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
Magnum photographer Alex Majoli was born in Ravenna in 1971. He began taking pictures when he was 11. In 1986 he joined the f45 studio in Ravenna, working alongside Daniele Casadio. Majoli became a fulltime photojournalist in 1989, covering war-torn former Yugoslavia. In 1997 Majoli began working on a personal project, focusing on the world’s diverse harbour cities. The following year, he experimented with cinematography. In 2001 Majoli joined Magnum. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Granta and National Geographic.
180. Don’t act like a photographer.
181. Don’t think like a photographer.
182. Don’t believe what you are thinking before you are seeing.
183. Walk, walk and walk.
184. Do all of these tips fast!
Mark Edward Harris
Mark started his professional photography career shooting the guests and audience on the Merv Griffith TV show. In 1986 he set off on a four-month trek across the Pacific and Asia. The images he took on that trip brought attention to his travel photography. He has won numerous awards including a CLIO Award and an Aurora Gold Award for his photographic work. Harris’ books include The Way of the Japanese Bath and Wanderlust (by RAM Publications).
185. Think about your compositions as a painter would a canvas. Would I paint a picture this way? I call this ‘Big Picture Thinking’.
186. Remember that shooting with fill flash can create quite cold, harsh light. I often put a colour temperature gel over the flash to warm things up.
187. Travel photographers shouldn’t hide with a telephoto lens. Get close up and engage with your subject (learn the 9 things you should know about using prime lenses).
188. Shoot a lot in low light? Consider using fixed fast lenses rather than cheaper zoom lenses (find out the 12 common errors of night photography – and how to fix them).
189. Remember depth of field. Use the LCD to help with this, or the Depth of Field preview. Think carefully about the best aperture setting for a shot.
Pal Hermansen was born in 1955 in Oslo, Norway, and worked as a dentist and a homeopath before deciding to follow his childhood passion, photography. Since 1971 he has worked as a freelance photographer and writer. His first photo-journalistic book was published in 1985 and his international publications include ‘Panorama Norway’, and ‘Svalbard Arctic Land’.
190. The most important question to ask yourself is: what is a good image? If you can’t come up with any other answer apart from because people have told you what is good, go back to the start and do your own research.
191. Don’t just copy what you see, try to find your own approach. This is a real challenge in today’s flood of images.
192. Get to know art and the history of photography, so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
193. Find a subject that interests you and go into it deep. Find what has been done before, and do something different. Some people expect to be a world-class photographer after just practising a year or two. This is impossible. You have to put in the time to find your own style.
A US citizen, Vitale is an independent photojournalist based in New Delhi. She decided to go professional after working as a picture editor at Associated Press and being moved by shots of the Balkan War. Her awards are almost too numerous to mention and include the Magazine Photographer of the Year from the National Press Photographers Association and a humanitarian award from the Chinese government.
194. Master the local light – really go out and figure out the best time to shoot, wherever you are.
195. Be patient – you’ve got to be prepared to keep going back to scout out a subject or location.
196. Get to know the subjects.
197. Have a viewpoint, and know why you are there.
198. Tread as lightly as possible and be respectful of your subject. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Mattias Klum was born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968 and has been a full-time freelance since 1986, specialising in natural history and cultural subjects. Since 1988, Klum’s been on major expeditions to Malaysian Borneo, Brunei, Nigeria, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Guyana, South Africa, Panama and Mongolia. Two of his eight books have been honoured with the WWF Panda Book of the Year award. He’s a member of the Board of Trustees of WWF, Sweden.
199. Be sincere, in terms of photography and editing. Think about what you want to communicate, how you can do it justice.
200. Be playful – try to be like a child again. Try new ways of shooting and grow through your mistakes.
201. Learn to use your camera’s manual controls. Don’t rely on what the camera can do for you (read our guide to Manual Focus: what you need to know to get sharp images).
202. Don’t trust your camera’s flash, rather, be its master. Nikon has amazing flash systems, but it’s up to you to be creative with them.
203. Don’t push your subject or environment too far. Don’t mess a place up or upset anyone.
Born in rural Scotland in 1960, George Logan has won a host of awards for his advertising work including the award for Professional Photographer of the Year: Advertising at the International Photography Awards 2007. His ‘Translocation’ project, in which shots of exotic animal species are combined with Scottish landscapes will soon be available as a book.
204. If you want to make composite images, think how it will work beforehand. You have to pre-visualise the final image, rather than just taking lots of shots and hoping for the best.
205. You also have to create the environment for something to happen. So study the light, the best spots to get the shots and so on – you have to be spontaneous, but lay the groundwork for composites, too.
206. If you want to try your hand at advertising photography, try to get the look you want rather than what you think clients want to see. Be aware of trends and fashions, but don’t slavishly follow them as you’ll soon look dated.
Julian Love is one of the UK’s most exciting travel photographers and winner of 2006’s Travel Photographer of the Year competition. He turned pro after discovering travel photography as a student, and his work has appeared in a wide range of travel publications and is sold through his stock library all over the world. Love is particularly fond of the Middle East, but intends to focus on India and Brazil for future projects.
207. Spend a lots of time in a place. Immerse yourself in it – it might cost more to stay longer, but you’ll end up with the interesting shots.
208. Get up early and stay out late to get the best light. Mid-day shots are nearly always rubbish.
209. I take a lot of shots at 24mm and 35mm so, in order to fill the frame I have to get in there and engage with what I’m shooting.
210. Communicate with people, even if you can’t speak the language. Show them shots on the LCD, do anything to get them on your side.
211. Don’t just fire off some frames and walk off. You often get the best shots of people by hanging around – after about 5 minutes, they forget you’re there.
Philip Plisson was born in France in 1947. He fell in love with the sea from an early age and started taking pictures in his teens. Following a successful career as a maritime photographer, he was appointed official artist to the French navy. His works include over 400,000 photographs and 40 books, including The Sea and Queen Mary, and the recently published Ocean.
212. Be self-confident and don’t wait for permission from other people – I wish I’d realised this when I was 20.
213. Get to know a subject you’re passionate about before you try to photograph it.
214. Learn as much as you can about light.
215. Learn from the master nature photographers of the past.
216. I’m not a teacher, but remember that the success of each image depends on the emotional quotient of each person looking at it.
Aldo Pavan is an Italian journalist and travel photographer. He began his career in the ’70s with the magazine L’Europeo. After shooting events in the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe, Pavan concentrated on travel features that combined both words and pictures. In 1989, Pavan began working with Gamma, the French photojournalistic agency, and later, Italian publisher, Calderini.
217. Reject all those tired old strategies for visual communication – try to come up with something fresh.
218. Don’t be afraid of interpreting reality according to your personal style.
219. Don’t become a slave to your equipment – a good shot can be taken even with a cheap compact.
220. Understand that the photo isn’t an end to itself but a means to understand the world around us.
Now in his 70s, Pete Turner is one of the most celebrated photographers in the US. His work is in the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the George Eastman House (Rochester, New York) and at the MEP in Paris among others. As well as having a successful commercial career, Turner is a visionary force in colour photography, starting with a seven-month journey in Africa as his backdrop for his innovative colour work.
For more on travel photography, check out our 79 travel photography tips you shouldn’t leave home without.
221. Looking back, the real plus for me was to have a great portfolio and great prints, so this is still really important if you want to get noticed.
222. Shoot what you really like, as your passion for the subject will shine through.
223. Look behind you when you’re out shooting, too.
224. Try to stick with one focal length – you get more interesting shots.
225. Study lighting and shooting angles until you’re an expert.
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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