Today we'll be chatting with a personal friend of mine, Madeline Harper. Madeline is a Dallas based photographer (soon to be ATX!), and she's the kindest and sweetest soul you'll ever meet! She has the biggest heart for sharing beauty with others through her photos, and her passion for photography and storytelling through beautiful imagery is just intoxicating. It's been fun to follow along through her photography career and to get to know her on a more personal level. (I started shooting with Madeline last year for my blog, and am so happy that we connected.) Read on for her best practices and top tips on taking better photos, plus how to break into the photography world if you're starting out!
I use a Nikon D750. It's my go-to, but each camera brand has its strengths. I started learning on a Nikon and gradually accumulated gear that I loved, so it made the most sense to stick with this brand! I do have a few Sigma lenses that I use with my Nikon body.
The best thing my business mentor did for me was to take my camera, slide it into manual mode, and tell me from that day forward I wasn't allowed to take it off! Since that moment six years ago, I truly haven't. The custom manipulation you have of photos can't be beat. After that, practice taking photos in all different lighting situations! Try backlit, in direct sunlight, indoors, in the shade- you'll never be comfortable shooting until you know how your camera interacts with light. I always love a good backlit glow [just double check your focal point], but there's something so fun about shooting in full sunlight and shaking things up! Practice any chance you get, the more comfortable you are with your camera, the better your images will be. Don't buy more gear until you're fully confident shooting with what you have. As far as the specifics of how I shoot: I underexpose my images by one or two stops every time, to make sure I keep all the detail in the image! (You always have the option of brightening a shot in post, but you can't bring back details that were lost by overexposure.) Keep your ISO low and your subject moving! It's the shots in between planned moments that are magic. I stick to prime lenses for portraits- my 50mm 1.4 lens is my go to 85% of shots you see. I also use a 35mm 1.4 that is dreamy for pulled back shots and a 24mm 1.4 that I use for interiors. Prime lenses are the best investment I made in terms of gear after a full frame body.
It is so important to have a great relationship with your subjects! I've learned that a lot of people are uncomfortable in front of a camera, and as a photographer, it's our job to bring out the best in our subjects! That starts with your clients trusting you and with you having confidence in your skill. (Movement is also your biggest friend!) It does you no favors to have six shots of the same pose. Study posing if it helps, but always keep your subject moving! Giving action words [walk this way, twirl, leap across the sidewalk] eases your subjects into great images! I truly believe that the unplanned photos end up being my favorites. I always try something new at shoots- a new angle, a fun pose, a different expression! We aren't just trying to replicate the work of others; we are trying to create a fresh approach that reflects each of our clients!
*BONUS TIP!* The last and probably biggest piece of advice I have is to know the areas you want to grow in! I said yes to any and every project at the beginning of my career, and it left me scattered and not knowing which direction I wanted my business to continue in. There were a lot of projects I should have said no to. Once I decided to hone in on lifestyle photography, shooting for brands and bloggers, I sought out projects that reflected that! The more lifestyle work others saw me doing, the more they trusted to hire me for their businesses.