Famous Photographers: 225 tips to inspire you

Famous Photographers: 225 tips to inspire you

Digital Camera World has interviewed some of the best and most famous photographers in its time. Martin Parr, Rankin, David Doubilet, Jill Furmanovsky, Bryan Adams (yes, that Bryan Adams)… it’s an impressive roster of talented lensmen and lenswomen.

Here, we gather together some insightful words of advice from more than 50 of our interviews. Pro photographers from a wide range of disciplines offer their top tips for better photographs and provide insight into the best practices that helped make them famous. Photographers of all tastes and abilities will be inspired to shoot better portraits, landscapes, travel and wildlife shots, and more…

Famous Photographers: 225 tips to inspire you


Jonas Bendiksen
Documentary Photographer

Born in 1977, Jonas Bendiksen made his name with Satellites, a chronicle of the satellite states of the former USSR. He subsequently became the youngest member of the prestigious Magnum photo agency. His other major projects include The Places We Live, a mixed media project about the world’s slum dwellers.

See Jonas Bendiksen’s photos

Famous photographers: Jonas Bendiksen

120. Find photographic topics you feel truly passionate about.

121. Put in the time, even if there’s no assignment. Profound photographic work only comes with time.

122. Get out of bed early so you get the wonderful early light.

123. Move around a lot – don’t be afraid of trying new ways of seeing.

124. Talk to a lot of people, all of the time.


James Balog
Nature Photographer

Born in 1952, James Balog is one of the most respected nature photographers in the US and a regular contributor to National Geographic and Smithsonian. The recipient of many prizes, Balog’s books include ‘Survivors: A New Vision of Endangered Wildlife’ and ‘Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest’. His current major project is the Extreme Ice Survey, a multidisciplinary attempt to provide irrefutable photographic and scientific evidence of melting glaciers.

See James Balog’s photos

125. Don’t be afraid to experiment.  On digital SLRs, the flash/autofocus features are so much better – Nikon SLRs are amazing and  have never failed me in the field even at arctic temperatures, so you’ve got nothing to lose by trying new things.

126. If you want to be a serious nature photographer, you have to stay fit and be able to cope with a range of environments, from the heat of the tropics to freezing mountains. You need to be mentally fit, too.

127. Be disciplined about workflow and post production, even though the latter can drive you out of your goddamn mind when you have to do it at night after shooting all day!


David Loftus
Food Photographer

Loftus is well known for the photography in Jamie Oliver’s books and his food shots have been described as ‘still works of art’. He’s also an accomplished portrait and fashion photographer, and a regular contributor to international fashion and style magazines. His clients also include Sophie Conran, Ralph Lauren, M&S and Tefal.

See David Loftus’s photos

128. Don’t stress! Keep a sense of humour, and remember how lucky you are. Clients appreciate it, and word of arrogance and obnoxiousness soon gets around.

129. Show your portfolio to as many people as possible and persevere.

130. Make friends with your photo lab, Metro helped me immensely at the beginning, and always offered advice, and commiseration when things went wrong!

131. Always keep your copyright!

132. Take a back up camera and memory cards. And never rely on your hard drive…


Simon Roberts
Documentary Photographer

Born in 1974, Simon Roberts studied human geography at Sheffield University, before studying photojournalism. His photographs have been exhibited widely, most recently in Chicago and Shanghai. Motherland, his first monograph, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim. His second monograph, We English, is on sale now.

See Simon Roberts’s photos

133. Be an author of your own work, not merely an illustrator of other people’s ideas.

134. Do your research and become a mini-expert on your chosen subject.

135. Seek out mentors whose opinions you trust and have them regularly edit and critique your work.

136. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks and don’t compromise your vision just for financial gain.

137. Be patient.


Peter van Agtmael

Peter van Agtmael is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, Born in 1981, van Agtmael began his photographic career in China, photographing the effects of the Three Gorges Dam. In 2008, he helped organise the exhibition and book Battlespace, a retrospective of images from 22 photographers covering war in Iraq and Afghanistan. A monograph of his work, ‘2nd Tour Hope I Don’t Die’ is available now.

See Peter van Agtmael’s photos

138. Study photographers from a range of disciplines. There’s a lot to learn and labels are silly and limiting.

139. Shoot constantly. Make sure you really love it and are willing to make a lot of sacrifices.

140. Care about your subjects and treat them as you would want to be treated yourself.

141. Be modest and open-minded.

142. Don’t use the camera as a filter. Be mindful and sensitive of the situation you’re in.


Jean-Marc Caracci
Street Photographer

A self-taught photographer, Jean-Marc Caracci turned pro aged 47. In 2007 he began Homo Urbanus Europeanus, a vast, ongoing project to shoot single figures walking through European cities. Caracci started the project in Bratislava; he hopes to travel to the farthest reaches of the former USSR.

See Jean-Marc Caracci’s photos

143. Use a prime or fixed lens that best meets your needs. Leave your zoom at home… your lens must be your own eye.

144. Let yourself be inspired by your favourite photographers.

145. Work in all directions at the beginning until you find your own style, your own way of shooting.

146. If somebody dismisses your work as being too simple, be proud of it. One of the hardest things in art is to stay simple.


Pablo Bartholomew

Born in India, Pablo’s photographic career began in his teens. Since becoming a photojournalist in 1983, his work has appeared in major news publications, including Time, Newsweek, Paris Match and The Guardian. He won his first World Press Photo award at 19; nine years later he won the Picture of the Year award. Pablo trained as a stills photographer on movies, working alongside leading film directors, including Richard Attenborough.

See Pablo Bartholomew’s photos

147. Avoid backlight as cheaper digital cameras still don’t handle this well.

148. Avoid patchy light as extremes are not handled well by the camera’s sensor and you’ll end up with hotspots with no details.

149. Shoot when the sun’s at an angle and has colour – that is, rising or falling (from sunrise to about 10am and again from about 3pm to sundown). Shooting in the middle of the day gives your subjects deep shadows under their eyes and there’s little or no colour in the daylight.

150. Shoot in open shade as much as possible during high noon.

151. To be a freelance photographer requires staying power, both financially and in your vision. A lot of patience is required.

PAGE 1: Martin Parr through Bob Martin
PAGE 2: Bryan Adams through Steven Tee
PAGE 3: David Noton through Brutus Ostling
PAGE 4: Clive Nichols through Steve Bloom
PAGE 5: Jonas Bendiksen through Pablo Bartholomew
PAGE 6: Joel Sartore through Emma Delves-Broughton
PAGE 7: Alex Majoli through Peter Turner


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