Michael Afonso: How a Portrait Photographer Went Pro

Thinking of going pro? Want to know what it takes? Michael Afonso shares his story.

Right away I’d say most of my portraits were just trial and error with nothing I was really comparing myself to. I was just having fun with my camera and learning what lenses would work with certain situations. It was fun but I wasn’t learning that much. Eventually I started browsing flickr and other photography sources. I ended up finding a lot of individual artists who inspired me.

5 Tips for Photographers Who Want to Break Into The Fine Art Marketplace

Concise article by Tiffany Mueller with five great tips first featured in Lightstalking

Making the jump from a hobbyist to a professional artist takes not only skills as a photographer, but also requires a good deal of business smarts and acumen.

Photography Tips - Wildlife shots at night - capturing a lion

As I reviewed the photos of my recent Namibian safari I noticed that there were quite few images taken at night, at the floodlit waterholes in Etosha. Here I explore some of the photographic challenges faced in these conditions and how to overcome them to successfully capture a shot such as the one below.

  • Level - Intermediate to advanced
  • Subject - Technique
  • Camera type - Digital SLR
1/25 sec a f 4.0, ISO 6400 374mm (Canon 1Dx and EF200-400, f/4L IS USM)

1/25 sec a f 4.0, ISO 6400 374mm (Canon 1Dx and EF200-400, f/4L IS USM)

The Challenge

Essentially there is but one challenge - a lack of available light. Although the waterholes are floodlit, do not imagine some brightly lit football stadium, they are lit just enough to see with the naked eye.  In order to capture as much light as possible it is necessary to use longer shutter speeds so the stability of the camera becomes critical. Also the low contrast causes mayhem with the autofocus so manual focus is often required, which is tricky in low light. 

Stability of the Camera

Our subject, the lion, is essentially static, calmly drinking at the waterhole. Therefore the only source of potential motion blur is the movement of the camera itself, exacerbated by the long lens.

So here are Martin's top tips to stabilise the camera:

  1. Place the camera on a tripod! Honestly, even if you do nothing else, this will massively improve the chances of getting sharp photos....Got it? PLACE THE CAMERA ON A TRIPOD!
  2. Tighten any clasps - spend 20 seconds ensuring the tripod will not collapse!
  3. Weigh the tripod down - you will find with a heavy camera and/ or a small amount of wind that even on a tripod there is still some unwanted movement.
  4. Remove any straps from the camera or lens -  this minimises any movement from the wind and removes the chance of accidently snagging the strap at just the wrong moment.
  5. Use "mirror lock up" - even the movement of the mirror causes camera shake.  
  6. Use a cable release, remote trigger or self timer to trigger the shutter - otherwise every time you press the shutter you are just moving the camera!

And that is it! Easy as that :)


To maximise the chance of success with autofocus, use spot focusing and select the centre spot. Typically the centre spot is more sensitive that any other and therefore offers the best chance of achieving focus.

However, once it has got too dark for autofocus to work and you have finished verbally abusing your camera, it is time to go pro! MANUAL FOCUS to the rescue!

So here are Martin's top tips for manually focusing in the dark:

  1. Temporarily set the camera to its highest ISO setting - we are going to use live view to check focus and this brightens the image on the screen.
  2. Obtain initial rough focus with the naked eye - this can be done through the view finder or with live view but you are going to need live view next.
  3. Fine tune the focus using the magnification available in live view - the ability to magnify the image allows you to see the fine detail required to get the photo not only sharp but focused where you want it.
  4. Reduce your ISO back to an acceptable level - you probably do not want to be taking the image as ISO 25,600+ if you can help it!

At this point I normally turn live view off and use my binoculars to view the subject to then trigger the cable release at the right moment.


Martin Sean




Black Backgrounds in Macro Photography

More on macro roday, easy to follow technique for achieveing a black background for your macro photos.

One of the most important aspects of fine art macro photography is capturing a non-distracting background so your subject stands out.

Twelve posing cues from twelve incredible photographers

As I currently running some personal projects on portrait work I often wonder how other photographer approach this. Seeing how others work often brings inspiration.

there is one area that I have always found fascinating and very insightful, posing cues and communication. Regardless of where I am or have been in my career, I have always found it incredibly insightful to see how other professional photographers communicate and pose their clients.

Cinematographer Eve Hazelton Explains the Five Pillars of Exposure

Eve clearly and simply explains the five ways that exposure can be effected and controlled. While the Eve is talking about cinematography it can all be applied to photography and is certainly worth spending the 6 minutes to watch this video.

Author: Eve Hazelton

Handy Online Depth of Field Simulator

If you want to learn about depth of field or plan a photo this powerful, FREE and easy to use on-line simulator by Michael Bemowski is just the thing. Also now available as an android app from the play store.

Five Keys to Better Black and White Landscapes

The first key to black and white landscapes is being able to see in light and shade. This can be a difficult thing to do at first, but with a little thought and practice, you will find yourself looking at a scene in a different way.

Digital sensors are amazing devices but they are still nowhere near as good as our eyes for picking out tonal range. A good black and white shot needs to have contrast...

An Introduction to Golden Spiral Composition Method

Used at least as early as 400 B.C., the Golden Proportion, based on the irrational number Phi has fascinated mathematicians, artists and architects for a couple thousand years. Fibonacci is best known for his use of it in the Fibonacci sequence. Da Vinci used it extensively as did Michelangelo and countless others. But what is it, and why is it so powerful?

Follow the link for the full guide

Author: Sander-Martijn

Mathematically it’s a logarithmic spiral, asymptotic in nature. But we’re photographers, not mathemeticians, so I’d rather talk about it from a human perspective...

An Introduction to The Rule of Thirds


The Rule of Thirds is a fundamental concept of photography that deals with the composition of your image based upon an imaginary or superimposed grid. We talk about it often here on the site, but you may not even know what it really is or how to use it. Here’s your field guide.

...What you may not know is that this rule was partially created because of how the human eye works...