A Beginner’s Guide to Powerful Photography as Learned from Paco Guerrero

Article and photos by Arah Reguyal

The best way to tell a story is to start at the end. However, life doesn’t give us that choice. We’re disposed into a chronological arrangement of time–as day is to night, and as breakfast is to dinner—and we’re expected to go through the same cycle every single day. Good thing, photography is different. We’re granted the same supposedly plain and boring days that we can transform into lustrous and vivid moments.

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Last January 20-21, Mr. Paco Guerrero, the Executive Editor of Grid magazine, gave some great tips in taking our basic photography skills to the next level in a Photo Essay workshop sponsored by the Ayala Museum. Guerrero shared how he acquired his abilities and experiences one picture at a time, until to what he is right now. Here are some of his insights:

Your camera

Know your camera, read tips on how to take pictures, get advice from professional photographers, but also practice. Merely collecting advice won’t work if you are not practicing. Patience and practice in photography are the key to success just like in life.


Take as much pictures as you can. When you are still an amateur, take pictures from different angles. Take at least five shots of the same moment because in every second, your subject will change its position. Remember that it is okay to overshoot than to undershoot.

Knowing your direction

Know what particular genre you want to see yourself in for the future because different genres will require a particular set of lenses. And buying lenses will be expensive.

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Here are some of genres Guerrero went through that gave him a grasp of what he wants in the future:

Street Photography

This will be a great jumpstart for a beginner, according to Guerrero, because this will help the photographer learn the basics of his gear. Street photography will teach one to focus, wait, and predict what his subject will do next until he gets a good shot.


Documentary photography challenges the photographer even more because this requires more effort. Photographers have to capture a story, interact with their subject, and have a common thread in their photos. This time they will not simply observe their subjects but connect with them, too.

Editorial Travel Photography

This is what the commercial industry is demanding—to have a cohesive story about architecture, landscapes, portraits, fashion, culture, and others. In this level, Guerrero advised the attendees that they should always ask WHY pictures are taken the way they are and not HOW the pictures were taken. Through this they will have a deeper understanding of what they are doing.

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To have a more powerful photo, one must consider a picture that will give information, focus on the emotions, and have universal language. After Guerrero shared about the different basic genres and how the narrative form works, he tackled on how the attendees can have powerful photo essays. He emphasized that they should focus on one subject, accompany them through whatever they are going to do, and have these three important shots:

The Establishing Shot

Shoot wide angle or close up. Anything that will be a good introduction for your subject.

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The Middle Shot

To shoot for the details.

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The Closing Shot

Always shoot a scene that will give most impact to the audience.

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On the second day of the two-day workshop, attendees got the chance to interact with each other as they presented their contact sheets from the photos they took on Day 1. They also had their 20 best photos printed and from that had to choose their eight best shots to their story. Participants constructively criticized one another’s works and Guerrero said that it will be helpful for them to have intellectual photography-related conversations.

He also added that, sometimes, what is good for the photographer is not good for their editors in the future. People should know how to separate their emotional attachment from their work if they are planning to push through to use photography to make money.

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Workshops like this are open to any age bracket as long as they have a camera to work with. For more details visit https://www.ayalamuseum.org/ . You can also follow Paco Guerrero for more details in his website https://www.francisco-guerrero.com/ .