9 Powerful Tips from Justin Mott’s Photography Masterclass in History Con 2016!

As an award-winning documentary, editorial and commercial photographer, Mr. Justin Mott was able to share his journey as a photographer and shared GREAT tips that will make you a Better Photographer.

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At Day 3 of HistoryCon, we were lucky enough to get tickets and attend the session of  Photo Face-off’s Justin Mott History Talk : Photography MasterClass.

HistoryTalk with Justiin Mott

History Talk: Photo Face-Off – Justin Mott Photography MasterClass


As an award-winning documentary, editorial and commercial photographer, Mr. Justin Mott was able to share his journey as a photographer and shared GREAT tips that will make you a Better Photographer.

We took some notes of the key things he shared in the class.


1. Shoot in Manual Mode

“It gives a lot more options creatively, different ways to expose, and push yourself more.” 

Justin encouraged everyone to shoot in Manual mode because it’s the easiest way to improve one’s photography skills. He explained that, in manual mode, it gives you more creative options by playing around the camera’s Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO.

#AskMOTT Photography 101 Cheat Sheets

#AskMOTT Photography 101 Cheat Sheets by Justin Mott (Soure: http://bit.ly/2c50ekD)

(His team was creatively (and comedic) enough to incorporate his likeness in the guide.)

The quick guide is easy to print and lets you understand how simple changes in your settings can affect a photo.  He also added that, the more you understand about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, the more creative your shots will get.



Justin Mott talks about Shutter speed and capturing this photo of a Coconut

Justin also told the story behind a coconut, and his play with the shutter speed to capture it at the right moment. That perfect shot took several tries before getting the right one.


2. Light creates the mood of your picture

See the Light

by Justin Mott

Light, light, light!

Beautiful lights set the tone and the mood of a photo. Poor lightning can badly affect a photo, even if it has a good model or landscapes.

Try to capture a shot during the first and the last hours of the day where the most dramatic light happens.


3. Frame your Shots

Framing your Shot

Justin Mott discuss the photo of a Man holding his X-ray

Remember, there is always something to shoot through everywhere you go. Framing brings context to your subject. It is one of the simplest way to make your photo’s composition better.



Photo of Phạm Nhật Vượng, Vietnam’s first billionaire by Justin Mott for Forbes Magazine (Source: http://bit.ly/2bPqOlL)

On the photo above, Justin made use of creative framing by the use of famous Vietnamese hats as a foreground, and the buildings as the background to give context on Mr. Vượng, a real estate developer and Vietnam’s first billionaire.


4. Get a Unique Perspective

We normally see things at the eye level, thus taking a photo at that angle tends to be common.

Try to get a unique perspective by moving around. Go up or even down and dirty just to get the better angle.

“Bring people in a different place. Something they have never seen before.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 1.41.23 AM

Left: Final Photo, Right: behind the scenes (Source: http://bit.ly/2bzIrWm)

In the right photo above, Justin is the guy on the ground taking that wonderful shot (on the left) behind the water drops of the fountain. He has used both framing, and getting unique perspective to capture that photo effect.


5. Evoke Emotions

“The pictures you remember in life are the ones that evoke an emotion.” 


'The Elephant and the Swimmer' by Justin Mott

‘The Elephant and the Swimmer’ by Justin Mott. Winner of TPOTY Competition 2013 (Source: http://bit.ly/2bPqOlL)

The photo, The Elephant and the Swimmer,  is one of the first photos he have showed to us (the attendees), and almost everyone gasps with awe. In addition, in travel photography make your photos a place people would like to go visit and explore.

He mentioned evoking emotions through photographs is quite a skill to master, but it is what a photographer must strive for each of his photos.


3rd Generation Victims of Agent Orange at the Ba Vi Orphanage in Vietnam by Justin Mott

‘3rd Generation Victims of Agent Orange at the Ba Vi Orphanage in Vietnam’ by Justin Mott (Source: http://bit.ly/2bPqOlL)

The photo above is part of Justin’s personal project about the Agent Orange victims. He chose the photoset to be in black and white to have a consistent look and emotions through out the set, which helps convey the story of as a photographer.

“Photography can change things. It can make people active, it can make people react.”

Justin also reminds everyone to during horrific or tragic events one must find the balance of being graceful and respectful with your subjects and you have be ready and anticipate to get a photo with emotions.


6. Put down your Smartphone

Put down your Smartphone

Put down your smartphone

Justin clarified that there is nothing wrong with taking pictures with your smartphones.  However, sometimes the calls and other notifications you from your phone get might distract you from the great scenes happening at the moment.


7. Don’t fake it 

“Life happens naturally and beautifully on its own”.

Try not to stage a scene, just to ‘capture’ a moment because somebody else have done that.

Be ready with your camera, be patient, and anticipate a moment. It is rare to get such natural moments, and are beautiful when captured.

by Justin Mott

by Justin Mott (Source: http://bit.ly/2bPqOlL)

The photos above was captured outside a Tuberculosis ward in Cambodia. The little girl was just drawing on the wall while her mother was getting treatment.


8. Sometimes, forget the rules

You don’t need to always have to follow the rules of photography, else your creativity will be limited and it tends to get boring. Try do different things with your compositions.

Don't Follow the Rules

by Justin Mott (Source: http://bit.ly/2bPqOlL)


9. Find your Style

“If any one of you wants to be a better photographer, I encourage you to find your own story, stick with it, and keep shooting.” 

Nowadays, if you want to be a photographer, you need to shoot everything from events, travel, editorials etc. Learn from other photographers, get influenced by their techniques.

However, you must find your own style. Quite hard at first, but your style will define who you are as a photographer.

Justin Mott Photos

Photograph by Justin Mott

Justin shared his style of using big colors, sun framing, and elephants (just kidding!) in his most of his shots.


After the session, he invited the rest of the class to do a photo walk around the Exhibit hall. Those who joined was able to show their shots and get on-the-spot advice from Justin.

Behind the scenes of the (on-the-spot) Photo walk with Justin Mott

Behind the scenes of the (on-the-spot) Photo walk with Justin Mott

Here are some of the photo we were able to take.

Justin Mott plays Basketball (with Simon Yin) at Black Mamba booth

Justin Mott plays basketball (with Simon Yin) at Black Mamba booth


With all that fun, Justin sent his warmest thanks to those who have attended HistoryCon and to the rest of the Philippines. For more photography tips, you can simply follow his Instagram or check-out his website http://www.justinmott.com.


Everyone is also invited to watch the Season 3 of Photo Face-off (Asia’s leading photo-competition with Justin Mott) premiers this Thursday, September 8, 9PM at History Channel.