Nothing makes you reassess how you spend your free time quite like chatting with fashion photographer Dani Diamond.

Diamond is primarily known for his perfectly-lit portraits and high-end boutique fashion photography. But, between his packed shooting schedule and raising two kids, Diamond also makes his own leather photography accessories, binds books, and crafts large pieces of furniture by hand. Most recently, he built and installed a floor-to-ceiling shelf in his office to hold his curated collection of camera bags.

The worst part? He’s good at all of it. He either has an impeccable work ethic or found a way to add 3 extra hours to his day (our money is on the former).

Amidst this whirlwind of activities, Diamond was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss gear, photography tips, and his advice for new photographers.


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How do I get started in photography?

As mentioned above, Diamond has quite a few skills outside of fashion photography.

However, he doesn’t have the (often odious) attitude of a person who can pick up any challenging task and instantly become an expert. Instead, he exudes the high energy, confidence, and pragmatism of someone who loves a good challenge.

It was this attitude that first drew him to photography. In fact, for many years he didn’t even like the concept of professional photography. Like so many of us, he developed a distaste for it after his parents forced him to sit for family portraits as a kid.

“My mom used to take us to JC Penny when we were growing up,” he shook his head, grimacing at the memory. “[The photographers] used to shove teddy bears in our face and promise lollipops but they never gave us anything.”

It wasn’t until years later when he toyed with Photoshop that he discovered his love for the technical side of photography.

“I was never, and I still don’t consider myself talented in photography. I’m really not,” he asserted. “I studied it and turned it into a skill that came with a lot of studying and experiences and experimenting and just knowing what works.”

“So to me, it’s just a huge scientific problem that I’ve solved. And it’s an equation that I just throw at my work every single day. And that’s how I walk around with consistent results, no matter what…The whole thing is just a huge math problem.”


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His advice to aspiring photographers reflects his pragmatic approach and origins: break down the most important elements into manageable pieces. In other words, create a formula. He gave portrait photography as an example. 

Diamond divided the portrait photography learning process into about five sections:

  • Colors- understanding which colors work well together and why
  • Poses
  • Location- understanding the depth between your subject and the background
  • Lighting
  • Communication and expression

“You could be a technically perfect photographer in every way, but if you’re not capturing killer expressions and connecting with the person in front of your camera, your pictures are useless. No one cares to see them,” he elaborated. 

“People are so worried about all the technical sides of photography, all the settings. ‘Hey, what camera do you use? What lens do you use? What settings was this picture?’ I’m like, ‘That’s not what’s important.’

“Yes, you have to have that stuff right. But what’s important is how I directed the person in front of me to get that killer expression that speaks to any random stranger who will ever see this picture in the future.”


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Pre-shoot Prep

So, how do you prepare the models that you’re working with? Even the most beautiful subjects can feel uncomfortable in front of a camera or give off awkward, gawky energy.

“I think that it’s probably 50/50 of the photographer’s personality and also how they approach someone and build a connection with them from when they first meet…it makes a huge difference when someone is just real with you.”

Part of establishing that “realness” is building a rapport. 

“Don’t even take your camera out of your bag when you first meet someone. Just meet up with them and right away jump into the conversation and make it about them, not you…Find things that someone’s interested in. 

“So my first question is, what do you do with your free time? Do you have any hobbies? Do you like woodworking? Do you like gardening? Do you like reading books? Cooking? And the second you find something that they enjoy doing, maybe, I don’t know, yoga classes, whatever. Even if you’re not knowledgeable at all in the area, you’re still able to get someone to make conversation by just simply asking them questions…”

“And the second a person starts talking about themselves, they suddenly feel comfortable around you. And then [when] I pull out my camera and say, “Hey, you want to take a couple of pictures?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it.” It’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re best friends now.’”


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What’s in your camera bag?

Yes, we’ve established that connecting with your subject is a crucial aspect of fashion and portrait photography. That said, the importance of building the perfect camera bag for your needs should not be minimized.

Without further ado, here is a rundown of Dani’s favorite gear (with a little editorializing from his corresponding Instagram post):

Camera & Lenses

  • Nikon D850 – the best camera known to mankind for still images
  • 105mm f/1.4G – specialty for tight headshots
  • Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 – my go-to for shooting fashion
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G – my go-to portrait lens
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.4G – specialty when I’m feeling creative and want an interesting perspective


  • @holdfastgear the best camera strap on the market. Period. Everything is else a knock off. Watch my YouTube video on this.
  • @camranger sends my images Wirelessly to an iPad. I have a video on this as well. Case for it made by me check @danidiamondcarpentry
  • @BEDSTU protégé boots have been with me for 3 years now. They are as comfortable as boots can get and I get compliments on it daily.
  • @ueboom_ speaker amazing speaker I turn it on before my camera
  • @sandisk memory cards are the best
  • @sony xqd card does what it’s supposed to and cost me a kidney

This only scratches the surface of fashion photographer Dani Diamond’s tips, tricks, and tutorials! Check out his YouTube page and website for more info.


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