Have you ever returned from a prime photo location, reviewed your images, and realized that most of them look exactly the same? It’s quite common for photographers to become awestruck by the scenic wonders before them and then overwhelmed to the degree that they forsake their creative vision and robotically capture the same scene repeatedly. Not only is this an editing chore, but it also produces significant disappointment about the great images we should have captured, but didn’t.
To avoid “Shooter’s Regret”, I always carry along a creative cheat sheet in my camera bag. It’s a simple list of all the different techniques I like to use when shooting on location and it ensures that I come home with a collection of images that employ a diverse range of styles, formats, and techniques.
Here’s a list of my top ten creative imaging tips.
1.) Vary your focal lengths. Start out wide, move to medium, and finish with a telephoto and/or macro. This is a basic storytelling technique that sets the scene then provides more detail and intimacy with each successive image.
2.) Shoot horizontal AND vertical. Even when it doesn’t seem logical. Try a few. I promise it won’t break your camera.
3.) Try different angles. Avoid the “human-pod”, that is, always shooting a scene from a standing position. Mix in a few extreme angles; from a very low “bugs-eye” view, to a “Hail-Mary” overhead shot for an aerial effect.
4.) Shift shutter speeds. Obviously fast shutter speeds freeze action, but try using a tripod and slow shutter speeds to record motion blur. Especially effective on wind blown grass, water, and other moving objects…
5.) Filters. I only carry three types… Polarizing filters that reduce glare and reflection to enhance natural color, an R79 infrared filter, and a set of neutral density filters to slow down shutter speeds or accommodate wide open apertures.
6.) See the Black & White. An incredible advantage of digital imaging is the ability to capture in color AND create a fine art black & white image. Take a moment to “see” just the tones and texture; key elements for black & white photos.
7.) Panoramas. Almost every outdoor scene offers an opportunity for a panoramic image, a unique perspective that exceeds our normal field of view. A level tripod and a level camera with manual settings will result in the best quality, but I have successfully created many hand-held panoramas by just carefully composing each panel within the viewfinder. Create vertical panels for maximum field of view and try the occasional vertical panorama of tall objects. Panoramas can be created with a variety of software applications such as Canon Photostitch or the Photoshop Auto-Merge tool.
8.) Harris Shutter Effect. A very cool special effect that combines three similar images in the red, green, and blue color channels. Static elements are rendered normally, but anything that moves will be rendered separately in red, green, or blue. Great for water fountains.
9.) 3D Anaglyphs. Although twin cameras on a 3D mount produce the best results, a single camera can also create a 3D image by simply capturing a “left” and “right” image and combining them in Photoshop or Callipygian (www.callipygian.com/3D/ ), a shareware application.
10.) Capture some video. Since all digital cameras now capture video, take some time out to record a couple of minutes of video and make a short movie. Try to limit each capture to 10-15 seconds and then use Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie to create your masterpiece.
These are some of the techniques I use to keep the creative juices flowing when I’m out in the field and need some inspiration. Feel free to print this list, or create your own, and put a copy in your bag. It’s the most valuable piece of gear I have in mine…
Register at LIGHTWorkshops.com or call the office at 805-528-7385