Life
4 Apr 2019 01:55pm

Get snappy

Photography is an inclusive hobby that has never been more accessible. That said, progressing from quick snaps to something a bit more special takes a little extra effort

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Caption: Advice for keen photographers – whether using a smartphone or the latest high-end camera

One keen snapper is ICAEW’s own president Paul Aplin, a member of the Royal Photographic Society. Indeed, his very first pay cheque went on buying a Canon A1 film SLR camera – which he still owns today.

These days, you don’t even need a dedicated camera (and a month’s salary) to get involved – and while you may want to think about buying one should you start to get more serious, almost all of the advice here can be applied whether you’re using your smartphone or the latest high-end camera system. Pursuing photography as a hobby can provide the perfect excuse to travel – and with a world of exciting subjects just waiting to be captured, recording all those precious memories can be all the motivation you need to book that trip you have always dreamed of.

A new view

Landscape photography is an obvious choice for beginners – no matter where in the world you are, you can give it a try. But it’s worth putting in some preparation. Professional photographer and founder of the Fujiholics group (fujiholics.com) Matt Hart says: “Planning is most important; this can be with all sorts of tools, like Google, and the plethora of apps available. Planning keeps you safe in tidal areas and mountain sites.” For Hart, Scotland is the ideal location to shoot. “There are some amazing places on this planet,” he says.

“But landscape photographers from all over the world appear to love Scotland. There is something for everyone because of the Highlands and the Islands, and it is a very accessible place to start.” Meanwhile, for Angela Nicholson, editor of photography website Camera Jabber and founder of all-female photography group SheClicks, landscape photography is all about the light.

She explains: “The angle and quality of light changes throughout the day and can transform how a landscape looks. Many photographers recommend shooting at the golden hour – the hour before sunset or after sunrise when the sun is low and the light is warm. But that’s just a guide. It depends on where you are and what you want to say about a place.”

A favourite location for Nicholson is the French Alps. “In winter the snowy peaks look very dramatic and the drifts form interesting patterns. Then in the summer, the mountainsides are transformed into meadows full of flowers that sweep down to deep-blue lakes.” Both Hart and Nicholson agree that a sturdy, high-quality tripod is an essential bit of kit for landscape photography.

Not only will it give you a stable surface to work with, but it helps you be more considered. Hart says: “A tripod slows you down and makes you think about your composition. Once you have learned to slow down and think, you can then run around.” Nicholson adds: “It’s also useful for keeping the same composition while you wait for the light to come good.”

Great cameras

There’s never been more choice when it comes to buying a camera. These three examples are ideally suited to different skill levels:

Beginner: Canon EOS 200D

If you’re looking for your very first interchangeable lens camera, Canon’s 200D is a great start. It has a good range of features without overwhelming entry-level users. A vari-angle touchscreen smooths the transition between your smartphone and first “proper” camera, too.

Intermediate: Panasonic Lumix G9

A wealth of useful features and it’s not too big and bulky – there’s a lot to like about the G9. If you’re into wildlife photography, you’ll value features such as 20fps shooting, while fantastic handling means it’s not too much of a steep learning curve if you’re not yet at expert level.

Expert: Nikon Z7

Nikon’s first foray into full-frame mirrorless, this superb 45.7 megapixel camera is ideally suited to many shooting objectives, including landscape and travel. What’s more, its size and shape make it perfect for travelling light – quite probably the best camera on the market now.

Top tips for shooting on your smartphone

As the old adage goes – the best camera is the one you have with you. These days, thanks to ever more impressive smartphone camera technology, that doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing high image quality

1. Take control

If your phone offers you the chance to take control over certain parameters – such as brightness – use it. Your phone will think it knows best, but tweaking the settings marks you out as a real photographer, regardless of your equipment

2. Switch on the grid

Composition is an art form that takes some practice – help yourself along the way by switching on your camera phone’s grid. It will help you position your subjects in a more pleasing way – and assist in keeping your horizons straight for landscape shots.

3. Avoid the zoom

Most smartphones have what’s known as a digital zoom, rather than an optical one. Generally, what that means is a lower quality image. Alternatively, get closer to your subject by using your feet. It’ll help you think about framing and angles in a better way, too.

4. Don’t shoot upright

We hold our phones in portrait format to use them as, well, phones. However, when it comes to taking pictures, landscape orientation is generally regarded as a much more pleasing aspect.

5. Tap around the screen to get the best exposure

If you’re shooting something that has a mixture of bright and dark areas, your phone can be very easily confused, which leads to under or overexposure. Tap the screen to select a different area in your frame and watch how this changes the exposure – then choose the best one for the scene you’re shooting.

Change your perspective

Seeking out elusive wildlife can be hugely rewarding, but it is also extremely challenging to stand out. Professional wildlife photographer Harry Skeggs, who leads shooting tours around the world, says: “The quickest way to make your images striking is to change your perspective. We live our lives looking at the world from five or six feet above the ground. Shooting at this height is only ever going to produce predictable results. Shift your perspective. Get low, lie on your stomach and look up at your subject to change the relationship between subject and viewer, or get up high and place your subject in its environment. I approach every subject with one idea – how can I shoot this in a way no one else has?”

There’s a plethora of exciting destinations when it comes to wildlife photography. Skeggs has a few favourites: “For sheer wealth of wildlife, East Africa can’t be beaten. Think Masaai Mara or the Serengeti, where one minute you get a lion and the next an elephant. For beautiful settings, nowhere is more raw than Svalbard archipelago in Norway – polar bears against stark whites and deep blues: photo heaven. Holidays like this are just as much about the experience as the photos. Nothing in my professional career has ever topped the time spent in close proximity to mountain gorillas in Uganda.”

Capture the essence

Architectural photography is another intriguing offshoot of travel photography – but it can be difficult to get natural results. Ben Brain, the creator of Brain’s Foto Guides, says: “Try to keep the vertical lines straight. When you stand under a building and point your camera up, the verticals will appear to converge – which can look cool, but for a professional look try to keep them straight. There are several ways to do this – professionals will use a ‘shift’ lens, which can be expensive and complicated to use. Instead, you can try keeping your lens parallel to the ground by finding an elevated vantage point or standing further back and using a longer focal length.”

He also advises spending time considering the “character” of a building. “Walk around it before taking your camera out, paying attention to the shape, textures and tones. Study how the light falls on the structures and surfaces. It’s not always a question of getting the whole building in – try looking for details or angles that capture the essence of the structure.”

Two architecture destinations stick out for Brain. First is Bath (a Brain’s Foto Guides map of the city is now available), thanks to its famous Georgian architecture. He says: “The Bath stone looks radiant in the golden hours.” The second is Miami in America, famed for its pastel art-deco architecture in the South Beach area. “The light in Miami can be special too,” Brain explains. “Soft, subtle and sublime to accentuate that colour palette.” And the last tip comes from Aplin: “Always remember that 50% of the best photographs are behind you, so turn around occasionally.”