Sale on canvas prints! Use code ABCXYZ at checkout for a special discount!


Displaying: 1 - 1 of 1

How Do I ....?

January 11th, 2024

How Do I ....?

Being someone with a camera who has had some success in capturing some of the natural wonders of our area, I often get asked questions like:

What settings do I use?
What time was this taken?
Where was this taken?

Sometimes the information is included in the write-up about the image, but I've come to the conclusion people are just there for the pictures and don't read the details. Unfortunately, those people probably aren't reading this either, so I'm not sure I'll be any further ahead in the long run.

The problem with questions like the ones listed above, is they only apply to the conditions at the time the photo was taken. Similar shots in the future may use the same settings, but more likely, they will need some tweaking to get the desired image.

Rather than spoon-feed actual settings, I would rather have people understand how to get there with the myriad of resources we have at our fingertips. While I have a good enough understanding of the concepts to adjust settings for my needs, I still like to do a bit of homework to determine a starting point to save me some time and effort.

For this, Google is a wondrous thing. I usually know the subject(s) I'm targeting on a given outing, so if it's something I haven't shot before, I'll start with a quick search like:

How do I photograph _____________? Fill in the blank with whatever you're planning to shoot.

You'd be surprised by the amount of information out there and the best part is you'll find many different approaches instead of a single, biased opinion. One example that comes to mind is photographing hummingbirds in flight. There are technical questions that can be answered regarding the process of actually taking the photograph, but there's additional information that should also be considered.

To start, you have to decide what your preference is. Some people say that wings need to be tack sharp, along with the rest of the bird. Personally, I feel this type of image makes it look like the bird is an inanimate object (fake or dead) and was placed for the sake of taking a photo. I like to get the wings pointing forward and showing a bit of motion blur as this adds life to the image.

Another thing to think about is "What is the overall context?" In the image shown here, I was fortunate to find a red-flowering currant in full bloom. By positioning so I was shooting the hummingbird at a bit of an angle with flowers in the foreground and background, I was able to add a sense of depth by going with a relatively shallow depth of field. The colour and patterns, when taken in context, told me there were additional flowers, but the subject was isolated without the extra noise. Again, this is a personal preference, and must be taken into consideration before you press the shutter.

Now that I've determined the shutter speed I want and controlled the depth of field with my aperture setting, I can use the ISO to fine tune the exposure as needed. I could have spent time "chasing", but with the variable lighting and composition, I found it easier to find a composition I liked and wait for the bird to come into frame. It may require additional patience and you could walk away with nothing, but if you watch your subject's behaviour, you have an overall better chance of getting the shot you really want.

One last bit of advice, understand the basics of proper exposure. You may need to make adjustments between shots, and you can brighten or darken images using various combinations of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. There's no right or wrong answer, but knowing the desired effects regarding depth of field, motion and image quality will dictate which approach to take.

This is just one subject, but the processes are the same for all. Get to know your subject before you try to capture it, and you'll have better success.