Mads Nissen, the winner of World Press Photo in 2021, will guide you through the corners of documentary photography. Find all the need-to-know for documentary photography.

Documentary Photography:
Best Tips by Mads Nissen

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Mads Nissen

Documentary Photography: A professional's insider tips

Interested in Documentary Photography? Meet your new instructor Mads Nissen, who will go through the corners of Documentary Photography in this Masterclass session.








Capturing emotions


Finding the story




Mistakes to avoid




Camera gear




Tips & Tricks




What you’ll learn

The importance of getting up close: Dare to dare yourself.

What never to leave out in documentary photography.

How documentary photography can be your gateway to healing.

How curiosity and the need to change the world can be your motivator.

How a precise angle and purpose is essential to avoid clutter.

How to do the essential research before you start shooting.

Masterclass Chapters

Mads Nissen, through this masterclass, will introduce us to the world of documentary photography, which skills you would need for it, and which tips he feels crucial for us to know.

What is documentary photography?

First of all, Mads defines what documentary photography, or, as many people call it, photojournalism is. For him, it all comes down to documenting and photographing the world around you in a non-fiction way.

How to capture emotions in documentary photography?

When it comes to capturing emotions, Mads reminds us that is single-handily the hardest step in photography. Yet, he tells us that it also is the most interesting and challenging part.

How to find the story?

When struggling to find a story, Mads gives us this advice: move. He doesn't struggle to find ideas as he is moving between projects all the time. You should be asking yourself this question: what do you want to say and express?

How to develop further and take your work to another level?

For him, his work stayed the same since the beginning. It has improved, but the style and the influences have remained the same. However, its quality improved.

Mistakes to avoid

Later on, Mads lists us which mistakes he recommends avoiding. For example, it is crucial to stay focused on what you want to portray, and cropping the unwanted elements is essential for this sort of photography.

Lighting in documentary photography

When it comes to lighting, Mads prefers using the setting daylight, instead of keeping the ultra-white balance, mainly because he prefers natural light that shows true colors.

Camera equipment for documentary photography

In this next chapter, Mads lists us which camera equipment he uses daily. It includes an iPhone, a Canon R5, a Digital Hasselblad, etc., and why he believes this is the best in this photography field.

Editing documentary photography

Right after, he tells us that he spends an enormous amount of time researching locations, subjects, weather, etc. When shooting, he forgets about the preparation. He prefers using his gut feeling. For the editing, he spends most of the time comparing pictures to the others to craft the story he initially wanted to tell.

Making a difference with documentary photography (& ethics behind it)

Then, Mads shares with us what matters a lot to him: making a difference in people's life using his work and how it sometimes moves people.

Tips and tricks

Before concluding, Mads gives us his best and final tips and tricks for documentary photography, starting with having empathy.

About Your Instructor

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Mads Nissen

Documentary photographer

Copenhagen, Denmark

“When your pictures are not good enough, it means you're not close enough...”

Mads Nissen is a Danish documentary and war photographer working with many social and contemporary issues such as homophobia, civil war in Columbia or Libya, and the covid crisis.

His interest in photography started when he was around 18 years old while living in Venezuela. More than 20 years later, Mads is still looking to share hard-hitting stories, show the struggles in others' lives, and present humanity through a lens.

Mads seeks to make the world a better place as a documentary photographer. In his own words, taking just a tiny step, influencing one person’s life, is the most outstanding achievement.

His best work includes Amazonas, a book about the Amazon Forest, and We are indestructible, a book shot in Columbia covering the fight for peace and the history and culture of violence. Moreover, his piece about homophobia in Russia has put him on the documentary photography map.

Read more about documentary photography in our complete guide for beginners.