Camera action: Rankin’s top photography tips

The acclaimed British photographer on the importance of experimentation and atmosphere

Features

02 Mar 2017

Rankin is one of Great Britain’s most succesful portrait and fashion photographers. Throughout his career, which began in the early 90s, he has photographed the Queen and celebrities including Madonna, Michael Jackson and Adele. He has shot covers for Elle, German Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Rolling Stone and has taken pictures for charities including Women’s Aids and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. His bold and distinctive style of portraiture is currently being showcased at the Camera Work gallery, in Berlin. Photographs taken from 1995 to the present day are featured in the retrospective. See below for images taken from the exhibition, as well as Rankin’s top tips for budding photographers…

Momento Glitter

1. There is no such thing as the perfect photo. Every photographer will pick holes in their own work, especially the best of them. The perfect photo is only in your mind and is more likely to be the idea of the next shot you take. The best advice that I can give about taking a good picture is take lots; even the worst photographer can get lucky if they stack the odds!

2. Taking photographs is a personal process. It’s an exploration of your own picture of you versus my picture of you. You’ve got to treat it as an extended discussion between photographer and subject. It kind of helps if you like people, too.

Gisele Sparkly II

3. Never think that the camera is the most important thing. The camera is a tool. It’s the environment, the atmosphere and the collaboration that will get you the shot. So find a camera that you are comfortable with and enjoying using and stick to that.

4. You need to experiment and take risks. There is no right and wrong. So be brave and go for it. That’s what we did at Dazed & Confused [which Rankin co-founded in 1992]. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Take inspiration from other people by all means, but never copy.

Monica Bellucci

5. The lens is just a window you’re looking through. The more you can imagine that, the better. It will break down the barriers between you and your subject. Everyone, no matters how famous they are, gets nervous in front of the camera. Everyone. So learning to smile with your eyes and communicate with them as if the camera isn’t there is a great help.

Rankin at Camera Work, Berlin, runs until April 1


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