Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important and you’ll capture it perfectly.
Stop! Read this quote again… and, whilst you are at it read the caption again. You’ll notice, we say this over and over again, “You my friend, are a Photographer”, and it’s so true! You are, and you have full control of capturing that perfect moment, freezing time into a memory for a lifetime, and creating something beautiful that no one in this world will ever replace.
So, photographer! You’ve read our last blog, (if not here you go) and now we hope you’re excited as we educate you on how to get the most out of the amazing gear you’ve invested in. It’s time to push your boundaries, step out of your comfort zone and do the little things right to ensure you nail your next shot (and hopefully a lot more likes on your next Insta post #pleasure).
We live in a connected world, where people flood the internet with incredible vlogs, blogs, podcasts, social media posts and insightful information that you should be taking advantage of. So, when you manage to find the time, put the kids to bed, eat your dinner and before you’re about to pop on your favorite series why not make a habit of watching one interesting video on photography before you do so? This may sound trivial, but we will promise you one thing; everyone started somewhere and the amount of valuable content online these days is right at your fingertips. There are professionals who have taken many years to master their skills through trial and error and they are offering their knowledge on a platter. So, count yourselves lucky in this digital age as you absorb information like never before.
Let’s get straight to point, DO YOUR RESEARCH. They always say, 80% planning makes for 20% execution. This is so true, and as mentioned above, you can never know enough but, it’s about pushing yourself to learn more, research more and grow more to help you break your comfort zone and be that much better. Your time doesn’t always need to be used by sitting and watching videos on light and composition, it could be an hour spent going through photos on Instagram and saving pics you like to use as references for your next safari. You should be asking yourself questions about these images like, “How was this image composed?” “I wonder how that photographer achieved that lighting?” or “Why did the photographer chose to posy that particular image?”
There is no doubt that some photographers get lucky and may have been in the right place at the right time. But most photographers who are creating impactful content take a lot of care with their work and it begins before the shutter is clicked. It takes weeks or months to get the shots you see online, from planning your trip to understanding the right time of year to travel to a particular destination. What lenses should be taken with, what animals are there and how well do I know these animals? In most cases you will be guided by a professional, like at Zambezi Grande, someone who understands animal behaviour and will help to position you in the perfect spot for the right image. But you need to have done your research to take full advantage of that moment.
You may be wondering where this is all going, but one key point to take is to watch photographers around you, start following photographers who’s work appeals to you and see how their style of photography is unique to them. You’ll notice as you learn more about photography, so you will begin to understand the way people think when taking a picture, the way they compose a shot, the lighting style they target and the way they edit a picture to make their tones and colours unique to them. This constant reminder, when hopping onto Instagram will get your mind thinking creatively and engaging in different, meaningful ways. And if you’re smart, save a few pics or get a little shot list together and use this the next time you’re on a game drive as a reference. You may never match that shot, but there may be something about that image that you love and you can do your best to recreate your own, unique version of it.
So, whilst you’re at the research side of things, one of the most important parts of jumping out of the AUTOMATIC bracket and into the “real” world of photography is the simple act of turning the camera setting dial and taking that leap of faith. It’s a big step for many as, suddenly, you take the driver’s seat of your camera and tell it what to do. Right now, it may sound very daunting, but we promise you it’s a lot more straight forward then you think, and the joy is that you can take as much control of your camera as you wish, from Programme Mode to Aperture Mode, Shutter Priority or even Manual.
Before we dive into these camera modes, we want to shed some light on various camera terminology to help you understand what we’re going on about below as well as some extra added tips and tricks.
Aperture: Defined as the opening in a lens through which light passes to enter the camera. Every lens has a different aperture, so look on your lens and you’ll notice f4.5-5.6, perhaps f4 for more serious users f4, and for the avid users out there, f2.8 and below. Aperture allows you to control the amount of light that passes through your lens, also known as exposure. The lower the number, the higher the exposure.
So, for example, f2.8 will allow a lot of light in, which in turn will allow a quicker shutter speed; ideal in low light when you don’t have, or don’t want to use, an external flash or light source. You’ll notice the subject is in focus and the background completely blurred. When you get this right, it’s a beautiful thing and turns the animal subject into the hero of a once busy shot.
The lower your aperture, the higher your exposure, indicated by a higher number, for example f22.
You would need a lot more light to expose this photo and we’d recommend using a lower aperture when shooting a landscape or an image where you require the whole subject to be in focus. Your shutter speed would be a lot slower therefore you could have the issue of having a blurred image or the camera shake if it’s under 1/100 of a second. Tip: Use a monopod here or a beanbag which you can rest on the bar in front on your game drive chair and see if it helps with the shot.
Shutter speed: Whatever it takes to freeze a frame is better known as shutter speed. To give you an example, most people shooting fast moving wildlife such as birds use a Shutter Speed of over 1/1000 of a second, which will allow you to capture a fast moving subject and, whilst panning, you can hold down the trigger and get multiple shots. As mentioned in the previous blog, some cameras have shutter speeds over 10 frames per second therefore when clicking away it sounds like a machine gun going off and this can continue for a handful of seconds… now you can imagine why they need large memory cards!
ISO & Auto ISO: The three most important pillars that make up photography are, ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture. AUTO ISO is your friend, that comes to help you when you’re lacking ideal light and can’t use a flash/external light. ISO is basically a camera setting that brightens a picture and as you increase you ISO from say 100 to say 1,000, you’ll notice a brighter image and a faster shutter speed. With the help of ISO you can now shoot at your ideal Aperture and have a Shutter speed that is fast enough to expose a photo without it being blurred or too dark. Just remember, as you increase you ISO so your image starts to get a lot of grain or better known as noise.
Tips and Tricks to help you get the ultimate shot and improve your shooting in the mode you choose below;
Auto-focus point: When photographing wildlife, choose a single auto-focus point in the center of the frame. A single auto-focus point enables you to pinpoint your focus on the animal. This is especially important if you’re photographing close-ups of an animal, in which case you focus on the eye closest to the camera.
Drive mode: Choose Continuous Drive mode. This enables you to squeeze off several shots in succession, which can make the difference between getting a great shot and capturing a blurred image. For example, if you photograph a great blue heron feeding her offspring, press the shutter button when the feeding begins and you’ll get a lovely sequence of images.
RAW & JPEG: Keeping an image as a RAW file means you can edit the image file, essentially giving it a makeover, before saving it as a compressed file such as a JPEG. JPEG is the route many photographers use as the file size is fairly large, quality is great and it’s easy to load to any computer and quickly pop onto your phone for an edit and a sneaky Insta / Facebook post. It also saves you loads of space if you’re snapping hundreds of pics and if you’re unsure what to do, just use the JPEG setting. RAW files tend to be massive and are used by professional photographers around the world as they submit these files to magazines/websites and need an editable file that is the optimum quality for printing purposes.
Colour modes: Known as many different names throughout the various models of cameras, but another interesting feature when learning photography. This mode gives you various picture styles and effects to better suit the subject you are shooting. Presets such as monochrome, landscape and various other options can enhance your images, but with some many editing apps and software available most people tend to play with colour after the image has been taken.
White Balance: This is a great tool, and everyone around the world does it differently, so please take this with a very one-sided opinion. Here you can choose the different white balance presets to suit your images. For example, choose the daylight mode / cloudy mode / shade mode to suit the day and if you test these different modes you will notice how the colours of your image change. To some people, these different modes are a must, but many professionals keep it safe and shoot on AUTO White Balance when shooting on RAW as you can always make changes in the edit later. Keep it simple if you want to be safe and shoot on AUTO, but we do advise you to test all the modes and understand what each one does.
Tripod: Mounting your camera on a tripod ensures you won’t have the camera shake and when shooting a subject in low light the stability a tripod or monopod affords really helps. It’s a great tool to have, and there are some great compact ones that are easy to travel with and handy when there is a beautiful sunset and you need a longer exposure to expose the frame.
Manual mode… oh baby, you’re now in full control of your camera! By full control we mean you now control the Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO to expose a photograph. This is exciting as you can now start pushing your limits to understand how a photograph is exposed and see how easily you can under- or over-expose a photograph without the help from a camera in the various other modes. We dare you to try, it’s not as scary as it seems!
The key to manual is to just go into the garden and shoot, shoot with a low aperture and a high aperture, shoot with a high and low shutter and see the difference, play around with a high and low ISO and just start to understand the simple thing that make up a photograph. A key tip is to sometimes go back to aperture priority and auto ISO and set an aperture you like and watch the camera expose a frame from different areas of the garden. You’ll start how the camera thinks and then use this information and try shoot again on manual.
Wow, that was a lot to take in and we didn’t even get to lighting, composition and editing… but, don’t worry we are hard at work already on our next blog on lighting and composition and I’m sure once you’ve got to know your camera a little better and had some time to practice, you will really appreciate what’s to come.
We’re blown away from the responses we’ve had from our previous blog and would love to hear from you, answer your questions and most of all see your amazing pictures…and who knows, we may even feature you on our next blog, newsletter or one of our social media platforms.
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