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Top Tips

Have a look at this video about award winning photojournalist, Eamonn McCabe.

Eamonn worked for several newspapers as a sports photographer before moving on to portraiture. He had a unique style in both disciplines and in the video  he discusses his thinking and techniques that yielded many stunning photos during his career.

 Ideas from wedding and candid portrait photographer Kevin Mullins

“Create a pictorial legacy, something that will have meaning in future years.”

 

“A picture doesn’t always have to be good, it has to be important (to those who take and view the image)”

 

“There are only three parameters that are important in any genre of photography: light, composition and moment. It is often very difficult to get all three factors right all the time but the most important of these is moment.”

 

Check out this inspirational video by Kevin.

One focal length for a day

Try shooting with a fixed focal length prime lens for a day.  It can simplify your photography and force you to be more creative as you need to “zoom with your feet” to get the best composition.  If you haven’t got a prime lens set your zoom lens to a certain focal length and keep it there for the day.  A piece of masking tape around the lens barrel will help you keep it in place.

 

Shoot wide open for a day 

Open your lens up to its widest aperture and keep it there.  Look for subjects that benefit from a blurred defocused background.

Make a Photo Book

This could be a selection of your best/favourite images or it could be a book of a particular photography project.

 

Landscape Composing on Blue Sky days

Many photographers consider blue skies to be boring and not good for landscape photography.  However, on sunny days with clear skies you can get nice long shadows towards the end of the day that make for good landscape shots if you simply compose to cut out the sky.  A longer,

telephoto lens can help to focus on the form of the land.  This video by Ben Harvey should give you some an insight into some of the possibilities. 

 

Preparing images for competitions

When preparing your PDI copy that is shown alongside the printed image, please take a little time to ensure that both images are identical.   Sometimes the PDI supplied is totally different to the printed image.

 

Judges often comment that the printed image has been cropped too tight, whereas the PDI version is fine, frequently this caused by the mount overlapping onto the printed images, always leave a blank border area around the image to be printed so unintended cropping does not happen

 

Printing Images

It is usually cheaper to send your prints to a commercial printer than printing at home provided you order in bulk to offset the delivery cost (10 or more images at a time).  SIMLAB is one of the most user friendly as all you need to do is send suitably sized jpeg images.  See simlab.co.uk

 

Listen to the professionals

Martin Parr is one of the most influential British photographers whose work has portrayed the daily life of the his fellow citizens over several decades.  You can hear a fascinating interview in which he talks about his work, motivation and challenges on the BBC Sounds app. Search for "This Cultural Life" or "Martin Parr" or click on this link to listen on your computer:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001kww6

Know your depth of focus

Most modern lenses do not have a depth of focus scale that used to common on lenses in the pre-digital age.  To find your depth of focus try using the Photopills App at https://www.photopills.com/calculators/dof.  All you need to do is select the make and model of your camera, the focal length of your lens and the focus distance that you intend using.  the App will then calculate your depth of field.  It will also calculate the hyperfocal distance - the focus distance that maximises the depth of field.

Try One Focal Length Lens for a Day

Zoom lenses are great but they can make us lazy.  If you have a fixed focal length lens (eg in a Prime Lens) you have to zoom with your feet to get different shots.  Prime lenses are also sharper and faster (ie they have a larger maximum aperture) so you can add to the creative process by seeing the effect of shooting wide open for the day.  If you haven't got a prime lens, simply set your zoom lens to a particular focal length and keep it there for the day (a piece of tape will help to remove any tendency to alter it).   

Try One Focal Length Lens for a Day

Zoom lenses are great but they can make us lazy.  If you have a fixed focal length lens (eg in a Prime Lens) you have to zoom with your feet to get different shots.  Prime lenses are also sharper and faster (ie they have a larger maximum aperture) so you can add to the creative process by seeing the effect of shooting wide open for the day.  If you haven't got a prime lens, simply set your zoom lens to a particular focal length and keep it there for the day (a piece of tape will help to remove any tendency to alter it).   

 

Try back button focusing

In most cameras you can programme a button at the back of your camera to lock the focus on a particular point.  You can then recompose your image safe in the knowledge that everything will still be in focus.  To find out how to set this up for your camera try doing a search in YouTube. 

 

Remember to leave a border when printing images before mounting them

If you print an image so that it completely fills the paper, remember you will lose at least 5 mm on each side to allow the print to be taped to the mount. If your original framing of the composition was a bit tight, printing right the the edges will make matters worse when the print is mounted.  To avoid this always leave a good border around your print.  A border of 10 mm will give you the option of also having a white border inside the mount if you wish. 

Use keywords in Lightroom

If you add keywords to each image you will be able to search your images to locate a particular image or set of images quickly.  Keywords are also vital if you choose to export your images to photo sharing websites such as Flickr, Instagram, 500px. This will enable you to get your images seen by the widest possible audience.  The same is true if you want to sell your images via commercial sites such as ALAMY.  

Never mind the weather!

Much is said about the virtues of getting out in the lovely soft, warm light of the Golden Hour.  However, this is not always possible (no sun) or practicable (inconvenient). Remember that it is perfectly possible to take interesting photos in all types of weather conditions and lighting.  A foggy morning can yield images with lots of atmosphere. A bright sunny day might produce images with dark, high contrast shadows that work well in monochrome.  Even a rainy day can produce great images with reflections of wet streets and puddles.  Just get out there whatever the weather!

Look before you shoot

We all do it from time to time, but try to curb the tendency to get your camera out immediately when out on a shoot.  Take time to look around and view a location from many different angles and note the best possible viewpoints.  This will help you  develop your observational skills and help you to increase the number of really good shots. 

A copy is not a backup!

To avoid a lot of heartache, make sure you have at least a two stage backup system in place.  You need to backup your images (and catalogue if using Lightroom) to at least two separate drives.  Ideally you should keep the drives in different locations.  External HDD are relatively cheap now but remember hard drives (even solid state) can sometimes fail.

 

Always use a Lens Hood

A lens hood protects your lens from rain but also offers general protection if you have your camera in your bag with the lens cap off.  When shooting into the sun the lens hood will help to avoid flare and when shooting through glass if you put your lens hood right up against the glass you can avoid unwanted reflections.

Compose in mono for monochrome prints

 

If your camera allows you the view a potential shot in monochrome (and nearly all mirrorless cameras do), try using this facility  to compose. It will enable you see immediately see whether the shot works in mono.  Regularly going out on a shoot with a monochrome setting will also help you develop a feel for potential mono compositions.  However, if you are forced to shoot in colour and then decide whether to convert to mono, ask yourself  “Is colour an essential feature of the shot?”  If not, convert to monochrome.

Shoot in RAW

To give yourself the greatest flexibility when editing your images shoot in RAW.  This will enable you to recover under/over exposed images with ease.  If you are using Art filters or film emulations in your camera shoot in RAW + jpeg.  The jpeg will show you the effect of the filter but if you don't like it you always have the RAW file to fall back on.

Get Help from Adobe

Check out the Adobe website adobe.com for inspiration and Lightroom and Photoshop Tutorials.  You can also access the live events and if you are a registered Adobe user enter images for their competitions.

Compose for your aspect ratio when shooting rather than cropping in post-production

Most digital camera will let you see the effect of different aspect ratios on the LCD screen.  Try composing with a non-native aspect ratio eg 16:9 or 1:1 to ensure that the composition works with this rather than cropping later and finding it doesn't quite work.

Take full advantage of all the shooting possibilities

 

When you find a good subject remember that you can capture it in a number of ways:  landscape and portrait views are the most obvious.  However, try a low shot or a high shot (rather than just stick to eye level) - easy if your camera has a tilting screen.  Also try different apertures to alter the depth of field and, where appropriate, different shutter speeds to give a sense of movement.  Finally, try looking at the scene with different aspect ratios. Each can bring its own subtle differences to a composition. 

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