Penny Robartes - Mara

The Balance between Technical and Creative Photography

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Penny 2 Comments

I’m sure as many of you know by now – and if you don’t, here you go – I identify myself as more of a creative photographer than one that focuses more on the technical.

Don’t get me wrong, the technical side to photography is as important as the creative, as photography can be split into two parts; technical and creative.

So what defines the two, and why are both important in creating images that initiate certain emotions within your viewer and cause them to pause and take the time to look at your image?


Technical refers to the settings and camera gear that you choose and change in/on your camera. Aperture, shutter speed and ISO all play an important part in the look of the images.

Aperture effects your images in two parts; Depth of Field (DoF) and the amount of light coming into your lens and falling onto the camera’s sensor. A creative aspect and the technical.

Penny Robartes - Mara


By knowing how I wanted to portray the cheetah and have it as isolated from it’s surroundings as much as possible, I chose a wide aperture in order to achieve the desired depth of field.

Shutter speed takes place within the camera and like aperture, it is another mode where magic happens. It is responsible for creating dramatic visual effects such as freezing/blurring motion and it also controls the duration the camera’s shutter remains open when you click the shutter button.

Penny Robartes - Mara

ISO. The third component to the exposure triangle and, what we call, the Wild Card. This technical setting is very important as it determines the sensor’s sensitivity to light and therefore affects your shutter speed if you are shooting on Aperture Mode.

– On a side note, if you aren’t shooting on Aperture Mode for most of your wildlife photography shoots, why not check out this blog on why depth of field is a powerful story-telling mechanism.

By making your sensor more sensitive to the ambient light (technical), remember that there will always be a complimentary effect.

*insert drum roll*

Digital and colour noise.


Stunning isn’t it.

With the advancement in technology in cameras that are being produced in the last few years, noise is not as much a concern as it used to be and definitely not as prevalent in higher ISO’s.

What are we seeing so far?

Although aperture, shutter speed and ISO are technical settings on your camera and work together to affect the overall exposure of your image, they each have their own visual effect as well.


Your vision. Your interpretation of the scene. Your creation.

How to enhance the above and create stronger images? Composition and the many aspects that fall under it such as placement, colour, leading lines, visual mass and so much more.

Penny Robartes - Madikwe

Penny Robartes - Mara

Which do I think is more important? Technical or creativity?

The overall winner for me would be creative, but in reality they are intertwined with one another. When I approach a sighting and something about it stands out to me, then my creative vision kicks into gear and I dissect what it is that is about the scene that is making me feel, making me what to capture what is in front of me.

Once I know what it is that I want to capture, I focus on the compositional elements that I can use to really accentuate my vision.


While I am looking at how artistically I can work the scene, running parallel to my vision is the technicalities of how my equipment can achieve the ‘look’ I want to create even further. If I focus too much or purely on the technical, will my vision come through strong or even at all? If I used a different depth of field than I shot at for the lion cub image above, my image would be vastly different, and therefore the story and my vision would be too.

Flip it around and focus on the technical solely, I could get a perfectly technical image but one that lacks emotion…one that is cold.

So why do I call myself a creative photographer? The answer is simple; I just personally ‘see’  or ‘feel’ what I want to capture from the scene first and then the technical follows suit.

Find a balance. Don’t do yourself and your photography a disservice by only sticking to one aspect of photography.

You have so much to use and explore with, so do just that…explore!

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About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!


Comments 2

  1. Jakes de Wet

    hi Penny, great piece and stunning images. I fully agree with your view, I also feel that long telephoto lenses, kills a lot of creativity and then my pet hate, the use of fill flash in wildlife photography. The images in this piece show what can and should be done with natural light, it is the most precious aspect that we have and that is natural light, to see it being killed by flash is a pity and also intrusive, this happens when the technical side dominated creativity. Well done with this

  2. Carol Bell

    Penny I like what you are saying. For myself I am finding that I am having to “work” towards being creative and its taking a lot of practice on both sides……… as when I see an animal in the field everything has to happen so fast otherwise I lose “what I wanted to capture”………. for me it has to be second nature as what I want. Do you agree?

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