Don’t buy another gear bag without checking out our roundup of eight functional and stylish picks—all perfect for the photographer on a budget.

Spruce up your look with one of this functional and fashionable gear bags—perfect for anyone on a budget.


Ona Leather Bond Street

Ideal for mirrorless or advanced compact cameras, the Leather Bond Street is bedecked in full-grain leather and antique brass hardware. There’s a closed-cell foam-padded interior that’s roomy enough for a body and two lenses. You’ll also find a removable padded divider and a zippered pocket on the back for smartphones and small accessories. Thanks to its detachable strap, you can use the Bond as an insert in a larger camera bag when you need to lug more gear.
Price: $219


Brevitē Rucksack and Rolltop Camera Bags

The two newest members of Brevitē’s camera bag family carry on the company’s removable camera-carrying system. Each has a customizable padded insert that can be removed, and it works in any other Brevitē bag. The Rucksack and Rolltop bags fit up to a full-frame DSLR with an attached lens, a 70-200mm zoom lens and an additional lens and small accessories. They include an integrated laptop sleeve for a 15-inch laptop and several access points (top and side) to get at your camera gear quickly. The Rolltop and Rucksack offer a removable lens cap buckle on the shoulder strap that’s compatible with 52mm, 58mm and 67mm lens caps. The shoulder straps also have a loop for sunglasses, because hipsters.
Prices: $165 (rucksack), $185 (rolltop)


Kelly Moore Libby 2.0

The Libby 2.0 is decked out in the company’s new Cambrio material and is water and abrasion resistant. The bag has five padded dividers that are removable and adjustable. There’s enough room for a 15-inch laptop, two lenses (including a lens up to 10 inches long), a gripped camera body and a 10-inch tablet in a dedicated zippered pocket. There are two shoulder straps and one long removable messenger strap. It’s sold in orange, saddle or stone colors.
Price: $229


Jill-E Designs Jack Hudson

The compact Hudson can house a DSLR body and up to two lenses and a flash. There are quick-access zippered and netted pockets just beneath the flip-lid for stowing small accessories like batteries and memory cards. The exterior Colombian leather includes a leather top handle and an adjustable (and removable) cloth shoulder strap. There’s a one-touch buckle that pops open the lid to reveal a padded interior with customizable dividers to protect your camera.
Price: $170


Think Tank Signature Series

These hand-sewn bags caught our eye at WPPI. They’re weather-resistant and offer leather details and metal hardware. There’s the Signature 10 and Signature 13. The former fits a 10-inch tablet, a DSLR and up to four prime lenses; the latter can house a 13-inch laptop, a DSLR with zoom lens attached and three more lenses. Both models offer a dedicated phone pocket, a luggage pass-through handle, a front cover that fits a strobe and zippered front pockets for smaller items. The bags have a customizable quilted velex interior to protect your gear with dividers that can shelve smaller lenses. The dividers and bottom foam can be removed from the bag completely if you want to collapse the bag.
Prices: starting at $249


Tenba Cooper

The Cooper series is made from a soft cotton canvas with full-grain leather trim. The canvas exterior features water-repellant coating and an ultra-light, silicone-coated rip-stop nylon liner. Additional features include a Velcro flap that opens silently, a quick-access top zipper, a silver/black reversible rain cover (the silver side reflects the sun to keep bag contents cooler) and a rear laptop/tablet pocket. There’s a removable padded camera insert and side pockets that can be compressed slim against the side of the bag or expanded to hold as large as a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (for Cooper 13 or 15 bags only). The series is available in four sizes, capable of stowing everything from compact mirrorless cameras with an 8-inch tablet up to pro DSLRs with 15-inch laptops.
Prices: starting at $170


Tiny Atlas Solas

Available in three colors, the Solas can be worn in one of three ways: as a tote, a shoulder bag or a backpack. It offers a weather-resistant, durable waxed cotton canvas exterior and a cushioned internal frame with protective foam to keep camera gear secure. The interior stands upright when the bag is placed down, and it fits a full-frame DSLR with a battery grip, lens and a few accessories. A padded sleeve fits a 13-inch laptop, and there’s a pair of lined mesh organizers and an internal key leash too. You can accessorize the Solas with cushioned lens pouches and a grid organizer, which has zippered pouches for accessories and comes with its own strap to sling over your shoulder if want to free up bag space.
Price: $220


Grafea Lilac Camera Bag

The eye-catching Lilac is 100 percent leather with a padded interior and two adjustable dividers that are large enough for a DSLR body and two lenses (or a lens and a flash). The padded inserts are removable, in case you need to make room in the bag for personal items. There’s a front pocket and two side pockets for holding small accessories and an adjustable/removable shoulder strap.
Price: $175

Jessica Deeks takes us behind the scenes of her high-profile portrait shoot with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Just before 150th celebration of Canada Day on July 1, Ottawa, Ontario-based portrait photographer Jessica Deeks had an opportunity to photograph Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau for Maclean‘s magazine, the Canadian news publication.

Shutterlove interviewed Deeks to learn how she prepared for the shoot in order to both calm her nerves and produce top-notch results for her client.

Shutterlove: What is your connection with the magazine, Maclean’s? Did they approach you for this shoot?

JD: I have been photographing portraits for Maclean’s over the past few years—of various individuals in the political arena as well as anyone else they are doing a story on. They approached me for this shoot as soon as they had confirmation from Trudeau’s office, which was two days before, and we started discussing the logistics at that point.

SL: What were some of the guidelines? Were they looking for a particular style, mood or angle for a story?

JD: The interview was for Canada’s 150th celebration, so there would be a lot of reflections on the past and forward-looking projections to the future. The magazine knew I would only have a few minutes with him, so my guidelines were to photograph him in his office and to get a range of expressions so they could choose an appropriate one for the article. Also, there are already many photos in the media of our Prime Minister smiling, so they were hoping for shots that depicted him looking more neutral.

We predicted that he would start off the shoot automatically smiling, but actually, he was very relaxed and gave me the exact look I was hoping for. I did still get some smiling shots as well as various poses, but it was smooth sailing because I knew I had already gotten the shots I wanted.

SL: How long did you have to prep for the shoot?

JD: I had two days to figure out the logistics with the magazine, and then 45 minutes or so to set up the shots in the office. Originally the shoot was planned for an outdoor location overlooking Parliament Hill, but rain was in the forecast and he had a busy schedule.

SL: What was the most challenging part of prepping for the shoot?

JD: Once I knew the location (his office), I spent a lot of time looking at photos of it online from all angles since I had never been there. There would also be a video crew setting up simultaneously, so I needed to coordinate with them where I wanted to be in the room. I also made sure that I was the one to shoot first, as interviews can run long and time would already be tight.

SL: How much time did you have with Mr. Trudeau?

JD: The block of time for both the photos and the video interview was 20 minutes. However, the interview itself was supposed to be 20 minutes, so I was told numerous times by the staff that everything would need to move very quickly. In the end, I think I shot for about four minutes.

SL: What was the most challenging part of actually capturing the portrait?

JD: He was extremely personable and relaxed, so working with him to get the shots I wanted wasn’t an issue at all. The most challenging part was psychological—knowing we only had a few minutes to introduce ourselves, establish a quick, easy-going rapport, shoot two setups with various expressions and/or poses and keep everything looking great (and tack-sharp at f/2.2)!

SL: Can you describe the lighting setup? 

JD: We set up a Profoto Deep Medium Umbrella with no diffusion coming from the same direction as one of the windows (out of frame) to give it proper motivation. I wanted a punchy but flattering quality of light, which this modifier is perfect for. We played around with the windows in the back as well, specifically to achieve a subtle natural rim light in the close-up, and for a nice background in the first shot.

When setting up, the Prime Minister’s official photographer was in the room with us and he mentioned that the Prime Minister has very deep-set eyes, something to keep in mind for the lighting. With that in mind, I paid close attention to the first couple test shots of the close-up, and sure enough, he was right. I had to lower my light stand to make sure I got catchlights, but I kept it high enough to accentuate his natural bone structure with shadowing because I wanted it slightly on the moody side.

SL: What might be your advice for other photographers who are given an opportunity to take a high-profile portrait?

JD: As Yousuf Karsh said: Do your homework. Find out all you can about any subject, especially high-profile ones, but also prepare for the given location and situation as much as possible. I personally find that the antidote for nerves and doubt is over-preparedness. If I can find a way to visualize every aspect of a shoot, including setbacks and solutions, I feel much more confident walking into a high-stakes situation.

Deeks captured the portraits using a Nikon D800 camera with a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens. You can read more about the photo shoot on her blog

California-based photographer Bil Zelman got the idea for his series “Fedora” when an ad agency approached him to shoot a series of images depicting distinguished-looking men in fedoras. The ad project fell through, but Zelman felt so passionate about the idea, he decided to pursue it on his own. He recently published the series on his website.

Zelman knew we wanted to shoot the series in New York City, and his first task was to find the distinguished-looking male subjects. “With no budget for a wardrobe stylist, I’d have to say the most difficult and time-consuming part of the project was finding four gentlemen who would look and dress cohesively,” and who were willing to pose for no fee, he says. Instagram proved to be a particularly useful tool for the task, and Zelman found four subjects “who I knew could dress well and already owned fedoras.”

He shot the photographs either at dusk or at dawn in locations that offered a timeless, “old school New York” feel with cobblestones, wooden windows, steaming vents and the like, Zelman says. He used a Canon 1DX and a 50mm f/1.2 lens.

Zelman estimates that he shot 4,000 images and then narrowed the final project down to just nine. “Ten different photographers would have told this story ten different ways,” he says. “There were certainly better solo images of each of these gentlemen that didn’t work for the group as a whole, so you need to set your emotions aside and do what’s right for the voice of your piece.”

He chose to publish the images as duotones with a warm and creamy tone in the mid ranges, and a blue tone for the shadows—a hybrid between nostalgic black-and-white photographs and the vibrant colors of modern photography. “I strongly wanted these portraits to have one foot in the past and one in the present,” he says.

Zelman has published the work to his website, Facebook page, Instagram feed and to PDN’s PhotoServe database. When it comes to creating personal work, he advises fellow photographers to “follow your heart. Make work that you love! Try lots of projects and know that you’ll be canning many of them, but that failure is part of the process… Have a voice and do it for yourself. If you don’t do it for yourself it usually won’t feel genuine.”

Related Articles:

Photo Editor Mike Davis and Jason Eskenazi on the Art of Sequencing Photos

The Art of Posing: Body Language Basics 

8 No-Fail Posing Tips for Every Shoot

London-based photographer Patrick Gunning lets PDN in on his secret to successfully capturing live music events.

For Patrick Gunning, music and photography go hand in hand. One look at his webzine——makes it clear that is deeply entrenched in live music scene in London and beyond. A recent college graduate, Gunning has been photographing music events for about a year and a half. “[At school], I took photography as one of my three subjects,” Gunning explains. “Around that time, I started shooting gigs, and one of my final projects was a series of gig images from around London.” Gunning ended up extending the series through the summer after he finished school—capturing many summer festivals and the musicians performing at them. Also during this time, he started shooting for small blogs run by friends as a way of gaining press access, which ultimately led to his launch of this past winter.

Intended to show a cross-section of the music scene in the U.K., Gunning submitted an untitled series to PDN’s Ultimate Music Moment competition featuring a variety of artists with different sounds—Florence And The Machine at Alexandra Palace, Foals at Leeds Festival, Frank Carter at The Underworld, Local Natives at KOKO and the 1975 at the Hammersmith Apollo and Frank Carter Leeds Festival—all captured between 2015 and 2016.

Making knockout music images such as these takes some planning—but also some luck. “Some of the shots involved some prep, but the majority were just trying to capture that half-second moment in an artists’ set,” Gunning explains. “Often it’s near impossible to predict what will happen during a show, but other times a band will follow the same movements, or some sort of similar structure every set so it’s easier to figure out where and when you should be to get the shot you want.”

In his image of Foals at Leeds Festival above, we see lead singer Yannis Philippakis against a burst of light, surrounded by a sea of hands. “My original plan for the shot was to try to get an image of the singer up close with the crowd, but as he started coming down into the crowd, he was surrounded by an entourage and other photographers, so the original shot went out the window,” Gunning says. Instead, he framed the shot so that he was backlit against the sound tower spotlight. “[It] allowed me to have a 1/5000th of a second shutter speed, which froze the rain in place to create this constellation-like image.”

And while he enjoys photographing live music events, Gunning’s favorite part of doing so is the music itself. “There’d be little to no point shooting concerts if I didn’t enjoy the music. I’ve discovered so many great bands shooting shows,” he says. As far as advice on how to make the most of photographing music events, Gunning offers the following: “Try to get on with [show security], and try and keep out of other people’s shots. It’s helpful when you get [along] with others in the pit, especially when it’s a small one and you’re all crammed in.”

Gunning looks forward to photographing festivals this summer, and is currently mapping out which ones he will be attending. Gunning’s series won him Grand Prize in PDN‘s 2016 Ultimate Music Moment contest. Read more about the contest and see all of last year’s winning work at

Maria Louceiro tells us about her transformative on- and off-stage moments.

Scroll through Maria Louceiro’s work and you’ll be transported to a world of smoky landscapes with rolling clouds, shadowy portraits and hazy, colorful on-stage performances. It can be a challenge to marry such disparate subject matter as open fields and dim rock venues, but the Berlin-based photographer approaches each with the same sensibility.

Her upbringing in Porto, Portugal, is what shaped her visual style. “[Porto] is very gray, misty and mysterious,” she explains. Her aesthetic, she says, “is a very personal thing. Everyone grows up in specific conditions and this leads you to have your own view of what’s around you.”

Louceiro’s music imagery is transformative in that it removes reference to time and space. Performers appear to play their instruments in a whirl of fog and lights, sacrificing contextual cues for emotive quality. You may have seen her work via Pitchfork—she’s been shooting for the magazine since 2014—or her commissions for clients like VICE and MTV, such as the artwork for Placebo’s Unplugged album from 2015.

In 2014, Louceiro was sent to Sweden’s Way Out West festival by Pitchfork photo editor Erik Sanchez to cover the show and photograph the performers. When it came time to shoot experimental electronic producer Holly Herndon outdoors, it was under “the worst conditions,” Louceiro recalls. “Holly was really, really nice to work with. We shot in her hotel rooftop with so much rain and wind and she was still ok with doing it.” She adds: “Working with limitations can either break it or make it.”

But for Louceiro’s style, it works. Gone are any references to hotels, rooftops or rain, and instead, Herndon emerges from a wispy cloud of candy-cotton pink—albeit with her hoodie on.

This image was awarded the professional Grand Prize in PDN’s Ultimate Music Moment competition. Louceiro isn’t your typical full-time professional photographer, however. She’s a graphic designer at IDAGIO, a classical music streaming service based out of Berlin, and freelances as both an illustrator and photographer. Each medium informs the other, and the intersection has evolved into an overarching study of movement, texture and color.

See all winners from PDN’s Ultimate Music Moment at

See also:

Tips for Mastering Music Portraits from Ultimate Music Moment Contest Winner and RIT Photojournalism Student Meg Oliphant

Inside Music Photography: Getting Paid And Managing Approvals 

Portraiture is often inspired by other mediums of art, as PDN Faces contest winner Beatrice Heydiri can attest. She has been shooting portraits for nearly 20 years, and says her work is influenced by the great masters of painting, many of whom she was exposed to during her studies at the Art Center College of Design Pasadena. It was also in college when she had to take a photography class and, she explains, “realized it was my calling to create with the camera rather then with a brush.”

“To take portraits of people takes more then just pointing the lens at someone,” Heydiri says. “If you want your image to have an impact, you should try to understand the person in front of your camera, try to work out personalities and features.”

Her passion for photography and her drive to make an impact led her to experiment with, and get commissioned for, a range of portraiture styles—including low-angle shots. Here, Heydiri tells us what makes this view unique, both in terms of its final appearance, and the technical know-how needed to master it.

Shutterlove: What do you like most about the low-angle approach?
Beatrice Heydiri: 
A low angle creates a visual pyramid where the object becomes important and taller then he or she is. We look up at the person or subject, which creates a want and desire. It’s a psychological gesture of looking up to something more powerful and greater than oneself.

SL: In your opinion, what impact does a low-angle shot produce that you can’t replicate with other angles?
 An image is a subconscious message and creates a feeling or emotion. A low angle can either be that the person above is looking open and inviting—reaching a hand out for us to join them on the higher level. Or, it can create a superior position that awakes pride and heroic feelings. In either approach, the low angle produces a way up, and the way up is always positive.

Throughout history, low angle shots have been used to uplift politicians, heroes and other important people.

SL: What are some of the biggest challenges when creating this type of shot with human subjects?
One should always respect the space of the person that you are taking pictures of. You are trying to reflect their personality or character in the image, so it is the photographer’s job to trigger these emotions while taking the image.

SL: Do you adjust any of your camera settings when taking a low-angle approach versus shooting straight on? If so, how and why?
Not long ago we had to use light meters to be accurate on film. With digital cameras, you can immediately check if your exposure is right or if you would like to have more flairs coming in without overexposing your image. Being at a lower angle, you will always flood the lens with more light, so adjustments have to be taken.

SL: How do you manage the light with low-angle shots?
I personally think the sun is the best light source, so you need to see where the light is in relation to the subject and work around that. Reflectors will always help to give the skin and the eyes more sparkle.

Other photographers might bring extra lights, but I personally prefer the sun. The subject should be covering the light so it just creates the perfect halo of flair.

SL: How do you frame a portrait from a low-angle?
Foreground, middle ground, background. I always have to envision all three—where am I, where is the object of desire and what is behind them.

The image needs to be set up very graphically to underline the composition. Some questions I’ll ask are: How low am I standing? Is there a disturbing background? Do I want do see the podium that the object is standing on? etc.

For me, most of the time I am flat on the floor (so don’t be vain!)

SL: Any tips for curious photographers experimenting with low-angle shots?
The key is to experiment. There is no right or wrong way to pull this off. Photographers should always try what works best for them, remember what their vision is and adjust based on the result. One piece of advice is that, as you get lower while shooting human subjects, you might get angles that are no longer respectful. (There is a fine line between hero and zero.)

Also, consistency is a big aim for me as a commercial photographer. Anyone can take a great shot in his or her lifetime, but to recreate it with any gear at any time, that is where the true art of a photographer lies.

SL: What gear do you typically use for your portrait work?
I have used many different cameras over the last 20 years. From Hasselblad over Pentax, Nikon to Canon. There is no rule to a specific camera or lens. The camera is only the tool to see and catch the moment with.


Though Oliver Regueiro is not yet a full-time photographer, creating visual escapes is intrinsic to his profession. As a lead skybox artist at Microsoft’s 343 Industries, his graphics transport gamers into the massive universe of sci-fi franchise Halo. But for around 15 years, the Seattle-based artist has also created photographs, from classically lit portraiture to sweeping vistas worthy of unlocked achievements.

Regueiro’s work has been published in PDN before—his series “Earthbound” was honored in the Faces portrait competition in 2015—but it was an ethereal study of the female figure, “Evanescence,” that earned him Grand Prize in PDN and Rangefinder’s joint contest, The Body.

The subjects in “Evanescence,” look as if they are rendered in delicate graphite, but the images are captured in camera in Regueiro’s home studio and then edited in Capture One.

“The production was very simple,” he explains. “I wanted very uniform light, so I set up the studio outside on my deck, which has a semitransparent roof [that] diffuses natural light. I used reflectors for fill light and a white cloth background so I could place a strobe behind it.” This achieved a balanced white background and a soft rim light on each model. In Capture One, he applied white vignetting on the lower half of the body—already brighter from the fill lights—to fade each figure into the background.

The effect is dreamy and poignant, like memories of intimate moments. Regueiro, who loves paintings and drawings but says he has no aptitude for them, wanted the images to look like private drawings made by a lover.

While Regueiro does sell prints of his work on his website, for now, his series are passion projects until he steps into a professional photography career. He points to the masters of mood and light as his favorite photographers—namely Gregory Crewdson, David LaChapelle, Richard Avedon and Mark Seliger—and for his own work, those two elements also play a crucial role. “I try to make images that make people feel calm and peaceful,” he says. “[There’s] too much stress in the world right now. I want people to get away from it, even if it’s just for a second.”

To see the full “Evanescence” series by Oliver Regueiro, in addition to all the winning work from The Body 2016, visit

Photographer Victor Koroma describes himself as a grown up kid; someone who still enjoys the simple pleasures of childhood—toys, games, crayons—but now, instead of playing with them as he would in his youth, he’s photographing them in a vibrant style that he describes as “witty, whimsical and fun.”

Koroma’s personal series, “Sex, Drugs, and Office Supplies,” earned him a First Place award in PDN‘s 2017 Objects of Desire still life photography competition. Featuring everyday office supplies like a stapler, pair of scissors and thumbtack, the series was designed to “explore the common perception and function of everyday options,” Koroma explains. “My intention is to transform these objects beyond their banality into objects of desire that encourage you to think of them in new ways.”

Shutterlove had a chance to interview Koroma to find out more about his inspiration, conceptualization and technical execution of the series.

Shutterlove: What inspires you and your work?
Victor Koroma: The idea of looking at everything in the world with wide eyes, like it’s the first time I’m seeing it. Being curious. Channeling the enthusiasm of a kid in a toy store.

As for my work, [inspirations] would be painters and sculptors on the contemporary pop and minimalist artists spectrums. On the contemporary pop side, my current inspirations would be Takashi Murakami, Kaws and Jeff Koons. On the minimalist side, it would be Ellsworth Kelly, John McCracken and Barbara Kasten. Most importantly, what inspires me and my work is the thought of striving to become a master at what it is I do.

SL: Can you describe your lighting formula for still objects like those we see in “Sex, Drugs, and Office Supplies?”
VK: I think of lighting formulas in terms of creating different value systems of light, as if I was in my drawing class. Instead of using a pencil to create tones and shades, I use light. Finding highlights or shadows that people may not notice when looking at the image, but I know are there, and are necessary. I use a minimalist lighting set up to light detailed things individually. There is a huge technical aspect of my work, even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself
technical. I did not use a light meter for “Sex, Drugs, and Office Supplies,” instead I just intuitively paid attention to the quality of light. Light meters, for me, can be a bit distracting because, instead of paying attention to the actual light, you pay attention to numbers.

SL: What gear did you use to capture this series?
For the camera, I used a Mamiya 645 with a Digital Leaf Aptus Phase One back. For the lens I used the Mamiya Fixed 88mm, and for the lighting I used a Profoto light kit.

SL: What are some tips you might have for photographers looking to eliminate or minimize shadow on a seamless backdrop?
VK: Pay attention to the direction of your light. Move it around and see how the shadow dances around. Also, examine how painters and graphic designers treat their shadows.

SL: What’s the most challenging or complicated part about achieving this look?
VK: It’s a trying process to be consistent aesthetically with color and lighting relationships when the different types of object materials I’m photographing react uniquely to light. Spreading out this uniformity throughout a series is always my main headache. I spend a lot of time paying attention to the materials that objects are made out of and figuring out how they react individually to light.

SL: How do you overcome this challenge?
VK: Picking similar object materials, lighting and color relationships that speak the language of whatever series I’m working on. Oddly enough, being a good shopper plays a big role too in over coming those challenges. I have to be extremely specific in my choices and not drift away—whether I’m at different Office Depots looking for very specific office product, or online shopping somewhere.

SL: What do you most enjoy about this style and why?
VK: It’s a reflection of the kid in me that sat on the couch eating sugary cereal watching Saturday morning cartoons. When people ask me my age, I usually say I’m 13 because I see myself as a grown up kid, and if I were to self analyze my work, it is really just me playing with toys. It’s just that I photograph them now. This style captures a vibrant youthful experience that’s witty whimsical and fun. Its accessible and non-elitist.

Related Articles:

Turning Objects Into Ideas

How I Got That Shot: Capturing Perfect Scoops of Ice Cream

PDN Objects of Desire Still Life Photography Competition

Geoffery Stellfox had completed an undergraduate major in finance when he quit to pursue visual journalism. Now finishing a master’s degree in journalism at DePaul University in Chicago, he was recognized last year by PDN’s Faces competition for a news image taken in the city in 2015, following the shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald. The photograph shows pastor Michelle Dodson leading a prayer for demonstrators outside of the Chicago Police Department’s main office, and the intensity is palpable. We asked Stellfox a few questions about the shoot and his next steps.

PDN: Were you on assignment for this shoot?
Geoffery Stellfox: Technically no. I was working as the staff photojournalist for our school paper, The DePaulia. I do my best to keep my eye on breaking news, and at the last minute I heard that there was a prayer rally being held on the South Side of Chicago for a young man who was shot by Chicago police. I texted my editor, hopped in my truck, and rushed downtown. The piece ran in the DePaulia Online, because we were technically on break. But you know, the news never sleeps.

PDN: What subjects do you like to cover? What type of photography are you drawn to?
GS: In a word, people. I grew up having National Geographic read to me by my parents, and they always encouraged me to go out to meet new people and learn new things. I love having the opportunity to learn about people, their passions and culture, and I’ve found myself passionate about causes that I never previously understood. I think that is what’s so beautiful about photojournalism. I think if you’re doing it right, there’s this deep connection and a newfound level of understanding that’s difficult to get in other ways.

PDN: What was your experience like photographing the Laquan McDonald vigil?
GS: It was a pretty intense experience. Different leaders from Chicago’s religious community took turns leading prayers, and there was this energy that everyone on the block could feel and feed off of. The biggest lesson I’ve taken from my mentor, Catherine Karnow of National Geographic Traveler, is to show energy in my photos and communicate that to my audience.
The challenge with news is always the number of people there—there were members of local churches, groups who came out to show support, other photographers and news crews. But the way I overcome that is to be the first person there. That’s kind of my policy on all of my shoots: You can never be too early (coming from someone who’s chronically late in most non-photography aspects of my life).

PDN: How would you describe your approach to your work?
GS: The one idea that I really strive to live by is to never lose my curiosity and imagination. I try to approach every shoot and assignment as the 10-year-old version of myself—the one who fell in love with National Geographic and saw the world as a huge, exciting place meant to be explored. If I ever become cynical, I might as well pack it up and go back to finance.

PDN: What’s next for you?
GS: I’m heading to Uruguay for three weeks to work on a few different travel pieces, which I’m pitching to different publications. I’m also doing research for photo essays on endangered languages, gospel music in Chicago, and Central/South American mixed martial arts. It’s important to me to shoot the things I’m passionate about, but I also have to balance that with being able to support myself. It’s a challenge, but one I’m looking forward to overcoming.

Check out the full gallery from last year’s Faces competition at The next submission period will open in June.

Da Ping Luo photographed his first race in 2010 when he was working full time in marketing outside the photography industry. A runner himself, Luo says he “got a lot of encouragement to continue” photographing races from his friends after he posted some preliminary images on social media.

When he transitioned into photography full time in 2012, race photography was becoming “a thing.” Memes such as the “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” were going viral and races were popping up in more and more cities supporting a growing number of charities, themes and organizations. With the booming popularity of competitions for runners, more and more “not-so-great running photos” also emerged, Luo says. “From my own experience, [race photographers] will shoot and upload without a care, whether it’s a good photo or not. I wanted to be better than that.”

In an email interview with Shutterlove, Luo tells us what it takes to break in to race photography, and how to make photographs that will stand out among the crowd.

Shutterlove: About how many racing events have you photographed? Besides runners, what other subjects do you photograph at these events?
Da Ping Luo: In 2014, I started shooting for New York Road Runners, and on their behalf, I have 10 to 15 racing events under my belt every year (and rougly 50 or so in total), which includes the TCS New York City Marathon. Most of my sports photography portfolio has primarily been of runners, which includes runners participating in track and field and triathlons—I have also photographed the swim or bike portion of triathlons, depending on where it is in relations to the run. I have also photographed a few Reach the Beach relay races—which entails six runners running in rotation 200 miles total—and documenting their journey from beginning to end.

In the lexicon of racing, wheelchair racers are also known as “runners.” New York Road Runners recently expanded their programming to work with “handi-capable” kids and encourage health and fitness. This photo was from an event called “Run with Champions,” where the kids got to “run” alongside some of the NYC Marathon elite runners. It was a truly inspiring event.

SL: How do you gain access to race events?
DPL: Depending on the event, you need to have clearance to be on the course, or have access to special vantage points. For the most part, I get direct access via New York Road Runners.

Race events are usually spectator-friendly, so there are plenty of places to watch and photograph a race, but the vantage point and mobility—depending on security—can sometimes be limiting. Ever since the Boston Marathon bombing especially, with big marquee racing events, security has been tighter.

SL: What gear do you use?
DPL: I shoot with two Canon 5D Mark IVs, one with Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and the other with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I bring a flash from time to time, especially on sunny days to help counter the shadows that the trees cast in Central Park, for example. From time to time I might also bring a 16-35mm lens (usually when I know I might need a wider perspective).

The 70-200mm focal range gives you enough distance to put yourself out of the runners way, and the combination of aperture and compression at 200mm separates a single runner from the pack and background nicely, producing great portraits. The 24-70mm comes into play when I want more context or when I can get closer to the action.

Zoom lenses are super practical with races too, especially since you can’t always control where you stand, and when the distance between the subject and photographer is constantly changing.

SL: How do you prepare for the day? About how long do you typically stay at the events?
DPL: A day before a race I will make sure my batteries are charged and that my memory cards are clear. On cold days, I make sure to bring extra batteries since the cold weather drains them faster. Oftentimes my photo editor will send a shot list and some logistics, usually telling me that I have to be at a certain place by a certain time. If and when I have to be at multiple locations, I review a map and try to visualize my movements, which also helps me understand which direction the runners will be coming from.

Also, it’s good to know what the weather forecast will be. Depending on the race distance, the number of participants and the assignment, I could be on location for as little as one hour or up to four hours. On the longer shoots, I usually bring snacks and take some self-enforced breaks.

SL: How are the images used after the event?
DPL: I’m generally hired by the event organizer to photograph these events, and the organizer generally shares selects with participants and race sponsors. The photos I take usually go into the editorial/marketing/sponsorship circulation. They are not the kind that gets sent directly to the runners.

SL: What are some of the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?
DPL: On sunny days it can be particularly challenging. One solution is to add more light for some measure of control. But, with flashes shooting at full power to balance the sun, you have to plan your moments more precisely and get as close to the subject as possible.

SL: What is your favorite aspect of photographing races?
DPL: Races are full of emotions—nervousness, anticipation, excitement, pride, accomplishment—it’s a journey for all of these runners that you get to document. Some of these runners are running a race for the first time, and whether it’s a 5K or a full marathon, to see people push themselves and see what they can accomplish, it’s a humbling experience.

SL: Any last pieces of advice for photographers looking to shoot a racing event in their area?
DPL: Don’t feel guilty or think that utilizing burst mode is “spraying and praying,
especially when it comes to sports photography. Use your continuous auto focus mode—assuming you have one, and assuming the subject is moving. Watch your shutter space, unless the blur is intentional. Understand the limitations of your gear and practice, practice, practice. Sometimes, if I’m free and not booked for a race by the race organizer, I might still show up and shoot for myself and practice or try something new.

Also, coming from a documentary photography background, it’s important to accept the circumstances as they are. You will miss shots and moments, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have plenty to work with. One of the biggest things I learned from photographing races is that you have to work quickly. We have a deadline to turn in photos, some 100 to 150 within one to two hours. For me, I would usually do an initial edit on the back of camera using the rate button, and import only the photos that have been starred. That way I’m importing only photos I initially want to see, and not the whole batch which could range from 2,000 to 10,000 photos, depending on the event. Photo Mechanic is a huge help to quickly review RAW photos in a short amount of time as well.

Da Ping Luo is a First Place Winner in PDN’s Celebrations photo contest. For more running photos, check out PDN’s interview with Danny Ghitis, who captured the 2015 Brooklyn Half Marathon.