Ditch the grads!

NPhoto - - Feature -

Post-pro­cess­ing is also the key to leav­ing those ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing grad­u­ated neu­tral den­sity fil­ters at home. They’re tra­di­tion­ally used to bal­ance skies and re­flec­tions in land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy, but Adobe Light­room has ex­ten­sive vir­tual grad­u­ated fil­ters built in. These al­low you a far greater de­gree of con­trol, as you can stack fil­ters and use them just to lighten shad­ows, or even cor­rect white bal­ance. I have found it more ef­fec­tive to shoot at mid­way be­tween the two ex­po­sures, and use one grad­u­ated fil­ter to darken the lighter por­tion of the im­age, and an­other to lighten the darker parts. This tends to give a more bal­anced re­sult than, say, exposing

for the fore­ground and us­ing a sin­gle grad­u­ated fil­ter to darken the sky.

Man­ag­ing with­out a long lens

If you have an 18-200mm lens on a crop sen­sor cam­era, then the ef­fec­tive crop at the tele­photo end is the same as a 300mm lens. How­ever if, like many pho­tog­ra­phers, you’re shoot­ing with an 18-55mm kit lens, frame-fill­ing shots of things like wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy will be more of a chal­lenge.

There are a cou­ple of things that you can do here. One is to sim­ply take the shots and blow them up in post-pro­cess­ing. The ef­fec­tive res­o­lu­tion will go down, of course, but de­pend­ing on the res­o­lu­tion of your Nikon your pic­tures could be fine for view­ing on­line or even as small prints. A more pol­ished so­lu­tion is to com­pose your shot to take into ac­count the equip­ment that you have, not what you

wish you had. So if you are pho­tograph­ing wildlife with­out a tele­photo lens, com­pose a land­scape shot where the an­i­mal is a fea­ture in the land­scape; or take a shot show­ing other tourists – or even your travel com­pan­ions – view­ing the wildlife with the an­i­mals in the back­ground.

If you aren’t pho­tograph­ing wildlife and it is safe, of course, then you can al­ways try the old man­ual zoom – sim­ply move in closer to fill the frame with your sub­ject. Too many pho­tog­ra­phers fail to do this, but it can lead to frame-fill­ing and en­gag­ing pic­tures.

Avoiding hard shad­ows – and re­flec­tors!

Pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten shoot por­traits of the peo­ple they en­counter on their trav­els us­ing a re­flec­tor, or even an off-cam­era flash with a soft­box, to com­pen­sate for the harsh shad­ows cast by over­head di­rect sun­light to­wards the mid­dle of the day. You can avoid the need to do this by pho­tograph­ing peo­ple in even, shaded light. Eas­ier said that done, you may think, but much of the time in hot­ter cli­mates peo­ple sit in the shade any­way. Get used to look­ing out for peo­ple in the shade, not in sun­light. If some­one is in di­rect sun­light and the light is harsh in the mid­dle of the day, it is per­fectly ac­cept­able

to mo­tion for them to move into the shade. In do­ing this you can also choose a bet­ter, less busy back­ground for your por­traits. Try to learn the lo­cal word for ‘shade’, which in ad­di­tion to sign lan­guage, is usu­ally enough to get the job done!

Many cam­eras have a small built-in flash, but this will of­ten be ob­structed if you are shoot­ing with longer lens, and di­rect fill-flash won’t be as com­ple­men­tary as shoot­ing in soft, shaded light.

RIGHT Shoot out of the harsh light of the sun for more pleas­ing por­traits; in hot places, peo­ple of­ten seek out shady spots any­way

ABOVE An 18-200mm lens on a DX cam­era has an ef­fec­tive fo­cal length of 300mm, ideal for pho­tograph­ing wildlife, but you can al­ways ‘zoom’ with your feet…

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