Whether you own a cellphone with a tiny 1mp camera or the most expensive SLR camera with all the lenses out there, you can happily admit that you have taken a photo of a specific moment that was frozen into millions of pixels and you’ve saved it, edited it either on your phone or computer, shared it with friends around the world, posted it on social media, or even printed it out and put it in a frame at home. You have taken a photo, which makes you a photographer, but the question is, do you want to be a better photographer? Do you want your images to start looking similar to the ones you see online? Do you want to know more about the basics of photography, camera gear, lighting, composition and what there is to know, particularly for wildlife photography? Below are some simple tips that will help you capture the perfect shot the next time you choose to press the shutter button.
To get the shutter clicking, we are first going to touch on the basics about camera equipment. There is so much to know about the camera gear you own or are looking to buy, so make sure you invest time before you invest money. You are the photographer so don’t let someone else push you into buying something that they love, as what they love is not what you may love. Do research online, chat to professionals, read blogs and rent equipment. There are hundreds of places that rent out gear and this way you have all those opinions in your head, good or bad, and then have the chance to test it out and enjoy it before you choose to buy.
Once you have the gear, make sure you have a quality camera bag to protect your equipment from dust, bumps and bad weather. Keep a spare memory card in your bag, and always buy more than what you need (32/64/128GB) as you don’t want to start having to delete photos at a critical sighting. Oh, and a little extra-keep a soft pen brush to clean lenses and avoid those ugly dust spots that will appear in your images… and service your camera every few months if you’re shooting a lot. Just like a car, if you service and look after your camera equipment it will last.
My personal camera gear I choose when going into the bush is a semi-pro or professional camera body. When looking into buying my body I looked for 3 things – shutter speed, megapixel and ISO count.
I look for a faster shutter speed (starting at around 6 or more frames a second) with a strong megapixel per image count such as 13mp. The reason behind this is I don’t want to miss an image hence the fast shutter speed, and also want the highest megapixels so I can use that image to blow up on the wall or place it in a magazine, so it needs to be high resolution and extremely sharp. Also, ISO count is extremely important when in low-light situations to avoid a lot of “noise”, which is the grain you see on images when you overuse ISO. It also allows me to shoot in darker situations without having to use additional light sources or flashes.
Regarding lenses, my must-have is a zoom lens. Something over 300mm as I want to get up close and personal with the subject when sitting on a vehicle. If it were a bird perched on a branch or a long-range shot of an animal in a distance, this is the lens to have.
The next lens you want in your bag is a nice all-round lens to cover those images that are too close for a zoom, and you want more in your subject. The shot of a lion walking next to your car, a group shot of your family at a bush breakfast or a beautiful sunrise pic on the reserve. This lens usually comes with the camera as a kit lens and works perfectly.
Ever wondered how a photograph can capture so much in one frame? As if you were to take a panoramic on your cellphone and get a similar feel, this is where we introduce the wide-angle and fish-eye lenses. These lenses are amazing for those beautiful sunsets and landscape shots, but use them wisely as they offer so much foreground in your subject you need to apply the rule of thirds – 2/3 sky showing in the crop or 2/3 land showing (I’ll teach you about composition in our next blog.)
Remember we all started somewhere and it’s true we’re always learning, so NEVER EVER feel embarrassed when you are sitting on a game drive and the person next to you whips open his camera bag and has every lens and camera body on the market. There’s a good chance that if you pull out your camera and start snapping away you’ll both have something in common, you’ll get talking about photography and I’m positive you’ll walk away with a new friend, a head full of photography knowledge and some great shots you can look back on and remember a special moment in time.
They say you can’t catch a fish if you don’t have a line in the water, so take your camera out and shoot as much as and whenever you can, as the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Don’t be afraid to create your own style of photography either, it’s often how a photographer’s work is recognized.
Keep shooting, and send us pics from your recent trip to firstname.lastname@example.org for our Spot of the Month feature.
Keep posted for the next photography blog of camera settings and composition and editing…