Shoot Often to Build Confidence: An Interview with Portrait Photographer Neil Creek
Neil Creek is a photographer with ten years of experience and a passion for teaching. He has helped tens of thousands of people improve their photography with his eBooks, successful video training courses, photography workshops, and years of photography blogging. As a professional photographer specializing in portrait photography, Neil has picked up lots of ideas, techniques and problems to watch out for that are usually learned the hard way. Neil has a talent for taking difficult-to-understand concepts and making them accessible.
BL: What is your photographic specialty and how did you become interested in it?
Creek: It’s very difficult for me to pick a single specialty. I love several different kinds of photography and some I have more opportunity to do than others. For example, I do a lot of professional portrait photography but I also really love landscape and night sky photography even though I don’t get as many opportunities to do those. I think that my passion for a subject, and the opportunities to follow those passions, ebb and flow over the years. At any particular time I focus most on my greatest passion and, at the moment, that’s dramatic portraits that tell a story.
BL: How long have you been teaching and/or writing about photography and how would you describe your teaching/writing style?
Creek: I suppose I have been teaching photography for as long as I’ve been shooting: showing friends and family what I know and helping them with their photos. It’s only been in the last five years or so that I’ve taken it more seriously with writing my own blog and then as a staff writer at the Digital Photography School, assisting with a night sky photography workshop and now my eBooks and video courses. I like to think my style is a friendly and accessible one. I’ve been told I have a talent for making difficult concepts easier to understand and I have used that to write my Photo Nuts series of eBooks, which have been very successful with terrific feedback.
BL: What is your single most depended on photographic item aside from your camera?
Creek: A tough question but I’ll have to go with the obvious answer: my lens. I have a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens that I use for about 80% of my photography. It’s got a decent zoom range, good speed, and excellent optics. I’ve never experienced any problems with it and, while I’m a little jealous of the 105mm focal length the 24-105 users have, I’d never give up the speed of f/2.8. It also has a good minimum focus distance for closeup work. For the kind of photography I most enjoy doing it’s a perfect lens. Okay, perhaps some Image Stabilization would be nice!
BL: What type of gear, new or old, are you most interested in experimenting with?
Creek: I’m very happy with the camera equipment I have right now but I’ve recently been getting into video and time lapse. I’d love to be able to take my video to the next level of professionalism with some high quality rails for moving perspective shots, both when shooting video and time lapse. Right now, however, I can’t justify the cost of a good set!
BL: Describe what prompted or inspired you to create 30 Tips and Techniques for Portrait Photography?
Creek: I’ve been shooting portraits and teaching photography for years now and talking about the fundamentals is critical to becoming the best photographer you can but there are so many nuggets of information you pick up as you shoot that just don’t really fit anywhere else. I thought I’d make a very accessible eBook with a collection of some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in portrait photography that photographers could digest easily and immediately apply to their own shooting. It’s kind of a way to avoid some of the worst mistakes and learn the best ideas in a hurry.
BL: What are some additional resources that you recommend to others getting started in photography?
Creek: Excuse the plug, but I wrote my Photo Nuts series of eBooks for just this purpose. They cover the essentials of photography in a step-by-step manner with the books building a base of knowledge, which is expanded upon within each book and then taken to the next step from book-to-book – starting with how the camera works to how to be a better photographer and then how to process your photos.
Beyond that there are a huge number of photography resources spread around the internet. While it’s all a bit piecemeal and can be hard to find, there’s not much you can’t learn online. I recommend the Digital Photography School as a great place to read and learn heaps from one place.
BL: In what ways do you expect readers to improve after reading 30 Tips and Techniques for Portrait Photography?
Creek: Readers should be able to shoot portraiture with greater confidence knowing they will be able to avoid many common mistakes and having learned a lot about how to become better at what they do. Self confidence in photography is so important and gaining it can not only save you a lot of time learning but give you much better results.
BL: What is something YOU learned during the process of making this eBook?
Creek: When explaining a concept or a topic, I like to take my time to thoroughly cover the necessary knowledge. It’s important to understand the background and context of a concept. Writing a tips book is very different, as the lesson needs to be concise and to the point. I learned a lot about keeping strictly on-topic and cutting to the chase.
BL: There are a lot of little rules in photography, such as the Rule of Thirds and the Inverse Square Law. Describe a photography “rule” that you use the most or find most valuable.
Creek: Shoot often! It’s not really a classic “photography rule” but, like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it. Take your camera everywhere you go and shoot something. Shoot everything and try to make it look interesting. Make photo opportunities for yourself by going on walks or drives with your camera to places of interest, parks, events, city streets. The more often you shoot, the more familiar you’ll become with your camera and photography and you will build your photographic confidence. And you will get better.
BL: Anything new on the horizon that you are working on, either photography-wise or eBook-wise?
Creek: Always! I have a follow-up to 30 Tips and Techniques for Portrait Photography planned on the topic of landscape photography. The next book in the Photo Nuts series, Photo Nuts and Gear, will be coming out before the end of the year and will be all about the best way to add to and upgrade your camera equipment. I’ll be starting work on my second video training course at Udemy, which will be called Advanced Night Photography. Plus, I’ll be writing my newsletter, continuing with Project 365, doing equipment reviews and hopefully other posts and videos about improving your photography.
As for photography plans, the aforementioned Project 365 keeps me thinking creatively every day of the year but I also have a few interesting ideas I’d like to expand upon other ideas I’ve already experimented with in the past. I’m also going to be focusing more of my time and my passion on landscape photography since I enjoy it so much.
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