Top Tips From Three [Framed] Award Winners

Editor’s note: Take a moment to visit the 2012 Framed Award Winners. These awards are given by photographers to other photographers. The work is exceptional. Here are some top tips from three of the winners.

Miss Aniela (Natalie Dybisz)

author of Self-Portrait Photography and
Creative Portrait Photography
[F] Shortlisted: Best Fine Art Photographer, Best Commercial Photographer

Be confident as an artist
People wanting to learn photography and pursue it […] can often put too much dependence on books, magazines, workshops, videos, and other kind of tutorial material. Of course, everyone who starts out in photography is inspired by something or someone, but it is crucial to establish self-esteem in first believing in the validity of your own artistic expression as a foundation upon which to healthily build inspiration from other artists and sources. When you continue to make more and more work, you will see that your development lies in your own work itself: it is the main place you will find inspiration, guidance, and indeed everything you need to know about how to create your next piece.

You don’t have to use a tripod
When I first started taking self-portraits, I did not have a tripod, and so I used by initiative to prop my camera up on whatever was available. This led to interesting “bug’s-eye” views such as in Panda & I. While I use my tripod on most shoots now, I try not to fix my camera onto the tripod until I have had a chance to scrutinize the scene with my camera handheld.

Panda & I by Natalie Dybisz

On Post-processing
Though I recommend you take full advantage of digital post-processing, I also think it is wise to keep your vision balanced by appreciating the images that come straight out of your camera, and regularly looking at the photography of others, particularly work that is subtler than your own. By doing that you are less likely to over-process your images and feel frustrated by the process. You will also be less inclined to rely on post-production in a way that can develop into a bad habit.

Shoot in Raw for post-processing
I fully recommend shooting in Raw, a lossless format, the main reason being that Raw allows the most flexibility for post-production changes, particularly f or adjusting exposure, and hence provides the best foundation for potentially destructive editing

Developing a style
It’s important to give yourself time to develop your style, as much as it is important to just “go and do it.”[…] List ten things—whether these are other photographers, other kinds of artists, films, music, literature. For each thing, say what inspires you about it … Once you realize what it is about something that inspires you, you can make sense of the component ingredients that go into the production of your own work.

Sharing your photos online
Photo-sharing [on websites like Flickr, 500px, 1x, and PurePhoto] is something you can do from day one, because it has the appearance of a “work in progress,” studio-like context, where you can build your work, and in fact, build your own identity as a photographer. They can also form the basis of a peer group for mutual support and a sense of community from like-minded photographers. I found Flickr tremendously useful for both of these reasons: watching my work grow and figuring out where to take it, and gaining feedback from others that have given shape to my identity as an artist. However, I do recommend taking a step back from the culture of photo-sharing at regular opportunities, because sometimes the commentary from people on such websites can be misleading […] The online audience congratulate the consistent, which may help you maintain a style, but won’t help you diversify.

The Morning They Met the Clouds by Natalie Dybisz

Lara Jade

author of Fashion Photography 101
[F] Winner: Best Editorial/Fashion Photographer
[F] Shortlisted: Best Commercial Photographer

Finding inspiration
An artist should always be looking to find inspiration in unlikely settings and places. Go to a gallery full of artwork that you consider different to your personal style. Walk around a city and people-watch—notice how people act, how they dress, the emotions they show. Look in shop windows for fashionable styles and themes. Flick through foreign fashion magazines and look at the photography or the illustration, or even just pick up a local newspaper and look at the recent news. Movies are also a great source of inspiration… You should always be looking, noticing, writing, noting, or sketching. There are thousands of ways to be inspired, but many people don’t want to look past what they know because they have got too comfortable. As artists we should be thinking outside our comfort zones. trying to be one step ahead, and embracing the unknown.

Getting into fashion photography
If you’re at the start of your career, taking a photographers’ assistant or internship position at your favorite fashion magazine or photography agency is a wise move—you will understand the industry and how it works a lot more by gaining firsthand experience. In the beginning, you will have to pay your dues in order to gain respect for your craft from your peers. It takes years to hone your skills and understand how to break into the industry. Networking is crucial so that you can make those all-important face-to-face decisions.

Directing models
In order to get the best out of your models they should understand clearly what is being asked of them. It pays to share your shoot ideas with your models on the day or, if possible, before the day of the shoot so that they understand the themes and concepts you want to capture. It is also useful to bring along visual references such as tear sheets or printouts with poses you find interesting.

Laura Jade

Lighting is the most important element for any shoot. Lighting tends to fall into two camps: studio lighting, and natural light. As a working photographer it is essential that you have a good knowledge of both kinds of light. Your understanding and appreciation of natural and artificial light will shape the style of your work, and will ultimately play a large part in determining whether or not your images are successful. Your clientele are going to expect you to have an extensive knowledge of lighting, so when it comes to them booking you for a photoshoot you should immediately have an idea of what lighting you’re going to use.

Shooting editorial
An editorial shoot needs to be cast very well in terms of the model and styling, and the concept of the editorial—its story, if you like—should be clear to everyone involved. I cannot stress how important a creative team is to a photographer when shooting an editorial, as the success of the photoshoot relies heavily on the styling.

There’s always going to be somebody that offers a similar style or service to yours—the trick is to work as hard as you can at your craft, create your own niche, and try to stand out from the crowd. Once you’re happy with the standard of your work, it is a good idea to think up a promotion or deal that will get your business noticed by, and bring in, your intended clientele. 

Laura Jade

Brooke Shaden

author of the forthcoming title (October 2013) Inspiration in Photography
[F] Shortlisted: Best Fine Art, Best Conceptual, Most Influential

On Creativity
One of the biggest myths in any sort of creative endeavor, and even in life, is that creativity is reserved for a select few people who have that “it” factor. I believe that this is an excuse made up by people who simply have not yet found how they are creative. Creativity, just like inspiration, needs to be examined and nurtured. Just because someone does not naturally feel inspired to create avant-garde masterpieces every day does not mean that they lack creativity. It means that they are creative in a different way. My creativity presented itself in many different ways, but at the heart of it was one underlying question: what makes you happy?

On defining style
I believe that figuring out your personal style of photography, or art in general, is the number one thing that will not only set you apart from the crowd, but will also set you on a path to being personally fulfilled. I like to define my own style using a series of five to ten words. I stay true to these keywords, at least in part, for every picture I create. If I find myself deviating in a drastic way, I ask myself what the reason for that is. Either I am naturally moving in a different direction with my art and I should embrace it—or I have deviated from my style and need to reposition myself to stay true to my keywords. As a result, when I ask people to define my style of photography, these are the ten descriptors that I hear most often.

The details are important
Even if what I am photographing could not exist in real life, it must be able to exist in the world of my images. Take levitation photography, for example. If you have a girl floating in the middle of a room, but her dress and hair hangs to the floor, this takes away the believability of the photograph. If you photograph that same scene, but the girl’s dress and hair are suspended in mid-air too, this makes the scene believable in the world of the photograph.

Using props
Of all of the props that I have used, my favorite is probably baby powder or flour. It is inexpensive, makes your skin feel nice, and can create the most amazing smoke effects. By pouring it on the model and having him or her jump, spin, or run, the powder floats in the air, beautifully creating a fog or smoke effect. I find myself often turning to that technique for inspiration when I am in the mood for a very fun, albeit very messy, shoot.

In and Of the Earth by Brooke Shaden.

Creating a character
Creating a great character is not about creating the most likeable character or even the character that people want to look at most; it is about creating a character that people can’t help but look at—whether they like it or not.

Fashion photography
Photographing clothes that inspire you can inspire the whole shoot. Look at the fashion as another character. What is the texture of the fabric like? What does the jewelry say? How do the clothes work with the setting? Are the clothes rigid or flowing? It is a wonderful challenge to figure out how to best work the clothes I am given in a particular setting, and so I often use that to find inspiration about how to shoot.

Adjusting Oxygen Levels by Brooke Shaden.

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