The business of photography can be tough; newbies to the industry may find themselves having to navigate a new world wholly unfamiliar to them.
It can help, therefore, to have some insight into the industry before you start. With the help of professional photographers, Virtues and Vices in Photography explores the lessons, pitfalls, highs and lows of the industry.
From the exotic appeal of travel and food photography to the creativity involved in fashion and family photography (and vice-versa), they provided invaluable advice specific to their niches.
Here are their top tips for aspiring photographers:
Sid Ali – Food Photographer
“As a food photographer it is really important to turn your client’s vision into reality. To do this, you need to understand the limitations of your equipment, you need to be able to tell a story with your photo and you need to be able to set the mood with your lighting.”
“When you first start out, use natural lighting so you understand how it works. Experiment with shooting on a sunny day and then shooting the same dish on a cloudy day. Once you understand how natural lighting works (and how to use it) you can move on to artificial sources of light.”
“One of the biggest misconceptions in food photography is that it’s easy and anybody can do it. But what food photography really relies on is a deep understanding of the food that you are photographing.”
“Shooting food overhead can be fantastic for making food look extremely beautiful and graphic; however, it doesn’t work for all food or for all occasions. Experiment by shooting the same food at different angles to learn what works and what does not.”
“When I look for inspiration I look at lighting, form, composition and story. The more places you draw inspiration from – paintings, books, films and everyday life – the more informed and unique your work will be.”
“There are many ways to set the mood in a photograph – using lighting, props, colour, form and story. Decide what you want the image to depict and then make technical decisions around it.”
“I always shoot tethered (connecting your camera to a computer or tablet) so that I can see what I am creating on a big screen and make adjustments accordingly.”
“Sometimes the best way to get the shot you want is to get five different shots and composite them together in Photoshop. Take as many shots as you can so you give yourself and your retoucher as many options as possible”
“I always try to make my shot look as perfect as I can in the camera, and then make small tweaks to enhance the shot in post-production (contrast, sharpness, darkening background if needed, enhancing the colours of the dish).”
“The best way to become a great photographer is to never stop being inspired and to never stop shooting.”
Richard Bernabe – Travel Photographer
“The three strengths a travel photographer must have are:
An open and unbiased mind
An ability to stay in the present moment and not be distracted by events back home or any to-do list for when you do get back home. You must immerse yourself completely in the place and the moment.”
“When possible, I try to include a bit of mystery in my photographs. By holding back some of the story, you force your audience into becoming active participants in the image, not merely passive viewers.”
“A tripod is usually mandatory with me. But if you’re going handheld, choose a high ISO (2500) to achieve a fast enough shutter speed (1/800 second) to be sure the picture is in sharp focus.”
“When photographing a group of animals or birds, it’s always best to be sure at least the closest is in focus, if you can’t get the whole group.”
“Use a faster shutter speed to show more texture when photographing moving water. A 1- to 2-second shutter speed implies motion while keeping foreground details (and therefore producing a more interesting photo).”
“The natural impulse of most photographers would be to zoom in tight on the subjects they’re trying to capture. But sometimes the wider composition is the stronger one.”
“The biggest mistake a photographer makes when working with silhouettes, especially many at one time in the same image, is having the silhouettes merging together. It’s crucial that there is enough space between them so that the integrity of their shapes is maintained.”
“If you’re short on time on your travels, I suggest you wake up super early – before sunrise – so you can explore without crowds or tourists. The morning light is magical and you’re most likely to have the best locations to yourself.”
“A misconception about the type of photography I do (wildlife, nature, travel) is that I am out traveling taking photos ALL THE TIME. It’s not even close. The vast majority of my time is spent writing, planning, doing promotions, and marketing. It’s a business.”
“Composition involves many decisions that go into image design: the scale; the underlying shapes, patterns and lines; space; how the eye moves through the photo; and how all of this relates to the image frame. I try not to think too much about composition when I’m in the field. Sometimes I find that I’ve broken a photography ‘rule’, but it only makes the image more unique and gives me intense joy and delight.”
Hannah Harding – Family Photographer
“I think there’s a real misconception that family photographers make you stand around and pose whilst shouting ‘Say cheese!’. Don’t get me wrong; posed photos have their place and there’s something very satisfying about capturing that perfect family shot, but my heart lies with the candid photos, and in feedback, clients say that these are their favourite captures too.”
“Patience is the most important strength for a family photographer. Children are unpredictable and have the ability to be gloriously stubborn at times. If you lose your cool, you lose their willingness and trust.”
“You have to be relatively fit as there’s lots of running involved on an outdoors family shoot. I also find myself kneeling, sitting and lying on my stomach to get the perfect shot a lot.”
“Friendliness and being able to communicate with children are key. You could be an incredible photographer, but if the children don’t warm to you, then it’ll be a struggle to get them to participate.”
“Nothing beats the quality of a photo taken on a DSLR. However, I hear a lot of “My <insert smartphone brand> can take photos like this” which can be more than a little disheartening/frustrating! Once they see your photos, though, it’ll (hopefully!) be clear that a good camera makes a difference.”
“When taking close-up photos of children, dial the ISO right down and use a shallow depth of field to get the best shot.”
“If you can get another adult to help you in your shoots, get them to tell jokes and do silly things behind you off-camera. You’re guaranteed to get some eye-sparkling smiles.”
“To keep children engaged, chat to them before you start the shoot. Ask them what their favourite food is. I find: ‘Can you think of the biggest bowl of chocolate ice cream in the world?’ works wonders if I want a magical smile.”
“Get down to their level. It’s a great way to get a fantastic shot and it makes them feel less intimidated, rather than an adult towering over them making demands.”
“If you’re having trouble getting a child to stay still for a shot, use something to distract them. For example, questions like, ‘what does that cloud look like?’ or ‘can you find any ladybirds?’”
Saurabh Dua – Fashion Photographer
“A mistake photographers generally make is that they shoot exactly the way it’s expected from them – which I call in the ‘comfort zone’. I try to break that every time, be it in terms of compositions, lighting pattern etc.”
“Three common mistakes fashion photographers make:
To shoot the image the obvious way.
To play extensively with lighting without a vision.
To be predictable and not experiment.”
“Pre-planning for each shoot is extremely important. You need that to achieve the desired result from the entire team. Key things to remember before a shoot:
Location recce, if it’s an outdoor shoot.
Gear-check of what’s required for the job at hand.
The number of team members/assistants required to execute the project.
Casting the right talent for the desired vision.”
“While photographing men or women I choose to shoot them in a very raw manner, almost in their natural look as they are. This creates a timeless feel. Where possible, I’d also choose to go with almost no makeup or very minimal to focus on the emotions and feelings of my work.”
“The most difficult job for me is to ensure that the picture is not always too ‘pose-y’. Encouraging the model to be candid, yet creating a strong presence is what challenges me the most.”
“Try to find ways to add interesting elements, either to the background or foreground. The shadows created by a tree branch, the silhouette of a building, using existing architecture for framing – these all create interest and make a photo unique.”
“Photography is an art form, but it comes with a lot of practice and continuous hard work. You need to learn from your mistakes as well as critically analyse your work on a regular basis.”
“While you can be spontaneous on a shoot, it’s important to plan everything out meticulously first. When you know that everything has been organised and all the team are prepared, it’ll be easier to improvise (and then come back to the plan when you’re done).”
“Every fashion photographer has a unique way of lighting their models. Build up your style gradually, until you come up with a unique style of your own. Eventually, you’ll have a strong identity that people will recognise instantly as your own.”
“There are no rules in photography. You can break and mould whatever you like, and no one is going to stop you.”