Digital Photography Questions with a Pro Photographer

Digital Photography Questions with a Pro Photographer


200611101344I was chatting with a Pro photographer recently at a party and as is usual when I meet someone who makes their living from photography I pumped him with questions for a good half hour. I did so for two reasons:

  • firstly I learn a lot when I do it
  • secondly I thought it might be an interesting learning experience for the DPS community. I obtained his permission of course.

The results of his conversation were quite insightful – so over this week I thought I’d share a number of his answers to my questions as a mini-series. I tried to keep things to a beginner to intermediate level.

By the way – this photographer works mainly in portrait photography – but majors in kids with a few weddings. He does mainly on location work (ie very little studio work).

I’ll start off with a pretty quick and simple one.

What mode do you mainly shoot in?


Do you want the ‘I’m a Pro Photographer’ answer or the ‘Real’ answer?

The ‘I’m a Pro’ answer is that I never leave full Manual Mode but the real one is that I generally live largely in Program Mode (P) and Aperture priority Mode (A).

I tend to use Program Mode when I’m doing spontaneous photography. For example if I’m out and about taking candid shots or am photographing kids where they’re running around I ‘cheat’ and switch to ‘P’, choose my ISO and start shooting.

If I have more time and my scene isn’t changing I’ll generally switch to Aperture Priority mode and shoot from there. I use Aperture Priority largely because I’m big on controlling depth of field and find it can make or break a shot.

Read more on the different modes on your digital camera and aperture and shutter priority modes.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Karen Hansen January 31, 2013 06:44 pm


    I've been shooting a certain band for a few years now, attending many shows. I have never been paid for my work, as most of the band members are friends of mine. I shoot them and then post on facebook, tag and that's that. I've been approached by the band manager who asked me for a disc of all my photos I've taken for a book they would like published.

    I have probably over 1000 photos of this band. How much do I charge? Would I charge per photo? My first question to them was: "what is your budget?" Answer: "not much."

    Do you think it would be fair to ask, for example, $200 up front for 'x' amount of photos and then with each book they sell ask for 5%? Am I ripping myself off that way?

    I would obviously draw up a very specific contract stating I retain the copyright of each photo, however, this entire project seems so vague at the moment. They're just a bunch of guys that want a book to sell with awesome photos I've taken along with a CD. I think it's a great idea, and I think it's a great way to market myself as well. I just need to know what the basics are. I think they are asking a few other photographers to contribute as well. Help!!

    Thank you so much for your time.

  • L Graf March 19, 2012 04:11 am

    Have a question...going to take a trip soon, and have 4 lenses - would like to take only one, but which one? I have (all Canon, and have a 40D)
    1. 50mm
    2.28-80 US
    3. 100mm macro US
    4. 75-300mm US
    anyone, anyone?

  • Larry March 6, 2012 07:59 am

    Hello! I am doing my first boudoir shoot this weekend and I was wondering if anyone had any tips or ticks that would make this shoot that much better. I plan on bringing a 24x36 softbox strobe(only one I have), speedlite with gels and a soft box cover on it as well, 24-105; 70-200 and 50 mm lenses, white board and silver reflector. I am also purchasing a large black velvet sheet to cover furniture when it is needed.

    How am I doing so far? I think I have the proper equipment but wasn't sure if anyone has any tricks as far as bouncing light (ceiling, wall) or anything else. We are doing it during the day so I'll also have natural light and dark shades to help manuipulate where and how it falls..any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • Thomas December 16, 2011 12:43 am

    I am very much into digital photography and recently I tried to photograph running water by blurrying it at 1/20 shutter speed, but instead of the water coming out blurry the background also became blurry. I realize I have to compensate the 1/20 speed with a different aperture setting. What aperture setting would work with a shutter speed of 1/20 if I want to photograph running water with a blurry effect without affecting the rest of the images? Thank you.

  • Peggy November 13, 2011 04:15 pm

    I am interested in purchasing a 50mm 1.4 Nikon lens, but I see that they are made for auto & manual. I am just learning about my camera and so I'm not sure which lens I should purchase.
    Can you give me some insite as to the difference in lens?

    Thank you

  • Craig June 24, 2011 04:13 am

    I'm planning on taking a trip to Europe and want to know what would be best lenses to take. I'm shooting canon D50. I'd like to take just a couple if possible. Church's, museums, narrow streets etc.....
    Thanks in advance for any and all suggestions/comments.

  • Katherine April 22, 2011 10:40 am

    I have recently been chosen to take the class photographs at my college. It is a class of 20 and the professor would like to have a photograph of us to hang up. She wants an 11×14 and wants it to have the class photo in the center like in a 5×7 and with all 20 students (in an oval) around it along with their names under each individual photograph. Is there a way to set this up with photoshop elements (which is what I have) or is there a program that has a template that will allow me to do this so I can order them from a pro lab?

  • Mike February 4, 2011 02:47 am

    I recently bought a canon 88mm 1.2 to take photos indoors at the kid’s basket ball games. The light in the gym is always challenging. I took about 100 photos the other day most came out good but some were blurry. If the camera is set on auto why would it not adjust for the speed so the photo would come in sharp? Should I do it manually? Thanks for your help.

  • Shelby June 11, 2010 12:32 pm

    Hi- I really am becoming interested in studio lighting. I really like this photographer's work: - especially the senior portrait studio lighting. The tones are so nice, how do I accomplish this?


  • Lisa Corbin February 17, 2010 07:12 am

    I bought a 50mm lens with a 1.4 aperture. I was trying to take a portrait of my children and it will only take a picture that looks halfway decent at the 1.4 aperture. When I change the aperture to say f8 everything is blown out. Is there something wrong with the lens or am I doing something wrong. Thanks for your help.

  • Chuck November 6, 2009 11:38 am

    To: Janyce Webster,

    Moon shots are possible with your camera. Good or bad depends on lens and technique. The bigger the zoom the better. Tripod, tripod, tripod. Use the self timer or remote switch.

    For a simple way to figure out your exposure just look at the settings your camera chooses in full sun and use those settings to capture the moon. The moon is a light source just like the sun. You may have to tweak your settings a little, but not nearly as much as starting from a normal night exposure.

    This is how I do it, I hope it helps.

  • Janyce Webster June 16, 2009 02:06 pm

    I have just purchased a Canon 450D camera and of course I'm just a beginner. The other night the moon was so huge you could see the shading of the craters on it. I raced and got my camera and started taking shots but all I could get was a slightly bright white spot. I tried Night Portrait, Flash Off, Full Auto and P settings. Can anyone tell me is it possible to take moon shots with my camera and if so what settings should I have used. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • Genny Charles February 19, 2009 01:48 pm

    I have a sony cybershot DSC H7 it has an adapter ring andlens hood, what do you use these for? and in what circumstance

  • Clint Acklin December 1, 2008 05:20 am

    I was wondering if anyone can tell me more about the Sony Alpha 300 DSLR? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and God Bless.

  • Danny June 23, 2008 08:11 am

    What is a good mode to shoot at sporting events like football? I like to shoot action shots but some come out blurred.

  • stacy April 4, 2008 10:36 am

    Hi! I am a new photographer just starting out. I love to outdoor portraits due to the fact that indoor lighting scares me. I am recentally starting to get asked to do indoor family portraits...My question is...Is there any good setting for indoor shooting? I currently own a Canon 30D and also own a 430 flash. I seem to never get the lighting right! Therefore it makes a crapy portrait. Help!

  • Ken March 17, 2008 11:49 am

    I am trying to take pictures of my daughter running track. I have been using the auto running mode but when it starts to get dark the quality of my pictures change as well. If I was to use one of the manual modes what would be the best setting to get quality pictues?

    Thank You

  • Lily November 11, 2007 12:40 pm

    I have a question hopefully someone can answer me. I was wondering if you could explain the theory behind why the foreground, of a picture I took blackened out. It wasnt as dark outside as the photo would suggest. Some of the other photos I took form the same spot , at the exact same time turned out totally different. I think the affect that was achieved was amazing. Unfortunately I'm a very analytical thinker and need to know why? lol I am thinking it has to do with the shutter speed but am unsure.

  • J. A. Brodsky December 5, 2006 07:13 pm

    I shoot in the "P" mode for the most part, but I keep the "A" setting af f8, and the "S" setting at 1/500. Therefore with a minimum of fuss, I can move quickly from one to the other depending upon the need for DOF or stop action.

  • Fred Neale November 21, 2006 07:36 am

    Philip, if I had a 5D I would probably be able to take sharp pictures of birds in flight too!
    Seriously, setting my camera that way is partly force of habit (it should be set to SOMETHING) and partly because I often, particularly when taking candid shots, don't even look through the viewfinder and simply point the camera in the general direction of my subject. Nothing can spoil the spontaniety of a moment quicker than seeing someone actually aiming a camera at you - it turns a natural shot into a posed one. Under those circumstances the autofocus sensors are likely to focus on the wrong part of the picture.

  • C. William DunsaY November 19, 2006 09:09 am

    For Lauren: You might want to give a look. Great 4 and 8 week courses, professional photographers as instructors, many are famous, gentle critiques and a lot of learning not to mention fun.

  • Janet Thomasser November 18, 2006 04:55 am

    Dear Andrew: As I never feel an honest question is silly, I'll overcome the temptation to say 'because they tasted good' and tell you that: in the days before built-in flash you bought flash bulbs along with your film. By licking them, you were wetting the connection, thereby insuring a better one. You wasted fewer bulbs and got better flash.
    And to Lauren: You attend classes as long as you think you are learning something, but hopefully you never stop... taking classes and learning. A really good professional is always learning and sharing. And a really good student can learn something in almost every situation. We never know it all!! Good luck!

  • Philip Talmage November 17, 2006 09:40 pm

    Why, Fred, don't you just rely on the autofocus? I find it really fast - so fast that my 5D will take sharp pictures of birds in flight.

  • Fred Neale November 17, 2006 12:53 pm

    Back in the days of 35mm photography and hand held light meters I would set my camera on 1/125 and whatever aperture setting I got from reading light on an 18% greyscale card. I would then set my (usually wide angle) lens so that the depth of field scale on the lens ring focussed on infinity at one end and noted the distance on the other end. This way, if I needed to grab a spontaneous shot I would have a pretty good chance of getting an acceptable shot. Nowadays I still tend to do the same thing with my digital camera, but it's nice to be able to flick to Aperture Priority and really set up a shot.

  • Andrew November 17, 2006 11:26 am

    Sorry for my ignorance but why on earth would anyone ever have felt the need to lick a flash bulb?

  • ChasVS November 17, 2006 09:50 am

    With the new cameras, i.e. Canon EOS digitlas, it' easy to adjust for aperture or shutter speed from within Program mode. You get the best of both worlds! If shutte speed or DOF don't matter you can shoot without changing the automatic settings.

  • Jere Joiner November 17, 2006 07:38 am

    I appreciate the honesty. Good pictures of often fleeting and the photographer doesn't have time to fiddle with settings. I never bought into the idea that photographers shot full manual all the time. Perhaps they did once upon a time, but that was before sophistication took much of the load off the shooter. Hey, if we want to make things more complicated, let's go back to licking flash bulbs.

  • Richard E. Dornblaser November 17, 2006 07:11 am

    There are basically two types of schools, technical or college. My is a medical photographer. He has a four year B.A. degree from Rhode Island School of Design. When he graduated, about 30 years ago, only about 5% of the photographers had a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Photography. Incidently, he was hired six months before he graduated. He was hired over a large number of applicants from the Kodak school in Rochester, N.Y., a technical school, but was very good and respected at that time. I understand UCLA has a good variety of photography courses. Its close to the movie industry.

  • Rhondda November 17, 2006 07:09 am

    Thanks for the truthful insights from your professional potographer..made me smile because that's the way I have always taken my photos (for the same reasons).
    I bet more professionals do the same than are willing to admit it. It is common sense!

    PS(I am new, creeping up to intermediate, in photography)

  • lauern November 14, 2006 05:26 am

    Hi... i am working on a project at school and i need to ask ou a question... how long do photographers have to go to school??