Last week we asked our Facebook Fans to share their top 10 tips for improving your photography with the aim of putting together this blog post. Now there are many of these types of blog posts on the internet and we wanted this one to be a little bit different. Rather than elaborating on the elemetns of photography that are usually drummed across in posts of this nature, we thought we would look at suggestions that may be a little bit more out of the box and not as well documented online.
Here are the top 10 tips to improve your photography as shared by our community!
1. Practice, Practice, Practice…
Etienne is 100% correct, the first step to improving anything, including photography, is to practice. As Gary Player once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. It may seem counter-intuitive but in order to get better one needs to shoot more in order to become famliar with the various settings, location of dials and controls, and the results of certain combinations of variables such as aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
2. Think Before You Shoot
Joey rasies a very good point here which almost contradicts the point raised above. How many times have you been so caught up in the moment that you find yourself rattling away frames on a sighting without actually thinking about what story you want to tell or how you want to portray the scene before you. Take a bit more time to think about how you want to share your experience with others, perhaps the tight shot with the zoom lens is not the right option and a wide angle lens would create a far more compelling image?
3. Shutter Speed
There is nothing more frustrating than capturing a once in a life time sighting only to find that the photo is soft, or completely blurred. Unless you are intentionally trying to convey a sense of movement with a slow shutter speed, you should always aim to have a shutter speed of at least 1/ your focal length. That is to say that if you are shooting with a 500mm lens on a body with 1.6 x crop factor, your shutter speed should be at least 1/800 in order to eliminate any chance of camera shake from creeping in and ruining your image.
Nobby spends a lot of time out in South Africa’s Game Reserves and it is great to see how using guidelines like this has helped him improve his strike rate of “keepers”.
4. Shooting From a Stable Base
Grobler is spot on here and his comment links in quite nicely with Nobby’s above. One should always aim to shoot from a stable base. If you are shooting handheld then you should ensure that your elbows are tucked in as tight as possible to your body and that you do everything possible to eliminate any movement or sway in your body. Even leaning up against a tree can make a world of difference when shooting from hand.
Especially when it comes to shooting with longer lenses (300mm and upwards), one needs to be very aware of the platform you are shooting off. If you are shooting out of a vehicle then the use of a bean bag or even something like a jacket is a great way to stabilise your lens and eliminate any chances of camera shake (in conjunction with your shutter speed of course!).
5. Get Creative!
Anyone can get online and study the ins and outs of the technical aspects of photography, but the fact of the matter is that even a technically brilliant photo is nothing without great content and an interesting composition. Janine is quite right in saying that we should strive to try different angles and compositions in our photography. Something as simple as placing our subject in the frame according to the guidelines such as the rule of thirds can go a long way to improving your photography. That being said, don’t forget that rules are also there to be broken (read more on this in these blog posts).
6. Be Aware of Your Background
How many times have you taken what you believe to be a great image only to review it on your computer to find that there is a distracting element in the background? What Warren is saying here is that one should always be aware of the background to ensure that any and all distracting elements are removed from the frame BEFORE you take the image. This ties in with Janine’s comments on composition.
Often just taking a small step to the left or moving your vehicle a little further forward can help eliminate such elements, leaving you with an image which focuses purely on the subject – without that branch which looks like its growing out of its head!
7. Know Your Equipment
This may sound like an obvious one but Richard rasies a good point. Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and even though you may not have the latest and greatest camera you should be familiar with all of its features and with its limitations if you are going to improve your photography. Perhaps your camera doesnt boast the 10 frames per second of some of the top end bodies – thats not a probelm if you are aware of this and become more selective of when you rattle of that first frame of a sequence of a lilac breasted roller in flight.
8. Dont Get Too Big for Your boots
Everyone is a pro these days. I don’t think that there is anyone in the photographic community that can profess to knowing it all or experiencing it all. Photography should be about having fun, seeing and experiencing new things and hopefully doing this with like-minded people. As a company this is what we at Wild Eye base our business on: eliminating the intimidation factor and sharing world class experiences with like-minded photographers.
There will always be more to learn and unless you approach your photography with this in mind, you could find yourself being isolated from what should be a fantastic community.
9. Get To Know Your Subject
This is imperative in wildlife photography. At the end of the day we are trying to capture a story in a single frame. If we don’t have a deeper understanding of the animal we are photographing, what information do we have to base our story on? Apart from this more romantic aspect of capturing the soul of an animal, the other side of the coin is that understanding an animals behaviour will allow us to predict what it may do next. Why is this important? Well, have you ever noticed how a bird will ruffle its feathers and often defecate just before taking off from a perch? This is just a simple example but its behavioural traits like this that your photographic guide should know, anticipate and relay to you so that you can get the shot!
10. Be Patient
Tamara sums it up really. All of the above is nothing without patience and time in the field. There is a bit of a trend these days where photographers will book a week away in the Kgalagadi and expect to come back with nothing but the best wildlife shots. You may have great sightings and some fantastic photographic opportunities but when you chat to guys like Hannes Lochner (author of “Colours of the Kalahari” and the new “Dark side of the Kalahari”) things are very quickly put into perspective.
Hannes has spent the last 5 years of his life living and photographing wildlife in the Kalahari in order to put these two publications together. In a chat with him last year, he mentioned how he went for 3 months without capturing an image which he would be able to use in his books. Ultimately, time in the field and patience will produce the goods.
As someone once said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Preparation for the photographer is knowing their equipment, understanding the creative and technical aspects of photography, spending the time in the field, and being patient and dedicated to learning and growing as a photographer. The opportunity is that once in a lifetime moment when all of the natural and uncontrollable elements come together to produce something special. That is when we get lucky…
This may not happen all that often but when it does, it is an incredible feeling to know that you were prepared and ready to capture the experience and create a memory that will be preserved forever… That is photography…
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