For today’s post, I decided it would be fun to have guest contributions from some photographers in Zambia. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting the content together!
Tips and Advice
- Look your subject in the eye. Direct eye contact can be as engaging in a picture as it is in real life. When taking a picture of someone, hold the camera at the person’s eye level to unleash the power of those magnetic gazes and mesmerizing smiles. For children, that means stooping to their level. And your subject need not always stare at the camera. All by itself that eye level angle will create a personal and inviting feeling that pulls you into the picture.
- Use a plain background. A plain background shows off the subject you are photographing. When you lookthrough the camera viewfinder, force yourself to study the area surroundingyour subject. Make sure no poles grow from the head of your favourite niece and that no cars seem to dangle from her ears.
- Use flash outdoors. Bright sun can create unattractive deep facial shadows. Eliminate the shadows by using your flash to lighten the face. When taking people pictures on sunny days, turn your flash on. You may have a choice of fill-flash mode or full-flash mode. If the person is within five feet, use the fill-flash mode; beyond five feet, the full-power mode may be required. With a digital camera, use the picture display panel to review the results. On cloudy days, use the camera’s fill-flash mode if it has one. The flash will brighten up people’s faces and make them stand out. Also take a picture without the flash, because the soft light of overcast days sometimes gives quite pleasing results by itself.
- Take some vertical pictures. Is your camera vertically challenged? It is if you never turn it sideways to take a vertical picture. All sorts of things look better in a vertical picture. From a lighthouse near a cliff to the Eiffel Tower to your four-year-old niece jumping in a puddle. So next time out, make a conscious effort to turn yourcamera sideways and take some vertical pictures.
- Be a picture director. Take control of your picture-taking and watch your pictures dramatically improve. Become a picture director, not just a passive picture-taker. A picture director takes charge. A picture director picks the location: “Everybody go outside to the backyard.” A picture director adds props: “Girls, put on your pink sunglasses.” A picture director arranges people: “Now move in close, and lean toward the camera.” Most pictures won’t be that involved, but you get the idea: Take charge of your pictures and win your own best picture awards.
Tips and Advice
- Practice. Practice. Practice. As with any art form or trade in order be a good photographer you have to practice. Take random photos of different things. Be it inanimate objects or nature, whatever suits your fancy, but practice all the same. Play around with different settings until you find a particular mode which works best for you.
- Get a mentor. Find someone you can learn from. There is no harm in asking where you don’t know. Photography is a learning process and with the advent of new technologies everyone is constantly learning something new. Attach yourself to someone who will help you hone your skills.
- Be creative and inventive. Think outside the box. Try different things and keep your art fresh. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone.
- Read. Keep abreast with the latest trends by reading. Read books, blogs and anything you can get your hands on that pertains to your field.
- Never forget the basics. Don’t forget what you’ve learnt along the way. The basics of photography will ensure that you have a good foundation even with the constant evolution in the world of photography.
Tips and Advice
A few helpful bits I have picked up along the way, not in any particular order of importance, just the ones that came to mind first.
- Macgyver Lighting - If you’re just finding you feet you probably haven’t invested in any expensive lighting equipment all the pros use to make you feel so amateurish. Well, just make do with what you have, natural light, bulbs in the room, whatever, be creative. I recall adjusting some moveable ceiling lights to light up my subject, whatever does the trick, lighting is everything.
- Unlike Instagram - Unlike taking a photo of what you’re having for breakfast, photographing people involves, well, people skills. On any given project, your client wants to see if they like what you are taking, the models want to see if they look good in the photos and your teammates want to be more involved. You really need to please everyone.
- Happy Feet - Move around! You really need to take your photos from many different vantage points. Don’t stop there, squat, stand on a table, even lie down. Jumping doesn’t really work though, you should know that by now.
- Magic - Digital Editing. You need it. Simply because the camera doesn’t see things like your eyes do, let alone capture scenes like your imagination does. Professionally because you’ll rarely have the opportunity to redo a photo-shoot and you may need to fix some bad shots.
- Cyborg Photographer - Your camera should feel like an extension of you, so I’d encourage you to read the camera manual (no, you won’t die). Once you know your camera inside out you should be comfortable using manual mode (its more fun), however there are times when the many different automatic modes are more appropriate.
Peder is a Swedish photographer and a psychiatrist who was based in Zambia for three years.
This photo was a present to a friend and her family. The concept was mine. It shot was with Canon 7D, the Canon 50mm/1.4 lens and one remote triggered flash in softbox.
Tips and Advice
- Your photo should have a theme. Even if it is just a “typical family photo” it will help you a lot in planning and executing the shoot. In this case the starting idea was that the family members would be aligned not at their feet but at their heads. I quickly decided the man would be standing in a hole to emphasise the fact that he is tall.
- If you are going to do a directed shot, have a meeting before. Talk about what you have in mind and see if they are comfortable about that. Listen to their ideas but make sure you explain your idea in a way they can understand. When I explained that I wanted the children to be standing on something to achieve equal height as the parents, my friend suggested Duplo blocks. I took a test picture at home and saw that it could introduce a weird pixel-like element.
- Look for inspiration online. I sometimes use Google images to search, for example “family portrait+surrealist”.
- Shooting indoors and in shadow is often a lot easier when it comes to lighting the scene! I shot all of the family members separately which made lighting them even easier.
- Think of interesting props that can add something to the atmosphere you are trying to create. in this photo I felt that the shoes on top of the little dirt mound adds something for the observer to ponder.