Tips from Nat Geo photographer


Senior Member
Nov 14, 2008

Capture stunning cityscapes on film with tips from National Geographic photographer and recent Singapore visitor Annie Griffiths.

As one of the first female photographers to work for National Geographic, Annie Griffiths knows what it's like to break down barriers — and to chase a good story in the process.

The award-winning photographer — who's travelled all over the world and contributed to various projects and publications — was in Singapore recently to judge the CapitaLand-National Geographic Channel "Building People" Photography Competition. She took some time out to chat about her experiences with Yahoo! Singapore.

"It's true that a Nat Geo photographer gets to travel to exotic locales. But it's not romantic," she counters. "The goal of photography is to tell a story accurately and compellingly. It's about helping our readers understand the place, the culture and the people. [It's like] giving them a perspective on things and being a witness of sorts."

She's had this mindset since she started at National Geographic years ago at age 25. "It's hard for people to see travelling as a job. But taking photographs is very tough. You're sweaty, you're dirty, you're climbing into the pool. It's not glamourous but it's so interesting. You'll want to do it well."

And you'd need to establish that emotional connection too. "I don't try to detach myself from people, because I really want to get their intimate story. The only way to do that is to get close to them and be a part of their lives," she explains.

"The objectivity comes when I represent different factions. I remember feeling that in Israel, when I would go from a Palestinian home to a religious Israeli home and they couldn't do that. But because of that, I could share each of their concerns. I have to represent each of their sides well."

Want to "represent your subjects' sides well" — and take a good shot like Griffiths? Make their stories come to life with a couple of her pointers:

#1 "Be comfortable working with people" "This is my number one tip for urban photographers," she adds. "It should not just be about the architecture. Which is why I love CapitaLand's theme of 'building for people', because that is what it's all about — making spaces that are comforting and motivating, and that consider light, smell and sound."

#2 "Find an interesting composition" "The hardest thing in urban photography is to isolate something, because there are so many things intruding. There's a McDonald's sign or something that will make you go 'argh!' or a crane sticking out in the skyline."

#3 "Pay attention" "There are so many things in world photography that are so similar to urban photography. You look for light, you look for the scene, and then you compose it thoughtfully. You really need to pay attention to what you should put in the frame and what you should keep out of the frame."

#4 "Stay curious" "It's important for a good photographer to be curious — always wanting to know, see and learn."

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