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Ask Anything: 10 questions with Photographer Ned Winn

Posted February 24, 2009
Updated March 3, 2009


Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers? – Lauren, Youngsville

Yes. Learn all you can from experienced photographers who are successful in the area(s) of photography that interest you. Join organizations that mentor and assist new photographers such as Professional Photographers of America and Professional Photographers of North Carolina, attend their seminars and get involved in designing and capturing images that you like.


What kind of camera do you suggest that a non-professional get that likes to take photos of nature, animals and family vacations? – Nancy, Erwin

I use and recommend Canon cameras. I like both the 40D and 5D bodies. Canon makes a variety of interchangeable lenses which allow creative control and adaptation to specific circumstances. The instant feedback of today’s digital cameras makes it so that even a non professional can get close to professional results with such a camera. However, in actuality, the best camera is the one you will use. So if you prefer a less expensive camera, or don’t want to bother changing lens, Canon makes smaller “point and shoot” models (with the lens built in) that are quite versatile and easy to carry and operate, such as the Canon S10.


I have a 3-year-old boy and a 6-month-old baby girl. It's hard to get everyone happy and smiling in our professional photos. Any suggestions? – Jennifer Stout, Benson

After having photographed half a million children in the last 30 years, I can assure you that you are not alone. Choose a professional who is experienced with young children and families, not an amateur. Then, follow their advice! If you are worried the results won’t be good, your children FEEL your stress! Let the photographer control the session and worry about the outcome so you can relax and take your children on a playful adventure. 


I've always heard that taking pictures at dawn or early evening brings out the best colors in pictures. Is this true? – Michael, Raleigh

The contrast ratio of shadow to highlight is usually gentler at dawn and dusk and therefore easier to expose correctly. The colors present in the sky are often more discernable when the sun is near the horizon because of the layers in the atmosphere and cloud cover present. These filter the light and cause it to separate into the different frequencies of the color spectrum as does as rainbow or prism. However, in any given circumstance or light, an accurate exposure will maximize the available color.


What are things to look for in selecting a great wedding photographer? – Catherine, Raleigh

Look for a certified professional with experience in weddings. A “once in a lifetime” event doesn’t give a second chance, and weddings frequently present a broad range of challenging circumstances to which the photographer must be able to adapt, and quickly. You want someone whose work is consistent, and whose style you like.

Ask to see sample albums of entire weddings, as opposed to albums that are compilations of many weddings. A professional with a manually operated camera is much better than an amateur with 100 automatic programs. Ask about provisions for equipment failure. A professional will carry back ups of all key equipment.


I have graduated from the New York Institute of Photography. I love photography, but I don't know how to get started trying to make money doing it. Any tips? Thanks! – Alice Roberts, Coats

That’s a broad question, but here are some thoughts. Both PPA and PPNC offer business and marketing classes. Begin preparing a portfolio of your best work. Create a business card, if you don’t already have one, and a brochure that details the services you offer. Find someone who is successful doing what you would like to do, and get to know them. Offer to work for free just to learn.

Realize that photography is as specialized as medicine. You only need to learn to do one thing well to get started. But don’t stop there, because if you keep adding to your "bag of tricks," equipment and experience, you’ll eventually be qualified to do many types of photography that interest you.

Be aware that one good photograph does not mean you are ready to go pro. Display the work that you can produce again and again. Your clients will expect you to deliver the same qualities for them, that they see in your displays. Be ready!


What does it take professionally as a photographer, to qualify to become a member of Photographic Society of the Triangle, the Professional Photographers of North Carolina and the Professional Photographers of America? – Tara Joines, Raleigh

To be eligible to join the Photographic Society of the Triangle, you must be a practicing full or part time professional photographer, be invited by a member of PST and attend at least one meeting. PPNC has different types of membership categories, which are defined on our Web site, www.ppofnc.com, under the "Visitor" tab. PPA has information and applications available online under the "Join PPA."

The professionals in these organizations tend to share the traits of honesty, integrity and a willingness to learn from and share with others. They share a genuine love of the art and profession of photographic imaging. We work together to learn from one another and to educate ourselves in ways that help us to better serve our clients and community. The educational opportunities offered are endless.

PPNC’s state convention begins Feb. 27 and is the best photography education money can buy! It features some of the best talent and teachers from around the nation and abroad. I also highly recommend the East Coast School and Carolina Art and Photographic School for seminars and summer school sessions.


Do you think the influx of digital cameras will lead to fewer professional photography jobs? Such as with smaller newspapers, it appears that more reporters are taking photographs instead of a designated staff photographer. – Denise, Wilson

While I cannot tell where the influx of digital cameras will lead, I can tell you about the changes I’ve observed. Now that digital cameras give instant feedback, more people are attempting to make money with their cameras. There has been a noticeable drop in quality in so-called “professional” photography.

In the last several years I have noticed a significant spike in the number of complaints from consumers regarding either the quality of their photographs (from schools, sports leagues, dance studios, etc.) or about their photography experience. (See question 3.) In my opinion, most of these complaints derived from issues resulting from their decision to use a PWAC (person with a camera) instead of a true professional. There has also been a corresponding rise in the number of people seeking training from, and admission to, the above mentioned professional organizations. Registrations at PPNC’s state convention have doubled.

Photographers did well during the great depression because people spent their money on what was dear to them. I believe we are currently seeing a growth in the number of clients who seek experienced professionals because the results are important to them. Some businesses and publishers seem to have sacrificed quality to save money. The quality of images on the newsstand appears to have diminished, which in turn diminishes the publication. When quality matters, professionals will be sought.


I just purchased a Canon digital SLR and am a relative new comer to the photography field. Do you have any suggestions on books, Internet resources or other ways to learn and to increase my skills as an amateur/hobbyist photographer? Thanks. – Tim G., Raleigh

Joining a local camera club or group with similar goals is a great way to start. Most groups share info and talk about resources they found helpful. The most effective way I know to improve your skills is to review your images with someone more experienced than yourself. Particularly the BAD images!

The failed images are the ones that determine what you need to do to improve. Granted, some results aren’t good simply because the circumstance didn’t allow it. However, studying your mistakes provides an excellent opportunity to either learn how to adapt to that circumstance or otherwise improve on your next attempt.


I recently (one year ago) made the switch from 35mm film to digital. My D-SLR is a wonderful tool, but my results are somewhat disappointing. I cannot seem to get the focus to be as sharp as I'd like. I take the photo in RAW format and then post-process to sharpen and adjust other photo qualities. But, I am still not pleased with the result. It just doesn't seem as sharp as I'd like. Is it just me or do I have a camera system that will just not ever deliver that razor-sharp image? My wife has a 6 megapixel point and shoot and her photos are just as good as those from my 10 mp D-SLR. I have much more creative control, but the image quality appears to be the same. What can I do to improve? – David Parrish, Youngsville

David, I think your question brings out my point in the previous question. Looking at poor results reveals the opportunity to improve. Let’s look at what you’ve told me about your results. You said, “I cannot seem to get the focus as sharp as I’d like.”

Is ANY part of the image as sharp as you’d like? If some part of the image is sharp but not others, depth of field may be the issue to address. If not, then I think we need to look at the lens you are using and see if it is fully compatible with your digital SLR. Your wife’s 6 MP point and shoot has a fixed lens that is fully compatible with the camera. Was this lens a hold over from your film camera? Is it a good optical quality match for the D-SLR sensor in your camera body? Are you using an auto focus feature?

You said, “I take the photo in RAW format and then post process ...” You could be losing clarity and definition that you actually captured! However, it sounds as if you are missing clarity in the capture. Most 10 MP D-SLRs are extremely sharp in manual mode. In automatic programs, they generally go to low aperture settings which yield a shallow depth of field. They also frequently switch to higher ISO options to save power. Both of these can create problems with sharpness, loss of detail, depth of field (focus) and digital noise.

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  • say cheese Mar 4, 2009

    The Nikon D90 is a great "amateur" camera. It is fun and takes great pictures.

  • New York Yankee Feb 27, 2009

    Does anyone know anything about the New York Institute of Photography? Would they recommend it? I am looking into it. Thanks in advance.

  • Travised Feb 26, 2009

    I concur 2. I had for once to "RTFM" with my 5D so I knew how to adjust the settings on it and make the camera work for me. Having filters already in my possession that would fit the lenses helped me save so I didn't have to buy another batch. A lot of seeing what works with it.

    The RARE item with the Canon (and nikon) is changing the focus plates. Most of us never install different ones. I'm half debating buying a different plate to install to help in focusing.

    A lot is enjoying what you are doing.

  • 2 Feb 26, 2009

    Great read... thanks Ned. I paid paticular attention to #10 and thought your response was spot on... or perhaps sharp?