It is often surprising how lucky I have been as a photographer, on so many occasions a special view, scene or incident has unexpectedly jumped out in front of my lens. These strokes of good fortune have provided me with a few decent images over the years.
The aim of this article is to provide a few tips which will hopefully help those not so fortunate to become a ‘lucky’ photographer. It is a photo essay with benefits.
Know and understand the camera
This is possibly the most important aspect of photography and one that has been emphasised on this site many times. Regardless of the type or quality of the camera, being familiar with its operation will help produce better images. More advanced cameras will however allow greater creativity in capturing the image.
Understanding the camera will enable the photographer to deal with changeable conditions and react quickly to any situation.
The beauty of digital unlike film photography is that it is cheap to take and develop images. Experimenting therefore does not cost anything so take plenty of images prior to departing on any trip. It is preferable to make mistakes when it is not important than when shooting really matters.
Start by using the camera in full automatic mode and concentrate on observation, composition and learning how to use the available light to your best advantage. When travelling it is not always possible to take images of the ‘sights’ at the best time of day, therefore it is necessary to understand how to adapt to other conditions.
More detailed tips can be found in an earlier post; Travel Photography for Travellers.
Make use of the various ‘modes’ available on the camera and check the results that each produce. Once the basics have been mastered gradually reduce the amount of automation relied upon. This is where true photography begins as it enables the user to become more creative.
Progress to the ‘programme’ mode so a greater understanding of when to us flash, the white balance and ISO settings is gained. These will prove useful in changing light conditions, such as natural, incandescent or low light.
The true creative power of the camera will be unleashed when the aperture or shutter priority and full manual modes are employed. They will allow for creative use of depth of field, freezing action and much more.
There is not any substitute for good observation, any photographer failing to pay close attention to their surroundings will probably miss numerous opportunities for a great capture.
Regardless of whether exploring the labyrinth of backstreets in a North Africa medina or struggling through the dense undergrowth of a Belizean jungle it is imperative to remain alert. Not knowing what might be encountered but being aware and ready just in case can mean the difference between success and failure.
The chances are there will be plenty of opportunities for capturing some good images from amazing panoramic scenery to interesting portraits of indigenous people.
Curiousity is a useful attribute for any aspiring photographer. Those that take a peek around the extra corner, wander over another dune or check out where a path or cave leads to are likely to return with the most interesting pictures.
The more images that are taken the greater the likelihood that several will turn out to be special.
Keep the camera ready
If the camera is switched off and hidden in a bag it is unlikely that a sudden scene that is over in moments will be captured. Have the camera ready, not only out of the bag but switched on and with the lens cap off.
In this situation the priority has to be getting the capture, do not worry about whether the camera is set up correctly. It is preferable to have an image which is not technically correct than completely miss it altogether. Additionally have it set for multi-exposures as this will increase the chances of one being correct.
After the initial series of images have been taken have a quick check of the settings and set the camera up to enable an improved capture. This is where knowing the ‘tool’ will really pay off as the changes can be made efficiently before the chance is lost. Try capturing the scene from a few different angles and viewpoints if possible, one may turn out to be the ‘keeper’ of the series.
Enjoy the experience
The most successful people in any field are those that enjoy it, and photography is not any exception. Enjoyment often becomes passion, and this is also usually an essential ingredient of success, those that can convert their passion most effectively will be the most successful.
Do not forget to enjoy your photography and make it your passion.
*Detailed explanations of the techniques and technical terms are explained in the other posts in this series