know, almost day one.
Now, in terms of what impact that's having, you know, I mean,
I don't know.
Other people probably have opinions on that and are in a
better position to make those opinions.
So, you know, for me, I'm too insulated to really know what
impact the photographs are having.
Kori Schulman: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Pete, for joining us.
Thanks for everyone that's online that asked your questions on Flickr.
This video will by posted shortly.
So if you missed any of it you can check it out on
I encourage you to check out the Flickr photo stream, Flickr. or go to
to review some, to check out more of Pete's work
and some of the images that he showed you today.
So thanks and have a good night!
Pete Souza: Thanks.