10 things you always wanted to ask a professional photographer

Photographer Will Rose on the Shiant Isles

Photography is one of the best ways we can communicate the crisis our changing planet is facing and the beauty that reminds us why it needs to be protected. Images can not only capture the destruction and suffering brought by human activities, but also show how people are fighting to move towards a better future.

On World Photography Day, we spoke to Will Rose, a professional photographer since 2002 who has captured incredible photos — from puffins, to orangutans, to protests in the Arctic and ocean pollution — to raise awareness to the struggles our planet is facing and the work we’re all doing to protect it.

1. What makes a good photograph?

After years and years working as a photographer, I still find this a difficult question to answer. I always try to have depth in my pictures and something to frame the subject and draw the viewer’s eye to the particular detail I want them to see. The rule of thirds always works well. 3 really is a magic number.

2. Tell us the story behind your favourite picture?

I have so many favourite pictures as I shoot such a broad range of materials from fashion to wildlife. But the challenges involved in capturing great wildlife images make them more memorable when you manage to pull them off. My current desktop background is this picture of a Razorbill from the Shiant Isles in Scotland that I captured using a remote. This was taken as part of the Greenpeace UK End Ocean Plastics ship tour this summer.

Will’s favourite picture © Will Rose

3. What is (one of) the most eye-opening photo projects you’ve covered?

There have been a lot over the years, from climate change stories to refugees drowning off the coast of Greece. But most recently, I can say my eyes have been fully opened to the horrifying amount of plastic that is currently in our oceans after working on the subject around Scotland for two months earlier this year.

Plastic pollution in the coast of Scotland © Will Rose

4. Your project, 70 degrees, goes all around the world on the 70th parallel north: what features of a changing Arctic have struck you the most?

The work we did on permafrost in 2009 was quite dramatic. The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate and seeing infrastructures damaged by the permafrost melting was a very clear representation of this.

5. “Typical” climate change images are often quite sad and depressing — rising sea levels, extreme weather events, melting ice. How do you think people can turn all that doom and gloom into hope and action?

It’s up to us all to turn that gloom and doom into positive action. It’s not easy, but we need to keep at it.

Stranded polar bear in Alaska.

6. How do you think working as a photographer with Greenpeace can influence people to take action?

Bearing witness is a core principle to Greenpeace. I have worked in really remote places over the past ten years — places that would usually be inaccessible or impossible to reach without being part of the team. Having a camera in my hand gives me the opportunity to show what is happening even in the most remote places in the world, to people everywhere.

7. You’ve worked with many people from vulnerable communities. How do you develop a relationship with your subjects so they trust you and aren’t afraid of the camera during their weakest moments?

You have to simply build up a relationship. Make them trust you and relax. Don’t be afraid to be the photographer but be subtle at the same time, showing you’re there to tell their story to the world. If you are making someone uncomfortable, then you have to work on the relationship and show they are in a safe space.

Young boys, sons of local fishermen on a canoe on the Serkap river, in peatland rainforest in Kampar Peninsula, Indonesia

8. You’ve traveled the globe and gone to amazing places. You must have the best job in the world! But you also cover challenging subjects. What keeps you happy?

It is amazing and I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I have had. But getting home to my family makes me happy. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do all the things that I do.

9. What advice would you give to an amateur photographer wanting to change their passion into a full-time profession? Do they need fancy equipment?

No you don’t need fancy equipment! I’ve just returned from Svalbard, Norway where I had 4 bags full of fancy equipment and the best pics I shot were with a 50mm lens. It’s good to be prepared, but you can do a lot with very little. One of my favourite Greenpeace photographers, Denis Sinyakov has inspired me greatly over the years and he mostly uses a 35mm and a 50mm.

Guillemots at Bear Island, Norway © Will Rose

10. If you could ask your followers to do one thing today to tackle environmental or social issues, what would you ask?

Keep up the pressure. Don’t give up. Keep trying to make change through all the channels available to you. There’s always something you can do! Sorry, that was three things. The road ahead won’t be easy.