I get a lot of emails and messages from new photographers asking for advice. Here are some of the most common questions and answers:-
Q: What equipment do I need?
A: Almost any modern DSLR with a couple of consumer grade lenses will be more than enough if you are just starting out. There are plenty of excellent photographers producing amazing work with ‘consumer grade’ cameras such as the Canon 450D and similar. Your main focus (no pun intended) in the first year or two should be on mastering the basics of exposure, composition, focal length, DOF and perhaps a bit of studio lighting. Camera equipment is one of the least important parts of the equation in the first few years. Once you have mastered the basics and are competent with your first camera then maybe think about upgrading IF you are being held back in some way by it.
Q: I have my first nude shoot soon – what do I need to do?
A: Keep your pants on, respect the model's privacy as much as is possible under the circumstances, turn the heat up and have fun!
Q: I don’t always get the results I hoped for – is that normal?
A: Everybody has shoots where things don't go as expected. I've had shoots where I've been miserably disappointed with the results but everybody else involved has loved them - but so far, not the other way around, thankfully. I'm sure every "great" photographer has a few stories of shoots that didn't live up to expectations. That's life. One of the things that makes a photographer "great" is the ability to shrug it off then go out and shoot something awesome the next day.
Q: How do you avoid dropping/damaging your camera?
A: Outdoors I keep the strap wrapped around my wrist. Indoors when shooting tethered I do the same but when I put the camera down I always put it on the floor. In fact I have a special 'camera cushion' that I sit it on. Much better that it's already on the floor than getting knocked there by some numpty (probably me) tripping over the USB cable and dragging it off a table!
Q: How do you get such great results from inexperienced models?
A: I generally just tell young/inexperienced models that I want them to goof about and try absolutely anything they like as digital is free and I'd rather get one great shot and throw away 99 bloopers than get 100 safe but boring shots. Music of their choice, also, often helps - in the UK get Spotify - www.spotify.com - and you can let them choose pretty much anything
Q: I only have cheap lights so I’m screwed, aren’t I?
A: No. Your problem is your attitude more than your lack of funds. Nobody knows when they look at a photo whether you used £10k of Profoto strobes or a couple of £50 work lights. All they see is what you did with what you have. If you really want a particular light or modifier for a specific effect then yes, save up for it and buy it, but generally speaking you will be limited by your imagination much more than by your equipment.
Q: What lighting do I need for Fashion?
A: There is no such thing as "lighting for fashion". It all depends on the look and mood you're trying to create. Whether your photos turn out as "fashion" or not will be more down to the styling, the models and your photographic eye than the lighting you choose to use. I was going to say "you can't go wrong with a beauty dish" but many people do so I'll just suggest using a BD or a single gridded strip softbox and maybe a reflector. You don't need all that much gear - keep it simple! Many of my photos were shot with just one light.
Q: Other photographers are doing so much better than me – what am I doing wrong?
A: Don't worry about what others are doing (or appear to be doing) - half of it will be exaggeration, spin and wishful thinking on their part anyway. I find other people's Facebook updates amusing at times - if you judge them only by that you would think everybody was already a megastar. Just keep doing what you're doing and keep getting better - it can take years to get anywhere in fashion photography, or it can take a week if you happen to strike it lucky and make one great contact! Maybe get a Facebook fan page and profile for your business if you don't already have one - the more people who have heard your name and can associate it with your photography the better
Q: I bought a new camera but I still can’t replicate photos I like – did I buy the wrong camera?
A: If you spend some money on tuition or even a couple of good books about photography, rather than just buying random equipment in the hope that it will improve your pictures, then you will be able to look at a picture and in many cases make an educated guess as to what technique/lens/focal length/aperture was used. However, if you just prefer to keep flailing around in the dark hoping for a quick fix by buying more equipment then carry on!
Stefano Brunesci is available for 1 to 1 tuition at very reasonable rates – contact him via Facebook, MM or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details and prices.
If you have any questions for future posts, ask them in the comments!