Vi­tal skills – with any gear

NPhoto - - Feature -

Hav­ing loads of ex­pen­sive equip­ment doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make you a good pho­tog­ra­pher; in fact a lot of peo­ple find that too much gear gets in the way of be­ing creative, and that they of­ten take bet­ter pic­tures on their smart­phone. Try to look at your hol­i­day pho­tog­ra­phy as an op­por­tu­nity to sim­plify the way you shoot, and to con­cen­trate on the ba­sics of com­po­si­tion, colour and so on.

For a more en­gag­ing shot, move in close and fill the frame. The big­gest fail­ing with many images is that they are pho­tographed from the wrong place and with the wrong lens; an in­ter­est­ing sub­ject barely takes up half the frame, with a dull and fea­ture­less sky fill­ing up the other half. Zoom into the sub­ject, or sim­ply walk closer, and you can fill the frame with in­ter­est, cre­at­ing a more en­gag­ing shot.

One of the most creative things that you can do in pho­tog­ra­phy is to think about how the things that you are pho­tograph­ing com­bine in the frame. Move around the sub­ject and you can put dif­fer­ent ob­jects to­gether, cre­at­ing a link be­tween them. Con­sider set­ting up a shot and then wait for some­one to walk into the pic­ture as well.

At its sim­plest level, this can in­volve con­trol­ling the back­ground of your pho­to­graph. Whether you are shoot­ing a por­trait of a fish­er­man on a beach, or tak­ing a pic­ture of a lo­cal au­torick­shaw, think about how chang­ing your po­si­tion will af­fect the back­ground of the pic­ture. A sig­nif­i­cant back­ground can say a lot about the sub­ject; pro­vid­ing a con­trast, giv­ing a con­text or ex­pla­na­tion or even cut­ting out clut­ter to avoid dis­trac­tions. Com­bine con­trol­ling the back­ground with mov­ing your sub­ject from the cen­tre of the frame to im­prove the com­po­si­tion, and you will be able to cre­ate mean­ing­ful pic­tures that look more visu­ally bal­anced.

Pho­tog­ra­phers need to work with the light. Look for in­ter­est­ing light ef­fects and how the light and shadow in­ter­play. This is best done at the be­gin­ning and end of the day, when the light is more di­rec­tional and the shad­ows are less deep and pro­nounced.

Don’t al­ways shoot with the sun be­hind you. Shoot­ing into the light can re­sult in more graphic and dy­namic shots, es­pe­cially if the weather con­di­tions are hazy or over­cast. If you shoot haze with the sun be­hind you, your pic­tures can look dull and gloomy; shoot into the sun and your shots will look misty and at­mo­spheric. If you are shoot­ing into the light, us­ing the lens hood that came with your cam­era will in­crease con­trast and help to avoid lens flare.

An­other thing that can in­crease con­trast and sat­u­ra­tion is the hum­ble po­lar­iz­ing fil­ter. Many pho­tog­ra­phers carry one of these, but aren’t too sure when and where to use it. Po­lar­iz­ing fil­ters re­duce re­flec­tions, and as they tend to have a more pro­nounced ef­fect when the sun is higher in the sky they are per­fect for the hol­i­day pho­tog­ra­pher – help­ing to mod­er­ate less-than-ideal light to­wards the mid­dle of the day. By re­duc­ing re­flec­tions on tiny wa­ter droplets in the at­mos­phere, a po­lar­iz­ing fil­ter can make blue skies more sat­u­rated; but they also re­duce re­flec­tions on fo­liage, sat­u­rat­ing the colour of, say, tea plan­ta­tions and paddy fields. Po­lar­iz­ers also mak­ing rivers, lakes and seas look more punchy vi­brant.

To see if the po­lar­iz­ing fil­ter will have an ef­fect, hold it up to your eye and ro­tate. If you see a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect, then screw it onto the front of your cam­era and turn it un­til you see the same ef­fect.

Fi­nally, if you want to re­pro­duce that glo­ri­ous turquoise trop­i­cal wa­ter, pho­to­graph to­wards the mid­dle of the day from a higher view­point, use a po­lar­iz­ing fil­ter to re­duce re­flec­tions, and then warm up the pic­ture us­ing the Cloudy or Shade white bal­ance set­ting. Like all great travel pho­tog­ra­phy, the re­sult can be a real ‘wish-I-was-there’ shot!

ABOVE Move in close to your sub­ject to fill the frame with in­ter­est and come away with a bet­ter-com­posed shot

RIGHT A po­lar­iz­ing fil­ter re­moves re­flec­tions, sat­u­rat­ing colour on things like paddy fields and tea plan­ta­tions

ABOVE LEFT Shoot­ing con­tre-jour (against the light) can lead to more dy­namic shots, with pro­nounced shad­ows

ABOVE RIGHT Shoot­ing against the light with a hazy, over­cast sky leads to bet­ter pic­tures than with the sun be­hind you

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