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Interview with stock photographer Daryl Benson

World renowned stock photographer and published author – Daryl Benson

This week I have something a little different for you other than the usual photography tutorial or “how to” advice. I thought it would be interesting to talk to a working photographer, one whom I've personally followed and admired his work for many years. Find out what it's like to be a stock photographer, and get inside his head a little (I tried to anyway) and get inspired.

daryl benson stock photographer

First a little about Daryl

  • born and raised in Alberta he lives right here in my backyard
  • has travelled AB, Canada and the world for over 25 years creating and selling stock photography, his images are sold on the prestigious Getty Images and Masterfile stock agencies.
  • he is a contributing editor to Photo Life, Outdoor Photographer and PC Photo magazines
  • he has also self published 3 books (2 of which I proudly own signed editions) titled: A Guide to Photographing the Canadian Landscape; Alberta; and Canada
  • he specializes in landscape and travel images

I hope you find this interview interesting as this is the first of possibly others to come. At the very least pop over to Daryl's web site and be inspired by his stunning imagery. So without further ado, I give you Daryl Benson!

Why did you get into photography, and why do you do it?

It was more of it choosing me, than the other way around. Started as a hobby and grew into a passion that timed perfectly with the growth of stock photography. If it wasn’t for stock I’d still be delivering mail for a living. (Daryl left the postal service in 1984 to go full time in photography, he is self taught)

If you couldn't do photography, what would you be doing?

Probably what I am doing now, helping with my daughters scrapbook store Treasured Memories (I'll allow the shameless plug of his daughter's store, I've even heard of it!)

What one thing that you've learned about photography do you wish you had learned earlier, or someone had told you before you started?

That’s a good question. Don’t worry so much about what others think of your images. The longer you follow your own instincts the better and clearer they’ll become.

Do you think there is still value in getting images critiqued though? Or is it more about WHO you choose to do the critique?

We all crave and need feedback, but trust your own instincts.

What was the oddest or most unusual job you've ever had in photography, and would you do that again?

People are odd, I prefer photographing nature but there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do again in the same situation.

So anything with people? Nothing out of the ordinary, hanging upside down on your head “Joe McNally” type stories?

There is nothing ordinary about this job : )

If money and time were no object, what would you photograph just for yourself, or where would you go? why?

That’s the beauty of what I did. Stock was lucrative enough in the beginning that money was not an object so I did travel and photograph for myself.

So basically you lived out your dream life?

So far…..

Who are your mentors, or whose work do you most admire? What do you most admire about that person or aspire to be like them?

Ernst Haas, Pete Turner, Freeman Patterson. They had vision.

If you could recommend one book as a “must read” to all new photographers (professional or amateur) what would it be?

“Creation” by Ernst Haas had a big influence on me, not the read but the images.

Can you give us one tip that the readers can apply today to improve their photography

That’s easy – shoot! Books, magazines, techniques, workshops, tutorials etc are all helpful in developing skills but we all learn best from experience. There is only one way to gain experience. (hmmm if you are one of my students, where have you heard that advice before?)

What one piece of photographic gear can you not live without?

Other than enough equipment to be able to actually make a photograph there isn’t anything I can’t live without. I can tell you I hate tripods and would like to be able to always shoot without them.

Yeah me too. Do you have a favorite lens then?

Not really, if I was forced to choose I’d go for a wide angle zoom 16-35mm, something in that range

Do you try and create and put a message or feeling in your images, and if so what is your process achieve that?

If there is a message it’s probably subconscious. The process feels more like a reaction to what you're seeing than a thought of message.

What is your favourite image in your own collection (your image)?

Dragonfly at dawn near Sherwood Park, Alberta

Do you have or collect other photographers work (book or framed art)? whose?

Oh Yea. Not so much framed, but certainly books (well over 100 different artists in my library).

If you could meet and talk to any photographer from the past, who would it be and what would you talk about?

That’s another really good question. I never meet Ernst Haas, I guess it would be him. I’d like to talk with him about anything, what ever came up, the longer the conversation the better. There are a lot of his images I admire, I’d probably ask questions like what inspired him, which of his images and those of others he liked, stuff like that.

My thanks to Daryl for taking the time to answer my questions. Besides doing this interview for me, Daryl was a big help when I was working on my book “Visions of Peru” and had a million questions about self publishing. It was after much discussion with Daryl, and many high priced printing quotes later that I decided to use for making my books (on demand publishing, you can print one or 1000's). Not only that, once my book was done he even purchased one and got me to sign it for him! I was truly honoured!

Daryl is an amazing photographer, but beyond that he's just a really super nice guy. If you want to see more of his images head over to his site

Call to Action

Well I hope you're inspired to do what?! Get out there and shoot! I want you to do just that. I heard a funny project the other day and if you're stuck you might want to try it. Lock yourself in your bathroom with your camera and push yourself to take 100 different images. Don't come out until you have at least 100. That should really get the creative juices flowing!

One other thing you can do it look up those photographers Daryl mentioned that influenced him and his work. Find out who they are, look at their work, see if you understand their motivation. Get out of the technical stuff for a while, and forget the f-stops and shutter speeds and just look at art!

Here's a few more whose work I admire and who've been huge figures in photography history. If you want to be a photographer, even an amateur one – you have to know who these people are and get familiar with their images:

  • Eugene Atget
  • Richard Avedon
  • Alfred Stieglitz
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Margaret Bourke-White (one of my idols)
  • Yousef Karsh
  • George Hurrell
  • W. Eugene Smith
  • Imogen Cunningham

Now go photograph something!

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