50 photography tips from jobbing pros to famous photographers
26 – Eric Ryan Anderson
One piece of advice I wish I’d received when I was starting out is in a culture inundated with instant gratification, practice patience. Be patient when setting up an image: wait for the best moment, not just a good one. Be patient in your editing process: don’t always rush to be the first online. And be patient with your body of work: building a good portfolio simply can’t be accomplished overnight. It requires years of experiences, opportunities, travels… and patience.
Eric is a self-taught commercial photographer who lists MTV, Italian Vanity Fair and National Geographic Travel in his client list.
27 – Tim Wallace
Develop a style – marketing people and agencies are very aware of the photographers that are on the circuit and don’t want to see work that’s an obvious copy of somebody else, it shows a lack of imagination and after all great photography is 90% creative and 10% technique. A good photographer can get a tune so to speak out of any camera… Be honest to yourself and experiment, don’t let people tell you it can’t be done that way, it usually means they’ve tried and failed and just don’t want to see you achieve it.
Be inspired by Tim’s commercial and advertising photography, specialising in automotive.
28 – Morten Hvaal
“How do you get people to ignore you and the camera?” I get asked that a lot, and the answer is: “I’m rather strange!”
Good candid photography necessitates being a psychic bore. It basically means sitting quietly in a corner, not staring at people, not smiling back at children, and so on. Not distracting your subjects by aiming a large ugly camera at them means being able to pre-visualise the finished photograph, making all the right settings on the camera while it’s hanging over your shoulder. Then it’s back to being a bore and waiting for the right moment.
Morten is an award-winning documentary photographer who has covered major conflicts and worked with UNICEF and the Nobel Peace Centre.
29 – Lee Beel
The two questions that I’m asked most often are “what camera do you use?” and “what camera should I buy?”. Of course, a quality camera body will deliver great images but it’s better to have a great lens with an average camera than the other way round! If you have a budget for a DSLR and lens then blow most of it on the body and compromise on the lens, you’ll regret it!
Lee is a widely published freelance photographer, with numerous magazine covers under his belt.
30 – Clive Nichols
The question I get asked most is: “how do you get into such amazing gardens when many are privately owned?” The answer is simple – I spend a lot of time visiting gardens that are open to the public, especially those that open under the charity known as The National Gardens Scheme (NGS). If I like the look of a garden, I’ll have a chat with the owners, explain clearly to them that I’d love to photograph their garden for magazines, books, calendars etc and see if they’re open to the idea. Once I have their confidence, I’m often able to return to the gardens at dawn or dusk – the optimum times for atmospheric shots.
Clive Nichols is one of the world’s most successful flower photographers. He sits on the RHS Photographic Committee and is a judge for the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition.
31 – Kevin Fern
If you’ve taken a shot of a person and walked away thinking “damn, I should have taken it the other way,” then don’t be afraid to turn around and go back and ask for one more quick picture. If you have to, just make up an excuse and say the camera broke!
Kevin is a popular freelance photographer specialising in news, commercial images and weddings.
32 – David Creedon
Always carry a tripod, not just in low-light. Yes, they’re heavy, cumbersome and slow everything down but that’s the point – using a tripod makes you consider every shot. Your work will get better. Mine did. Handholding just makes you miss shots that would have benefited from being composed properly. The only exception is if I’m shooting streets and occasionally for some portrait work.
David’s documentary photography project, Ghosts of the Faithful Departed, has been widely published in a range of prestigious magazines. He has exhibited around the world and received a runner up award in the Prix de la Photographie, Paris.
33 – Guy Edwardes
Don’t always rely upon a tripod for support when shooting landscapes with lenses in excess of 200mm. Where practical use a large beanbag instead. This can support the whole length of the lens and will eliminate vibrations caused by the mirror and shutter action as well as any wind induced vibration. It works particularly well when using shutter speeds of between 1/125th and 4 seconds (and longer in windy conditions).
Keep your beanbag filled with a weighty substance such as grain, rice or polypropylene granules. If you can’t find a suitable spot from which to set up a beanbag then place it on top of your tripod, as it’s the tripod head which is normally the weakest link when it comes to supporting long lenses during lengthy exposures.
Guy is one of the UK’s best scenic ’togs.
34 – Pål Hermansen
All nature photo books still emphasise that the use of tripod is essential to achieve the best results. And wherever you see a nature photographer, you see a big lens and a big tripod. Okay, the advice was reasonable in the years of 50 ISO Velvia, but now, when high ISO and stabilisers have taken over, it’s time to claim the opposite – don’t use a tripod other when you really need it, such as during long exposures.
Get rid of the tripod, and you’ll see better results! There are at least three benefits: 1) You’re more mobile and can catch the ‘crucial moment’, such as subjects moving quickly. 2) You save time and can try out alternative compositions easily. 3) You get rid of a heavy burden.
Pål has been working as a freelance photographer since 1971, and his nature images have been published in National Geographic Magazine, Conde Naste Traveller, GEO and Stern.
35 – David Clapp
One of the mistakes photographers make when building their own commercial landscape library is to continue shooting for themselves and not their clients. One of the hardest things to develop is the mindset of a graphic designer as it goes against everything learnt about composition. But leaving blank spaces, photographing clear skies and even emptiness itself can be the key to selling more imagery than a personally satisfying shot could yield.
David is a landscape and travel photographer who is a contibutor to Getty, as well as many other photo agencies and sells work directly to clients worldwide.
36 – Fabio De Paola
Always try and think of different ways to light a subject and be prepared to use any source. You don’t just have to use available light and flash to light a portrait – it can be lit by many other sources such as a torch, a candle or car headlights. These instances can be forced upon you when no other options are available, be it at night, in a dark room or when there’s no time to set a flash up and time is limited.
Fabio is a freelance photographer based in Nottingham whose work is frequently seen in The Guardian.
37 – Damien Lovegrove
One of the most important techniques I use to ‘learn’ about lighting is the process of deconstructing other photographers’ pictures. I keep tear sheets from magazines of the fashion pictures that I like and I analyse every bit of light in the scene to work back to the the original lighting set up used. I study shadows to see if the light sources are hard or soft, I look at the direction of light sources and I imagine the scene without any added light. Then I work out how I might have lit the shot and what would the result look like. It’s a bit of a geeky technique but I’ve learned so much from the great photographers of our time this way.
A former BBC cameraman and lighting director turned wedding pro, Damien runs popular training courses.
38 – Mark Humpage
The most frequent question that lands in my inbox is not the usual how do you do this or that (although I do get a lot of these!), but quite simply “How can I make a few quid from photography?” My tip is to sell your photos to a news agency – it’s become the single biggest earner from my photographic work. By forging a relationship with a national agency (such as SWNS or APEX) your images can bring in surprising amounts of money. With my own work I’ve almost become ‘paparazzi of the natural world’.
You’ll need to contact the agency, send a ‘story photo’ and then let them market your photo to all the national newspapers. If it gets used then you receive a cheque in the post. It’s surprising what constitutes a ‘story photo’ and how easy it can be to get your photo inside a national newspaper.
Remember that someone, somewhere is always in the right place at the right time. Should you witness an unusual or eye-catching event, there’s a good chance it can make you money. National newspapers are always looking for good stories and images such as strange holiday snaps, weird weather or festivals.
Mark is a seasoned Stormchaser and ambassador for Olympus, as a professional elemental photographer.
39 – Haje Jan Kamps
It’s surprisingly difficult to get useful feedback on your photographs. “That’s pretty” or “I love her eyes” are nice to hear, but aren’t going to improve you as a photographer. Whenever I ask people to critique my work (and when I critique others) I ask them to complete these sentences: “This photo makes me think of…”, “I think this photo is about…”, “Technically, I think…”, “What I like about this photo is…”, “If I were to improve anything, I would…” By using a simple framework, people are forced to give feedback you can actually use.
Haje is the man behind the popular Photocritic blog.
40 – Tim Fisher
Be creative! Obvious advice, I know, but how many galleries do you visit a month? Drink in the visual arts (get drunk on the stuff!), be it sculpture, paintings, photography, architecture, textiles, you name it. Many are best viewed in a public space & not necessarily in book or magazine form.
At home, how often do you take an A4 sheet of tracing paper and overlay a page in say Tatler, Esquire or Marie Claire & then draw all the triangles, be they equilateral, isosceles or right angled. How about rhombuses and rhomboids? What about the rectangles and the squares? You’d be shocked how everything great in photography seems to distillate down to geometry, so try it!
Tim won first prize in the Automotive category of 2008’s Prix de la Photographie, Paris (Px3).
41 – Dave Butcher
Keep images as simple as possible. Have a strong centre of interest, maybe with a strong foreground to set off the image, too. Avoid distractions or too many eye catching elements within view, slow down and check around the edges of the image to make sure nothing unnecessary or bright is included in these areas before pressing the button. Use a tripod to enable full use of the camera settings, such as slow shutter speeds and small apertures for full depth of field; blurred foregrounds can be very distracting.
Dave is a fine art black and white specialist and an Ilford Master Printer. See more of Dave’s photography.
42 – Richard Lee
Know your equipment inside out to maximise its potential even if it does mean reading the instruction manual from cover to cover – it’s surprising how many pro photographers still come up and ask me how to perform basic functions on their Nikon D3. Also, after having the safe shots in the bag, don’t be afraid to try something different.
Richard is a freelance photographer with over 10 years’ experience in news, sport and feature photography. See his varied professional portfolio.
43 – Svein Bringsdal
I wish that someone would have given me the following advice when I started shooting 14 years ago. It’s easy to try to copy other photographers and make your shots look like mainstream professional photos. Forget it! The best-known pros have their own recognisable style. If you want to stand out, do it your way! Trust yourself, and believe in your style.
Svein is a top fashion photographer working out of Bergen, Milan, Paris and London, and the publisher of Norwegian fashion title, Sva magazine. Visit Svein’s new website.
44 – Russell Lewis
If you’re planning to produce a composite image, the key word is ‘planning’. Sketch out a storyboard and plan the stages of shooting before you even consider removing the lens cap! Plan each element of the composite so that it remains balanced in the key aspects; strength and direction of light and shade, depth of field, shooting distance etc. If you’re planning to ‘treat’ the final image, do all of your layering work before applying the tweaks.
Russell spent almost 30 years as a graphic artist, the past ten working for F1 team and sponsors, and is now building a name for himself as a creative commercial photographer.
45 – Ron Moes
When photographing portraits, don’t try and act the clown. Although you need to make your portrait sitter feel at ease and forget that they’re being photographed, stay in control. Be confident about your camera and lighting settings. If things are going wrong, don’t let the subject know – ‘sell’ it as an experiment you were trying…
Ron Moes is an award-winning wedding photographer based in the Netherlands.
46 – Emma Delves-Broughton
If you’re dealing with models you have to think of all the things that could possibly go wrong and be prepared for them. It’s often something minor such as a false nail coming off, to something major such a model not turning up. I always like to speak to them a week before, and the day before the shoot, to check everything is okay, and get them to text me when they’re on the train, or about to set off in the car.
Emma is an in-demand fetish and fashion photographer.
47 – Laurence Baker
You need to be (and I hate this word because I’m sick of TV chefs using it all the time) passionate about what you’re doing and you need to know something about your subject. It’s no good waking up one day and deciding you’re going to be an architectural photographer for instance and not having the slightest bit of knowledge about it.
Laurence is a freelance photographer specialising in rock star portraits.
48 – Ben Birchall
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” That saying is so true. Filling the frame gives your images maximum impact, leaving no room for distractions. Forget standing back and fitting longer lenses, the effect just isn’t the same. Taking a step towards your subject will always result in much better photographs as it forces you to interact and engage with whatever your shooting.
Ben Birchall is an award-winning press photographer – and ex-DC staffer.
49 – Lee Pengelly
In my workshops one question I’m asked regularly is: “How do you know what to shoot?” when we arrive at locations. Planning is the key. Having a predetermined viewpoint and arriving when you know the light’s at its best will improve your hit rate no end. Plan for things like tides and sun position.
Lee is a successful freelance shooter specialising in landscapes.
50 – Kevin Poolman
If you want to earn money from your photography, I think it’s important not to squeeze too many jobs in. It’s important to spend more time keeping your regular clients happy, rather than dropping these for the one-off better paying clients who inevitably pop up, when you’re already booked. It’s crucial to maintain a steady income and keep your regulars coming back to you. It’s also worthwhile buddying up with another few photographers with whom you can share work with, when one of you is booked.
Kevin is a popular freelance press and PR photographer.
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