I recently went to a gallery where a well-known photographer’s work was on display. He was an incredibly humble man ,whilst signing a book that I had taken there I had the opportunity to chat to him about stepping up my photography and improving it.We have discussed lighting and composition as well as cameras and cell phones but I was keen to explore other ways of making a difference.
I asked a few questions and made notes when it was his turn to make a speech. It was simple, he made it clear that anyone with intention and a keen eye for detail coupled with a basic knowledge of your camera can take decent pictures.
But as he explained the big difference is to ask yourself “What are you trying to document? “ having a reason will make the difference between a happy snap and a real photo.
He also felt that one should do some work before setting out, and research the location to see what one wants to photograph. Then in your journal create a “ shot list” of what you want to photograph and include notes on style and composition.
Be it a trip in the bush a road trip or a visit to the beach, have an idea of what you want to shoot. Even if it’s lunch at a special venue with friends. In this way, you cover all the bases and don’t regret the photos you never took. Or wasted time on pictures that you did not need to take.
In many ways, you can turn it into an assignment and set a theme, if in the bush it could even be the various insects you encounter. Your shot list clarifies your goals and sets the theme.
Think out of the box as well, inane angles and details make for exciting imagery They give you great memories after a trip. These could be photos around the braai, your friends napping in the car or even pictures of your luggage as you pack the boot. Simple details make for great memories. Perspective is key, shoot the same scene from a few angles.
What grabs your attention? Is it strange light behind a clump of weeds? Or even some dandelion or a leaf when you are out for a walk? Or the greenery whilst walking in the forest or an unusual mushroom. It all becomes a very sensory experience then.
Learn your preferred settings on your camera. Manuals are extremely intimidating but when in doubt Google is a great resource, there are thousands of YouTube videos covering most cameras on the market with numerous experts covering a plethora of topics.
Previously we discussed light, golden hour and backlighting. On this subject, there are many apps and even weather apps that tell you when the sun will rise and set.
What came out in the talk is the importance of distance. People are often scared of getting too close to the subject. Yet the subject must be obvious not a minuscule pinprick. If you feel you are invading someone’s space chat to them and ask for permission to take the picture. In today’s digital age you can even e-mail it to them later. Don’t forget this technique, it is known as “filling the frame”.The whole frame is at your disposal, use it.
Be careful of zooming in too much as this could cause pixelation. Play with exposure. Most cell phones are very good at this but your digital camera will allow you to toggle a switch or tap on the back screen. You can always adjust when editing the picture.
Finally, analyse your results. Not merely at the editing stage. Compare your results to your shot list! Did you achieve your objectives? Make notes as well as they will be invaluable for the future. Refer to them before your next trip as there may be an insight that will improve your pictures. And if the picture means something to you then that’s all that counts. It’s a memory of time well spent!