Following the first ever Skyscanner Photographer of the Month competition (have you voted for your favourite shot yet?) we speak to Dan Milner, professional travel and mountain photographer, to get his tips on cameras, taking the perfect shot and getting your pictures published.
**1. Do you need to spend a fortune on a camera to take a good picture?**
No. How much you spend depends on what you are trying to do with the results; obvious but true! Many of today’s enthusiast cameras, such as the Canon G11 , do a great job without the bulk and expense of a digi SLR.
To get work published and go pro though you need good quality lenses and that’s where much of the expense comes in; most pro lenses are £1000 or more. To get good shots on whatever you use though you need to understand your camera and know its functions. Don’t just shoot on auto!
2. Give us three tips for taking the perfect shot.
Think about what you are trying to capture and make that the "story" behind the shot. Understand composition and the rule of thirds (divide your image into thirds horizontally and vertically and place the subject on the intersection of two of these lines). Decide on the image and exposure when you take the shot and don’t rely on "rescuing" the shot in Photoshop afterwards! These will all make you a better photographer.
3. Where are your favourite countries to shoot?
Anywhere that has a different culture and lifestyle rates high on my list. Assignments to countries like Nepal and Indian Kashmir make for a rewarding trip with or without the bonus of shooting great travel images. I just got back from a three week assignment shooting a bike trip across Upper Mustang region of Nepal – stunning place. That said, I’m smitten with mountain biking in the UK at the moment and love to capture the gritty UK scenery.
4. Has the rise of digital photography made it easier to take better pictures?
Yes definitely, but many people still just snap away and then rescue their shots in Photoshop. The instant results from digital cameras makes learning potentially very quick so make use of that! For the pro, the digital has made it so much easier; you no longer have to change or push film, or worry about airport security X-ray machines. You also have the bonus of being able to see if a model blinked at the wrong moment, plus you can check style and flash lighting levels instantly.
5. Are there certain times of day, or weather, that are better for shooting than others?
The last half hour of light anywhere is the best, period. We’ve stayed up on mountains braving hefty descents in the dark on bikes and skis just to get that golden half hour. For photographers this is the ultimate and most of us would pass a whole day’s shooting just to get that last half hour of light instead. As far as weather goes, I prefer mixed sun and cloud. The cloud shadows add so much depth and impact to landscapes. Bright sunny blue sky days are overrated – the shadows are too harsh!
** 6. How did you get started as a professional photographer?**
I began freelancing features for mountain bike magazines in the early 1990s and realised I needed to polish my basic photo skills to get the right kind of images.
In 1998 I made the leap of faith needed to go pro full time, after spending 3 years juggling summer jobs with winters away shooting assignments.
It’s not an easy thing to get into, at least my way, and today making a good living from the niche travel market is a hard thing to do. I’d recommend getting some kind of education in photography and doing a spell as an assistant, then working out your direction.
7. What advice would you give for budding photographers to getting pictures published?
It’s a slog and takes a lot of confidence but if you’re good at what you do you will get noticed and published, eventually. Unfortunately a lot of the industry is all about who you know, and a lot of sport imagery is about professional athletes.
That said, start by sending your images to photo competitions and if you are shooting a certain subject matter (such as skiing) then start by sending in a SMALL submission of your best work to photo editors on spec. There are no guarantees and it will take time but keep trying and don’t be afraid to shoot something different, in your own style. After 20 years of the ‘same old’ shots, magazines are looking for some new directions and contemporary look to the images they use. Use the opportunity.
Dan Milner is based in the French Alps from where he continues to explore the world with his camera in hand. His assignments have taken him to far flung lands such as Kashmir, Alaska, Greenland and Patagonia. His photos regularly appear in both the mainstream press and consumer magazines including: Men’s Health, FHM, Daily Mail Ski, GQ, The Observer and Maxim. See more at DanMilner.com.
Images © Dan Milner