Saturday, April 12, 2014

Selling your vision

I think photographers should not be selling the act of taking a picture. They should sell their vision, their ability to communicate an idea, to persuade and touch people's lives in a direct visceral way.

It's not just about being able to make a composition, lighting or even being able to get on with people, and least of all the ability to press the shutter button on a piece of high tech equipment.

Till soon,

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Essential Tips for Photographing Strangers

I can't remember ever coming across a photographer who said they find it easy to go up to a complete stranger in the street to ask to take a photograph. I hope the tips below will help you overcome this perfectly natural reaction and improve your chances of persuading a stranger to agree to be photographed.

Right, let's get straight down to it then. Think about what you're doing and put yourself in the other person's place. What would your reaction be to someone coming up to you in the street? This mindset can help you, not only approach people but also to take a better picture. The key to a good portrait is empathy with your subject.


Be clear and open about your intention. Approach people from an angle where they can see you coming. Don't sneak up on someone from behind and tap them on the shoulder. Giving them a fright is not a great start.

Your camera should be visible. It's a clue about your intention and allows the person you're about to ask to prepare themselves. From the moment they see you coming they're doing a risk assessment and wondering what you want. Your camera is one of the visual clues they'll use to judge the situation. Muggers, beggers and sales people don't usually carry cameras.

If you have an outlandish fashion sense you may want to reign it in. People judge you by the way you look. Dress like the subjects you want to photograph to blend in with the crowd. Having said that, a quirky element can make you look 'arty' and interesting. Just don't over do it.

Take off your sunglasses when you speak to people. We all know how important it is to be able to see someone's eyes.

If you're photographing in a foreign country then take the time to study local culture and customs to ensure you do not do anything that could cause offence. Be aware of how close you are standing next to your subject. Don't invade their space and take care with your gestures and body language.

Location and time

Taking an extreme example to illustrate this point, if you approach someone in a dark alley, late at night, you're going to be seen as far more of a threat than in broad daylight in a very public place. 

Don't corner people in a place where they may feel uncomfortable. If you have a good location that is a bit off the beaten path you first have to earn your subject's trust before you can ask them to accompany you to your wonderfully photogenic spot.

Even if someone does agree to pose, if they feel uncomfortable, it will show in your image and possibly spoil the shot.


Keep your introduction short and to the point. Introduce yourself and explain why you would like to take their photograph and how you intend to use the image. These are the key questions that people generally want to know. If you come across as open and straightforward, people will have more confidence in you than if they have to drag all the answers out of you.

Travel photographers can benefit from employing a local guide, who can translate and open a conversation with the person you would like to photograph.

Also remember that you are asking people to give you their time, however brief. You're taking their picture. They're giving you a gift so the least you can do is thank them. Using bit of charm also goes a long way but don't overdo it. Just behave normally and be courteous. I always offer to email my picture to the person I have photographed and have met some very interesting people this way.

A final point. If someone says no then accept it gracefully. There are plenty of other people in the world to photograph.

If you feel this article has been useful then please share it on your social media networks.

Till soon,
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My wife and fellow professional photographer, Magda Indigo, finishes a spontaneous group portrait in Antwerp. We love meeting people and talking to them.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Photographs that connect with the viewer

What does in take to produce images that connect with the viewer on a deeper level. There are plenty of technically good photographs and we look at them and say, "Yes, that's nice." But to produce an image that stops the viewer in their tracks and really makes them look and ask questions is a much greater challenge.

One of my favourite photographers, Joe McNally, interviewed by Scott Kelby for The Grid, shares his insights, knowledge and experience gained over many years working for magazines including Life and National Geographic.

I found this interview really interesting because it addresses key issues about understanding your subjects, building a relationship with them and focusing on telling the story. Too many photographers are obsessed with the technical aspects. Digital makes it easy to walk in, get some superficially attractive images and walk out again, missing the essence of the subject.

Without further ado, over to Joe and Scott in one of the best interviews I've seen with a photographer in a really long while.


Till soon,

Friday, February 07, 2014

What motivates this group of the world's best photographers?

I highly recommend viewing this video, Women of Vision, with 11 of the top National Geographic photographers discussing their work and what motivates them. Before this interview several of them had never met. They're always off somewhere in the world on assignment so to get them all together in one place must have been a challenge.

Lynsey Addario
Kitra Cahana
Jodi Cobb
Diane Cook
Carolyn Drake
Lynn Johnson
Beverly Joubert
Erika Larsen
Stephanie Sinclair
Maggie Steber
Amy Toensing

Ann Curry

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.

Till soon,

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Capturing Those Moments

National Geographic photographer, William Albert Allard, talks about the role that passion, caring about the subject matter and serendipity have played in his photography. You can't think about every detail when you're in the moment, you have to react intuitively. This is the type of photography that I love too.

Of course you have ideas of what you'd like to do, but when you arrive in a situation, you need to be open to what's happening and react. As Allard says, the difference between an average picture and great image can be a matter of inches; I'd say millimetres.

Hope you enjoy this clip as much as I did.

Thanks for reading and watching.

Till soon,

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Photographers on Photography

In this video you will see an enlightening, entertaining and informative series of short interviews with National Geographic photographers talking about what photography means to them, the power of the image and why their life style suits them so well.

Photography can change the world.

The photographers are:

Lynsey Addario
William Albert Allard
James Balog
Marcus Bleasdale
Jodi Cobb
David Doubilet
David Guttenfelder
David Alan Harvey
Aaron Huey
Lynn Johnson
Ed Kashi
Tim Laman
David Littschwager
Gerd Ludwig
Michael Nichols
Paul Nicklen
Randy Olson
Jim Richardson
Joel Sartore
Stephanie Sinclair
Brian Skerry
Brent Stirton
Amy Toensing
Michael Yamashita

I'm sure you'll enjoy this as much as I did.

Thanks for watching,


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Why I chose the Canon EOS 6D

My main camera bag
In 2006 I switched from Nikon to Canon. I was tired of waiting for Nikon to bring out a full frame DSLR. The camera I had been waiting for from Nikon, the D700 was eventually launched in July 2008 but by then I’d invested in Canon gear.

My trusty Canon 5D has been my companion through many an adventure and has consistently provided portfolio quality images which have met the most rigorous demands of publishers and agencies. Mind you, images shot with my first DSLR, the 6 megapixel Nikon D70 are still selling through stock libraries. It’s not about megapixels!

My wife, professional photographer Magda Indigo stayed with Nikon. She bought the Nikon D7000 when it came out. In 2011 I also invested in a D7000. I wanted to try filming with a DSLR and really liked the ergonomics and handling of the Nikon, as well as the superb quality, which matches that of the 5D full frame. The D7000 is fast, light to carry and a I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with my old Nikon prime lenses from my film days; 24mm and 85mm, as well as using the new Nikon 50mm and versatile 18-105mm lenses.

For a while I have worked simultaneously with Nikon and Canon systems but it was becoming a lot to lug around and with baggage limitations on flights, also a logistical challenge. In terms of quality there’s nothing to choose between the two brands. Photographers make images, not cameras. Having said that, certain cameras offer more versatile options and help you achieve better image quality.

I have a superb range of Canon L lenses. This ultimately was the reason for choosing a Canon DSLR. Having made that decision the next one was, which Canon DSLR? I like working with full frame.

Why the  Canon EOS 6D instead of the EOS 5D MK III?

  • It costs significantly less than the 5D MKIII.
  • The 6D has the same chip and offers a slightly better image quality in lab conditions than the EOS 5D MKIII (in practical terms nobody will see the difference).
  • The 6D offers slightly better dynamic range (0.4 f stops), and better low light performance (less noise). I like shooting in available light and the 6D is a class leader in DSLRs in this category so an important plus point for me.
  • The body is slightly smaller and 20% lighter, but when you stick a heavy L lens on the camera does it make all that much real world difference? I’m not sure that it does.
  • The built in wifi and ability to shoot remotely from a smartphone or tablet is a pleasant feature.
  • Built in GPS is nice for travel photos.

The 6D is designed for portrait and travel photographers which is what I do. If I shot sport or fast moving wildlife then having more autofocus points, faster reaction times and frame rates of the 5D III would perhaps have swayed the decision in its favour. As it stands there is nothing in the extra features of the 5D III that would merit spending the extra cash, which I’d rather use to to fund travel to places where I can make new images.

I hope that my story illustrates that choosing the right equipment very much depends on what you want to do, your budget and how you have built your system up over time. If you are starting out then think about the whole system that you would like to buy into. You can’t go wrong with any of the major brands, so it comes down to personal preference. Lenses are the single most important component of your system and over time you will find yourself using less and less gear. At the moment I am now only using three lenses with my 6D, which I am enjoying, and I have the 5D MK1 as my backup. If I need more equipment for a shoot I hire it.

I am certainly not obsessed with having the latest and 'best' of everything. Good images are made by photographers not cameras. Keep it simple.

Till soon,