Interview with Bryan Peterson

Famous photographer and internationally known instructor Bryan Peterson has answered us a few questions about his projects, dreams and photographic passion. Exclusively for Zonerama blog!

Everyone probably know your photography books. People consider you as THE teacher, who is sharing his own experience and knowledge gained over many years. But how did that happen, that you have started to take pictures and mainly – what was your source of insipiration back then? How did you looked for new directions to improve your pictures?

Bryan Peterson is a professional photographer, internationally known instructor, and founder of, The Perfect Picture School of Photography. He is also the best-selling author of many popular books about photography. In addition, he has been a commercial photographer for over 30 years. He currently splits his time between Chicago and France.

Way back in the 60‘s, I was ONLY drawing and painting and was planning on becoming a commercial artist. In 1970, the year I graduated from high school, my oldest brother turned me on to photography and I really enjoyed how quickly I could make art, e.g. at a 1/125 second versus spending several hours if not several days working on a painting or drawing. I was soon subscribing to what was an important book series on photography back then which was called the Time-Life Library of Photography and every two months a new book would arrive and I would devour it within hours and soon felt inspired to head out the door and start shooting! Although I no longer have those books, I do find that when I am in need of inspiration, I simply grab my 105mm Micro-Nikkor Closeup lens and head out the door or into the kitchen and within minutes I am soon immersed in a world that has always inspired me, the world of macro where one will find no shortage of material to shoot!

Do you still remember your photography beginnings, for example your very first camera?

Yes, my beginnings were sparse. After a few months of borrowing my brother’s camera gear, a Nikon F Photomic, I went out and bought a Nikkormat FTN with a 50mm f/1.8 lens and for the next six months, that was all I had as I traveled throughout the beautiful state of Oregon. Having only one lens back then really taught me the value of getting close and filling up the frame. In addition, I learned the value of looking for different points of view e.g. climbing up stairs or high into trees and shooting down or laying on my back and shooting up.

Looking back, what would be one recommendation or advice, which would smooth and ease up your beginnings on the way to achieve Perfect picture?

I think the answer is found in my response to question #2 – I have often challenged my students to head out the door with just ONE focal length and spend an entire day working with that one single focal length. It WILL force you to use different points of view as well as get you in the habit of moving in closer and filling the frame. No more being lazy, which is a really common problem when one relies on their zoom lenses to much.

Let me return to your photography books again. How long it typically takes you to “make a photography book“?

Typically about one year to take the necessary pictures, but only about two non-stop weeks of writing. I typically do NOT begin writing the book until I have about three weeks to go before the deadline.

What part did you enjoyed the most while preparing your books? Did you have pictures ready in advance and picked them from your archive/library, or did you take new pictures just for the book?

The image making is the best part and most of my books are about 95%-100% brand new images taken specifically for that book. Since I am constantly shooting images, I am constantly aware of which subject would make for a good tip or a good lesson on a particular topic and so I do have an existing library of HOW-TO images that I often go to when putting together a new lesson at my on-line school, or a new weekly tip, or when making a new book.


You are managing also online photography school. How would you describe a difference between online school of photography and a classical education, sitting in a class? What are the advantages of online eduction, you would personally highlight?

The biggest advantage to an on-line school is that anyone can COME AS THEY ARE, including me. Since it is internet based, no one has to drive anywhere or put on special clothes, or comb their hair or heck, even brush their teeth! Since many of the lessons are in video format, it also makes learning that much easier since the students can see each step that is made along the way towards making the perfect picture. Additioanlly, as soon as a student posts a question, the instructor(s) are notified and usually the question gets answered within one hour of being posted. Plus everyone in the classroom feels like they are a part of a special community since they have often come from all over the world, to share in the great joy of image making and it isn’t too long before everyone is talking in the Q/A sharing ideas about what they like to shoot as well as commenting on each other’s work.

You are a photographer over 30 years, don’t you get sometimes into the mood “I need a break!“? Don’t you sometimes have feeling, that you have already shot everything? What is it, what is still moving you forward towards next pictures?

My favorite pictures are the one’s I have yet to make.

It may be hard to believe, but I have often said that my favorite pictures are the one’s I have yet to make and it is those images that I feel most passionate about making, the one’s I have planned to make tomorrow. I always carry a small book with me where I write down ideas for future images-many times during the day, I am struck with ideas and these ideas I write down, with the hope that tomorrow I will have the time to shoot them.


You have covered or you are covering probably every photo style, starting from portraits to macro. But which of those styles you are enjoying the most, or is giving you the most satisfaction? (and any the of them you don’t want to ever go back again ;) ?

I honestly enjoy shooting all manner of subjects but if there are several subjects I wish I could shoot more of it would be nudes and the freezing action of sports related subjects.

Do you have your favorite pictures, which you will never get tired of?

Part of my reasons to keep shooting is that I DO grow tired of the pictures I have already taken. I can count on one hand my really favorite picures and all the others I have either grown tired of or never felt they were a favorite. I am on a constant search for that one of a kind image, something that has never been seen or photographed before.

If you can pick any part of the world, where would you like to take pictures – what country or city or place it would be? And of course – why?

My dream would be to move to the island of Maui, Hawaii and along with a half-dozen models, shoot nudes all over the island for a period of at least one year…

My dream would be to move to the island of Maui, Hawaii and along with a half-dozen models, shoot nudes all over the island for a period of at least one year-during which time, I would not have to answer my phone, answer any emails or texts, or teach either-just an entire year of shooting without any kind of interuption.

Sounds amazing! Thanks Bryan for the interview.

My pleasure.

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