Secrets of Professional Photographers


60+ Secrets of Professional Photographers

From mobile cell phones to DLSR’s.

Chris Cook

Copyright © Chris Cook 2016 All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

60+ secrets of professional photography from mobile cell phones to DLSR’s.


Even before I start to share the secrets of the professionals I have to start with this one. Attitude. If the professional does not take quality photographs he or she will not eat, not buy equipment nor even film (chips). The attitude of the professional is to succeed at all costs and rise above the rest with a controlled desperation and desire. Now let’s see what else the professional can teach us about our photography.

1. Have your camera. This seems so obvious but without a camera you will not take photographs. These days there is almost no excuse for not having a camera. Every mobile cell phone has one. Make sure the camera on your phone is well spec’d and capable of producing great images even if this is the only camera available to you. If you have a better camera with you then all well and good. A professional will always have their camera ready to make them money.

2. Green Knees. A photographer should be willing to go above and beyond in the search for that special image. Anyone and everyone can take photographs these days so be prepared to drop to your knees or climb above the rest in the quest for that special picture. Health and safety permitting of course.

3. Light. It may seem obvious to some but no to all that generally you need light to take photographs. Photography means “writing with light.” Light is your raw material. No light – no photograph. A professional has taken time to observe and study light and it’s qualities. The source of illumination and it’s characteristics. Keep your eyes open and learn. I am a founder member of TLS The Light Side which is a Facebook group interested in light for photography. We encourage people to look and learn.

4. Background. All too often people get hung up on a subject matter that they ignore the background. A professional will often select the background first and bring the subject in front if it like at a wedding. Do not be satisfied with a rubbish background if you can change it.

5. Auto – grab readiness. Always be ready to take a photo. One thing I learned at college was to walk around with your camera settings ready to take a grab shot in case something happened like a bank robbery or a UFO landing. You never know what a picture will momentarily present itself which could make you a fortune.

6. Light direction. No only the light is important but also its direction and quality. Feel where the lights are like a great actor on stage, trace the arc of the sun across the sky during the day do whatever you can to control your light.

7. Light Quality. The artist’s studio has north facing light for a reason. It is never directional always reflected soft and containing detail. Hard direct sunlight has a very different contrasty quality. The soft effect can be great for soft portraits and the hard for dramatic masculine images. Don’t just look at light but study it closely.

8. Time of day. Outdoor light changes a lot during the day from low warm orangey light of the sunrise and sunset to the harsh blue light of midday sun. I personally love the golden minutes of afterglow between sunset and darkness. It’s not just seeing the light; a professional will know how to work with different light for the best image.

9. Flash – Low range. Most cameras have a built in flash these days even a phone. Don’t believe this is the equivalent of the sun. The professional will know how far their flash will reach and even when it is better not to use it at all. It’s all to do with the inverse square law. Double the distance to a subject and your flash light is quartered every time until it fades very quickly to nothing.

10. Off Auto Settings – Read your manual. Most cameras do an awful lot more than you will ever use. Make sure you have read the manual from cover to cover and tried out all of the functions, you never know when you will need it no matter how obscure.

11. Large aperture. If you have aperture control of your camera learn what this means. A professional will always be dropping to manual aperture control to enhance the image. A large aperture will mean a shallow depth of focus so will concentrate the subject sharply against an often blurred out of focus background. If you don’t know how to do this consult your cameras guide,

12. Small Aperture. Small apertures will allow a large depth of field or depth of focus. This means backgrounds can become more prevalent but also if the background contains useful information it can allow you to bring this into focus. A small aperture will let in little light though so beware of camera shake and blur.

13. Fast shutter speed. If you have control of your shutter speed you should learn what it can do for you. It can freeze motion it can stop camera shake blur but it will reduce the amount of light entering the camera. A professional will know how to control shutter speed for the best compromise of light and motion freeze under various conditions. Fast shutter speeds are usually in the region of 1/250^{background:transparent;}th^ sec or faster.

14. Slow shutter speed. Slow shutter speeds less than 1/30^{background:transparent;}th^ of a second typically are susceptible to camera shake and blur as it is difficult to hold a camera still under these conditions.

15. Composition – See gift book. Composition is a whole subject on its own enabling the professional to rise above the amateur snapper. For this reason I have added a FREE GIFT book on compositional techniques to grow your photography to new heights. Please see the link at the end of the eBook to get your FREE COMPOSITION BOOK.

16. Landscape or portrait. If you are using a rectangular format camera then make use of it’s 2 directions of flow. Landscape images tend to have a more stable restful composition. Portrait a more dynamic exciting dangerous composition (Being more likely to topple). Make sure you use the correct format to match the picture you are taking.

17. Post process. Improve what is already great. You should never rely on post processing but get yourself a good post processing application so you can improve on your already great image. There is so much you can do in post processing remove or add people to improve composition anything. Also learn to use your chosen app.

18. Post process. Contrast increase / decrease. Look at your image and decide what it needs. It is easy for me after 40+ years of processing and printing etc but learn what the controls can do for you. Contrast can enhance composition and apparently increase sharpness. It can remove or add detail depending on your settings.

19. Sharpness increase. It is all too easy to sallow autofocus to do our work for us but sometimes it gets things wrong. The sharpness setting in post processing tools can help greatly. Beware you don’t add so much sharpness that edges become distorted though.

20. Colour saturation increase and decrease. With colour saturation you can create monochrome black and white images which are always very poignant and can increase interest in certain pictures. – Or you can increase saturation to make that sunset just a little more orange or beautiful. Once again beware not to overdo the action and create a false colour.

21. People photography – know a joke – not just cheese. One of the great fashion photographers of all time said all you need to be a people photographer is a camera and a couple of jokes. Learn how to put people at ease. For most being photographed is like going to the dentist. Relax them and capture their true soul.

22. Critical moment. Shutter lag. Make sure you know how fast or slow your shutter is. On cheaper cameras and mobiles there is often a significant lag between pressing the shutter and taking the picture. Make sure you learn this lag so you can factor it in and take pictures of the critical moment not a second or so after the action has finished.

23. Portrait and light So much of the appeal of a portrait can be to do with light. For a start don’t stand your subject squinting into the sun or blind them with flash. Lighting for portraiture is a whole book in itself and I had one of the world’s greatest teachers. I will probably write an up to date book on this very subject but until then watch the light and learn from the masters. Look at images in magazines and try to decide the quality and position of light or lights.

24. Video. Don’t forget most digital cameras and phones can also take movies. The main problem with movies is that they gobble up memory but they can provide so much more so do not neglect them.

25. Tell a story. Try to make your pictures tell a story not just be a random 1/1000^{background:transparent;}th^ of a second but a moment in life.

26. Rules are also to be broken – be brave be different – break the mould. Sometimes the most amazing photographs are taken by breaking the rules. Shot into the sun on occasion and see the effects enjoy the flare of the lens. Take pictures at jaunty angles take them out of focus with blur. Experiment.

27. Set camera on lowest ISO for situation. Your camera ISO is a measure of its sensitivity. For pictures in dark places you will need a high ISO or use the camera auto ISO setting. The problem with high ISO is that the images become grainy. You may like this effect but if not always try to take pictures with a lower ISO in order to obtain maximum quality. Not all cameras will let you mess around with ISO settings. Find out if yours does and EXPERIMENT.

28. Locate the subject. Most pictures will have a main subject, that’s how our brain likes it not too complicated. Locate your subject and enhance it any way you can.

29. Remove distraction Once you have discovered the subject you can see if there is any distraction disturbing your enjoyment of it. Remove distraction by changing your camera angle or post production cropping.

30. Low light / camera shake. Beware hat in low light camera shake and blur is very likely as the camera attempts to gather enough light to make the image decent. Hold the camera very steady to ensure minimum camera shake. Turn on lens stabilisation or hold your breath like firing a rifle or employ other factors to stabilise your image.

31. Frame the subject. This is a very useful tip. If there is something to frame the subject then it will concentrate interest on them and also tend to cut out distractions. It could be a window frame or a doorway or perhaps some overhanging branches but always looks for some framing. AT the temple of Abel Simbel in Egypt it was thronging with people but using a doorway to a mud hut I managed to all but remove them all.

32. Camera features – panorama Know your cameras features. Panorama is a common modern feature which allows super wide panoramic images usually by swiping the camera in a semi circle or arc. This can get you a shot when no other camera or lens can.

33. Camera features HDR. HDR or high dynamic range is another great modern camera feature. Our eyes or camera sensors can rarely capture a full range of tones from very dark to very bright. The HDR setting will take 3 or more pictures at various exposures and stitch them together with the best highlight, mid-tone and shadow detail. It does tend to have a slightly too good unreal quality but is another useful weapon in your toolbox. One thing to beware with HDR is movement between exposures which can make a very unnatural effect.

34. Camera features multi exposure. Many cameras can do multi or burst exposures these days. This will allow several pictures in quick succession from which you ca choose the ultimate one. This is useful in sport or portrait photography to obtain the critical moment.

35. Quality equipment – buy to budget – compromise. Equipment is always a compromise between cost and value. You need to buy the best equipment you can afford for your needs. A professional knows that they will always be better than an amateur even if they are using cheap equipment because they know the secrets of imaging and have the hunger. A famous `1950’s experiment sent photographers out with cheap cameras but they all took better pictures than the amateur. It is always a compromise but use these tips and hints and you will soon climb to the top of the tree.

36. Travel photography – see Photosafari book Travel photography is when many of us get out our cameras and record our once in a lifetime experiences. I have written a whole specialist series on travel photography called Photosafari. I detail not only travel photography in general but specifics like cruise photography, Photography in popular and famous cities etc.

37. Stills from Video. This is becoming popular these days and with the advent of super high quality 4k video it is possible to film video at 30 or so frames a second and snip out individual frames for the critical moment. Panasonic are the ones championing this feature in the early days of 4k video.

38. Learn from others – postcards etc. You can always learn. When on holiday look at the postcards. You don’t need to send them but you can get some great ideas for locations and angles on places. Also study magazines or adverts and see how top photographers are creating winning images. Analyse their technique and not copy but emulate.

39. Off camera flash. If you start to outgrow the on camera flash and require move exciting lighting there is a whole world of off camera flash where individual flash duns or multiples can be placed around a scene and triggered accordingly. This again is a whole subject on its own and one I am passionate about.

40. Remote release A good way to trigger your camera is with a remote release or a delay. This will enable you to take selfies without a selfie stick or to take pictures in the thick of action where it is not possible to be like in the back of a football goalmouth during a match. Research what is available for your camera or cell phone.

41. Move away from the eye. Above head, from feet etc. The simple thing is to take pictures from eye level but you only ever see the world of a human. Get up and get down get green knees and bellies. I sometimes walk along pretending my camera is a flying insect snapping the world from various heights and angles – experiment it’s free…

42. Balance / harmony in composition. As I mentioned I am giving you a free gift composition book to go with this set of tips but always try to make a harmonious balanced composition with balanced densities colours and shadows. This will tend to lead the eye into the picture to search around for the beauty there.

43. Practice, practice – film is free. Film of media is virtually free and reusable these days not like in the old 12 exposure 120 film days. Use it, practice and analyse your work. Check and see what you could have done better and continue to experiment and learn.

44. Bracket exposures. Exposure is important. Not too dark or too light just right. Most modern cameras allow some latitude in exposure but if in doubt use the option to bracket exposures where the camera (Usually automatically these days) will take multiple frames all at slightly different exposure values.

45. Spare (charged) battery. One thing that is such a nuisance is when your battery runs out. Cell phones are usually rechargeable using an external power pack but cameras will often need a spare battery. With any new camera I always buy at least one spare battery. Beware when changing batteries though that the camera settings may also change. Make sure you set your camera up from default settings again e.g. silent shutter highest resolution etc.

46. Spare film Like spare batteries you need spare film or chips. A photographer is nothing without a camera, battery and film.

47. Lens / Filter – daylight. A very useful accessory is a daylight filter for your lens if it allows one. This can protect your lens and if the filer is scratched or damaged you can simply replace it unlike a $2000 lens.

48. Polariser. Polarising filters are useful too to cut glare and reflections on glass, tables, water etc. They can also be used to reduce bright conditions.

49. Zoom. Zoom lenses are amazing. They allow us to not only focus an image but change its magnification. If you have full control of your zoom lens you can also use them for creative effect by zooming during the exposure this emphasising a subject in a burst of blurred zooming.

50. Long focal length. – Telephoto. The telephoto end of the zoom or a prime telephoto lens will allow us to be closer to the action. They magnify the image compared to our eyes view. There are any pros and cons of the telephoto end of a zoom. This is a whole book on its own too but I will list a few here. The zoom factor of a lens is in effect given by its focal length which is normally expressed in mm. Telephoto lenses are higher focal length devices which in normal numbers and censor sizes will be somewhere between 100 and 2000mm. They tend to enhance camera shake so higher shutter speeds are required to stop the blur. They also tend to have the effect of foreshortening distance, stacking it closer together visually. Telephotos will also tend to minimise depth of field. They also stop us having to be inches from lions and out of danger areas.

51. Short focal length – wide angle. Short focal length generally from 35mm down are the wide angle end of the spectrum. Again a book could be written on these alone but in general they:- Increase depth of field Reduce possibility of camera shake Distort images enhancing depth and making items near the camera look more bulbous. At the extreme end with focal lengths down as low as 10 the image becomes totally distorted and is generally known as a fish eye due to it’s very bulbous nature.

52. Macro shots. Macro lenses are lenses specially created for close up work. When taking close up pictures the mathematics of a lens actually means it works best back to front and in the early days people would remove their lenses and refit them backwards. If you are doing lots of small animal or floral photography you may want to invest in a specialist macro lens. Some telephoto or zoom lenses will have a setting to improve the quality of your close ups.

53. Makeshift tripods or camera rests It is inevitable that you will be out with no tripod at night or in a museum or somewhere and want to take a picture. The low light levels mean long exposures are required and the risk of camera shake will happen. You need to find some way – any way of stabilising the camera. Either lay it on a solid surface or against a wall or column. When pressing the shutter, use a remote or times shutter release to avoid wobbling the camera. Do everything you can to avoid movement. Especially after a few beers.

54. Auto focus. Many cameras come with auto focus these days. Different algorithms work better on more expensive cameras but at the end of the day they all try to guess your subject ad focus on it. Only you really know your subject so although auto will work fine most of the time you should know how to switch to manual focus as well for those special shots when auto isn’t doing it. Auto focus will also take some time to settle on its focus so manual will also speed this up.

55. Manual focus Most cameras or lenses will allow you to select auto focus off or manual focus. This may be a software setting to may be a switch on your lens or even a touch on your touch screen you need to discover how your camera does it. When you are being frustrated by the camera continually guessing wrong you need to overrule it. It wasn’t so long ago that auto focus didn’t exist so it is perfectly possible to take great pictures by manual focus.

56. Posed – side on slimming. When posing your portraits learn the tricks of the trade. Posing a person side on will often slim them as opposed to direct front on images. Just a slight twist of the shoulder can loose a sitter pounds in apparent weight.

57. Always be ready. Always have your camera ready to shoot. The professional knows that when a UFO lands momentarily in the next field you had better get that photo and earn a living for the rest of your life from the picture. By the time you open your camera bag and screw on the right lens and set up the exposure etc they will probably be the other side of Saturn.

58. Chiaroscuro. This is my favourite word. It means the juxt position of light and dark. It’s what gives shadows their apparent depth; it’s what Rembrandt used to make his flat paintings interesting and deep. Learn it from the masters and use it in your images.

59. ND filters. Neutral density filters are for darkening your images. Not this may seem a waste of time as you want all the light you can get but no… In some occasions like flowing water photographers are looking for blur. On a bright sunny day your shutter will just not so slow enough to cause blur. This is where you need to remove light. The more light lost the more blur can happen. These are like putting sunglasses on your camera. They are not always cheap and not always useful but when you need one nothing else will do.

60. Backup images. Continually back up your images. They are your gold, your money your life. Chips / films go bad, as soon as possible get them copied onto another media, USB stick, disk, laptop anywhere to keep copies.

61. Enthusiasm and passion. It goes without saying that a photographer feds on enthusiasm and passion for their images. This is what makes the professional. If you loose the enthusiasm you loose your creativity and your pictures become the same as the man next door. Effort in means wonderful images out.

62. Determination Determination means that you will succeed at all costs and will take images that make you and others happy and get lots of smiley faces likes on Facebook and Twitter. Have your camera with you at all times and be determined to use it.

63. Compromise. So many times your photograph is a compromise between aperture, ISO and shutter speed. You are rarely in the position that you have a vast spare capacity for any of these. Modern cameras can guess the best compromise but you can get so much better pictures if you can help them by choosing if you want more aperture size or less shutter speed etc. Learn the operation of your camera and step out of the world of auto to rise above the other images to new heights.

64. Philosophy Once upon a time in the 1970’s I had one of the world’s top photographers as a mentor. Our class of a dozen or so excited kids eagerly awaited the great Walter Nurnberg. He entered the studio and proceeded to talk to us for two whole sessions about the philosophy of photography and of even pressing the shutter. Back then we didn’t understand what he was getting at but just wanted to take pictures. You probably don’t understand me like I him but the more philosophy you put into your photography, the more thinking and control you exert on the process the more you will develop (pardon the pun). Think about your images; make them better select a better compromise, enhance your ability.


Thanks you for reading my book. Gaining exposure as an independent author relies mostly on word-of-mouth, so if you have the time and inclination, please consider leaving a short review wherever you can.

Any review, positive or negative, could help other readers determine if my work is worth their attention or not and give me hints on what you might like to see in future publications.It really does make a difference.

If you would like to; send us an email to

[email protected] you can get a free gift book and advance knowledge of publications and news.

Thanks again for your time.

All the best

Chris Cook

Bibliography and other books.


Free Books

I like to give away books free from time to time. I have a couple that are always free on Amazon and Shakespir. E.g.

60+ secrets of Professional Photographers

Sylvanus Kent’s first story. To Be Beside.

Gift Books

Also, I am happy to give some books as gifts if you would like to get in touch e.g.

Composition tips of professional photographers.

Sylvanus Kent’s 2^{background:transparent;}nd^ Story

Simply send me an email at [email protected] stating the format or device you would like the story for e.g. Kindle or P.C.

Alost all other books are regularly available at Amazon or Shakespir.


Self Help

Living the Dream series

Other books in this Living the Dream series

The Calabrian dream – how it all started (2016)

Mafiabria (2016)

The Calabrian (Mafia) Cookbook (2016)

Sun Reiki (2016)

How to write an eBook in a month

PhotoSafari Photography Series

Mediterranean and holiday / vacation photography (2016)

How to retire Gracefully (Post Brexit)

Bloomsbury Group publications

Bloomsbury group books,

Virginia Woolf.

Life in Squares -

Virginia Woolf, Monks House and the Bloomsbury group

Charleston @ 100 – The first hundred years of Charleston house under the Bloomsbury group.

The Longest Walk – Virginia Woolf’s amazing existence.

Sylvanus Kent Novels

Sylvanus Kent stories – by Chris Cook

1. To Be Beside –– set October 1841 Published August 2012

2. “Love to be” set over Christmas 1841 it is perfect seasonal reading. Published October 2012.

3. Beside the Seaside set Feb (Valentines 1842) Published August 2012 1,2, and 3 published as ‘The Seaside Trilogy’

4. ‘Oh I do’ The grand Tour of the Mediterranean and Italy. Set June – Sept 1842 Published August 20135. The hunt continues (to follow)

Follow Sylvanus on Facebook [email protected] / Twitter @SylvanusKent, web site http://sylvanuskent.webs.com/ and blog (join the Sylvanus members club)

Other Novels by Chris Cook

Deia Vu

Where the Time Goes Treasure Quest (Pub 2015)

The quest for a pirate treasure.

MHXXX – The story of the lost airliner (2016)

Messages in Bottles

Other Publications by Chris Cook

MAVIK – philosophy & Religion

Children’s books

The Giants of Mid Sussex

The Last Dragon

Ruby The Dinosaur.

Books are available from Amazon Kindle – Shakespir or in a variety of formats from the publisher and Author.

Other Formats of eBooks- Other Publications available for Kindle, P.C. Apple, Sony, Nook, Tablet on...epub, .mobi . htm .pdf and. .txt format etc.

[email protected]

Chris Cook Biography

Chris Cook lives on the Sussex coast in England where some of his stories are set and he has another house in Calabria, Southern Italy.

He has travelled the world lecturing in 36 countries from Brazil to Japan and all stations in between. Chris is also pleased to speak at events on all things related to writing, and publishing, photography and the Bloomsbury group. In recent years Chris has been working at Bloomsbury Group houses in Sussex to improve visitor’s experiences. In 2016 he set up Vivendum Ltd. which is a consultancy for fine art publications and to help people live their dream.

You can contact the author at [email protected]

Thanks for your time and we hope you enjoyed the experience.

Secrets of Professional Photographers

This book contains more than sixty secrets of professional photographers. It will introduce you to the mind set of the Professional; and help you to take more and better photographs.

  • ISBN: 9781370067466
  • Author: Chris Cook
  • Published: 2016-12-29 13:35:09
  • Words: 4869
Secrets of Professional Photographers Secrets of Professional Photographers