This is how you take prize-winning photos – Interview with Frank Doorhof

Frank Doorhof is a photographers who loves a photo with a good story. He is a fashion photograhper with all-round qualities. He first came into contact with photography at a very young age, as a passion for photograpy runs in the family. Frank shares some tips with us today. That might come in handy for those who want to take part in the Xpozer Photo Contest ‘Best of 2021’, in which Frank is the judge. Even if joining a Photo Contest isn’t really your cup of tea, there are still things to learn from Frank that we all might be able to use in one way or another.

Frank Doorhof is the judge for the Photo Contest themed ‘Best of 2021’ (Jan-Feb 2022). Dens in your best photo and you might win an Xpozer 4Pack!
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Frank, it’s great to have you as a judge for the Photo Contest!

Thanks. I enjoy working with Xpozer. Xpozer is the best solution for my team and I. They are easy to mount and hang on the wall, are great for exhibitions as they are packed and shipped easily. Fantastic for exhibitions abroad. Xpozer Prints look great, also in gallery light. It’s affordable, too, and we love selling them to our customers. So yeah, I’m happy to be the judge in an Xpozer Photo Contest!

Okay, so let’s get straight to the point. What makes, in your opinion, a successful photo?

Technique is very important, but emotion is even more important to me. I ask myself: what does this photo tell me? How does it feel to me and to others? What is the story behind it? Those things are way more important to me than the picture perfect man or woman with a nice backdrop and good lighting. A photo is a unique moment in time that will never come back. I want to see in a photo the passion it was captured with. Your photo is good when it inspires others. The viewer doesn’t even have to find the subject interesting, it doesn’t have to fit his own style or vision at all. And despite all that, if that person still comes back to your photo for inspiration, that’s when you know it’s great!

What is Frank Doorhof’s biggest photography secret?

I don’t have any. I actually share almost all of my knowledge and experience through our tutorials and social media. So I don’t think there are actual secrets. I’m a firm believer of photography as a combination of many factors. Give two people a camera at the same location, under the same circumstances, and I know they will make different photos. The difference might be in post processing, or in choosing a slightly different angle.

“Photography is a combination of many factors”

So maybe there is a secret. Maybe the secret is that a photo isn’t just a composition, light or an angle. It’s always a combination of all of those combined. If you take a close look at a really successful photo, you’ll often see many details, or you’ll notice that it was taken at the perfect moment. It’s many elements combined that give a photo a WOW-feeling.

Career advice:

Focus solely on making money, and you won’t make it as a photographer. What it’s all about: your network. You put in a good word for each other. Without your colleagues, you won’t make it.

What’s you biggest photo editing secret?

Do as little as possible. When I’m editing my photos, I focus on color and atmosphere, mostly. Of course I have to do some editing on skin and I’ll have to fix some little mistakes in clothing or background. Sometimes you can’t do it while shooting, or you miss it. Besides those small things, I think 90% is about color for me. My motto is: “Why fake it, when you can create it!”.

What is something you’re not great at?

I’m never completely satisfied, and am always in doubt. That might be a piece of the secret. I always give 100% during workshops or demos, because I always want to show something new. I keep experimenting. So, it has its perks. Always try to make a negative quality into something positive.

What is your favorite photo (made by someone else)?

Impossible to say. I love David LaChapelle’s work, but I can also enjoy photos of Queen or guitarsts in action. Also, Caravaggio inspires me tremendously. But that’s a painter, so that might be a little out of the box.

What do you love about LaChapelle?

Without a doubt, his storytelling and styling are amazing. It’s so far over the top, that it creates a whole new world. The same as Caravaggio, and many photographers alike, I’m a sucker for their choices for light and color. Caravaggio’s reds are off the charts. And when I look at photos taken by Annie Liebowitz, I see a dark atmosphere, which is pretty, but makes me miss those harsh colors.

My inspiration

When shooting at live music events, it’s the subjects that inspire me. The poses, expressions, lights and smoke effects. Believe it or not, but many poses I try out with a model, are inspired by the looks of hair metal bands from the 80’s and 90’s, with their over the top videos with ladies bending over cars. They’re hilarious, but if you look closely, there are some great poses. With some modern lighting, some Caravaggio colors, smoke and lens flare, they get to a whole new level.

What’s your favorite photo from your own portfolio?

Hard to say. Some photos are special due to the circumstances I took them in, others have amazing lighting, a great model or fantastic styling. I think the photo dearest to me might be the Dragon Lady. It’s the only photo that’s gotten a name. It’s not that the photo itself is brilliant. I still like it, because it shows what I always say during workshops: ‘Listen to each other, even if you think the other person doesn’t understand.’ Dragon Lady was taken during a workshop themed ‘Creativity and styling’. We had a model named Manon and Nadine was the stylist.

What makes this one your favorite?

During this workhop, I always try to step away during the styling instructions part. When the model comes in, I start forming the first ideas. The group probably has formed their own vision already. The power of a good team is combining 2 or more ideas to get to the end result. Dragon Lady is a typical Frank Doorhof photo, but it was made with an entire team. All of the team members put something of their own personality into it. That is what makes this photo special to me. Even though it’s not the best photo in a technical sense.

What is the best advice you can give fellow photographers?

Do it with passion. Don’t quit your day job and money should not be your main focus. The most important thing: shoot from the heart. Don’t set goals, because if you don’t realize them, it’ll cause so much frustration. You might even lose your passion. If you let passion drive you, people will request you for not just your photos, but also for the way you work. Some people call it ‘an eye for detail’, but you can also call it ‘passion for the end result’.

Passion is very important

People who work passionately, will always do a bit better than people who don’t feel passionate about what they do. These days, there are so many things that take all of your energy away. So, do the things you love and that make you feel energized. Always keep learning. I try to learn new things every day. The day you stop learning, or the day you think you already know everything, is the day you’re done.


Photography is a combination of light, color, composition, style, story and much more. If you take all of those factors into your work, you’re doing it well. Shoot with passion and never stop learning. Watch other artists and learn from them. Turn your flaws into something positive. Furthermore, Frank advices us to create the picture on location, and not to rely on post processing too much. He likes it when the photo is already about 90% when still on his camera. Of course you’ll have to brush off some mistakes or improve skin in the photo. But just put as much into it as you can, ‘why fake it if you can create it?’.

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