Beckman describes herself as a documentary photographer. While she produces a lot of work on location (such as the cover of The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta, taken in the middle of a forest in the Netherlands), she is also a studio portrait photographer.
Beckman was at King Alfred School, in Golders Green in north London, from 1953 to 1967. She spent a year at Saint Martin's School of Art, and then three years at London College of Communication studying photography.
After initially working for Sounds magazine with Vivien Goldman – her first shoot was with Siouxsie and the Banshees – she had a job shooting for music magazines such as Melody Maker and The Face, with a studio and darkroom in central London. Her primary focus was the UK's burgeoning punk subculture. Beckman moved permanently to New York City in 1982 and continued her career, shooting for her UK clients as well as new ones in the U.S.
After moving to New York, Beckman presented her portfolio to American record companies looking for work shooting album covers, but the gritty feel of her work did not fit the "airbrushed" aesthetic preferred at the time. She was passed on to smaller rap and hip-hop labels, where she photographed acts such as Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys in their early days. In a 2015 interview with American Photo magazine, she recalled "It is amazing, 30 years later, people going ‘oh you photographed legends.’ I guess I did, but they weren’t legends when I was taking pictures of them.”