Wednesday, 23 November 2011

7 secrets for amazing Photographs

This post is a little different to all of my other ones.  I've had many emails in the past and at present asking me to share some photography tips.  Initially, I didn't really think it would be worth writing anything but the more emails that poured through really told me that there is no way out of it.  I know that if I didn't end up writing this, I'd get hunted down in some form.

So, here are my seven secrets.  Think about them carefully and apply them to your next day out with your camera.  You'll soon realise just how powerful they are.

Here is where it gets interesting...

What I am hoping to do over the next few weeks is showcase some readers' photos.  If you want your photos published on this blog, I'm now providing you with the opportunity to.  Send an email to and explain in 150 words or less, why photography means so much to you.  I will do my best to select the top 3.

Ok, enough rambling.  I hope you enjoy my guide.  In it, I have chosen one example photograph that I have taken to illustrate each of the 7 secrets.

The 7 Secrets...

1) Feel the moment - timing is everything.  It's a matter of split seconds before you loose the image that could have been a masterpiece.  You've got to be quick.  Have your camera out at every opportunity and if you can, try not to keep it off.  I have learnt the mistake of leaving my camera behind or having it the back of my bag and missing rare opportunities.  Now, considering your camera is on and ready, you need to 'feel' the write time to capture that frame.  Don't' hesitate to use a continuous burst of images (available on most cameras these days) as emotions are often too quick to capture with the naked eye.  The photo below is one I treasure highly.  It was taken back in a remote village in Sarawak, Malaysia.  If I didn't have my camera ready, I wouldn't have left with such a wonderful memory of my good friend.  It's true when they say 'a picture is worth a thousand words' - there is no way I could ever explain what he was thinking.

2) Shoot in the best light - for me, this is probably one of the most important secrets I have learnt over the years.  My dad would always remind me that if the weather is not special, you won't get that 'Wow' factor.  He was right.  You need to ensure you pick the right moments of the day, especially just before sunrise or just after sunset (golden hours/magic hours) which will give you the best results.  Sure, photography can be fantastic at any time of the day and in any conditions, but if you're after some vibrant colours and tones, you need to pick the right day and time.

3) Patience -  to cut the long story short, my family visited Tasmania last year.  We went walking along the harbour side and saw this one bird that seemed to be showing off.  Every time my camera was ready, he would stop.  He would then fly away and shortly return, and each time it was so swift that I couldn't physically keep up with his movements.  I waited for a long time, to make sure I could capture his movements in a unique manner.  My family must have thought I was crazy, as they left me with the bird and walked further along the harbour side.  I persisted and left that evening extremely satisfied!  The bird was one of the best posers I've met to this day.  There are many other experiences where I've waited hours for an aircraft, a celebrity or well known politician and even when the Queen visited several years ago.  It tests your endurance, but the photos are worth every second of waiting!

4) You can only 'plan' 10%, the remaining 90% is luck - this photo was taken in Turkey several years ago when I went on a study tour with a great group of friends.  I noticed this sign from a distance and thought it'd be unique to photograph.  I had never expected for him to all of a sudden appear, smile and still point with his finger.  It made the photograph that extra bit special.  What I hope to illustrate is that often the best photographs are spontaneous.  Too often, photographers plan a shooting session several months in advance, clean their equipment carefully with the dust blower every day, research technical information and take a truckload of equipment such as several tripods, filters and other accessories are merely marketing gimmicks.  How I see it is:  the simple photographer is often the best.  My strong advices is: take your camera for a walk, discover a new street or attraction and see what the World throws at you.  You will not be disappointed, I can assure you of that...  

5) Be proud of your work - the is nothing worse than being ashamed to share your work.  No matter how advanced a photographer you are, there is always something to learn.  All those self-proclaimed 'professional' photographers who pay for annual memberships to receive such a formal title will always learn something new too.  Don't ever be discouraged or feel intimidated by them.  What makes frustrates me every time I meet a photographer is when he introduces himself as a 'professional'.  Being a 'professional' photographer does not always mean your work is much better than others.  All of us learn something new each and every day.  If you don't like your first photo, try it again.  Go out and see if you can improve on something you did the last time.  The photo below is one that I was a little hesitant about at first.  It successfully made it into a photography competition and people loved it.  I was hesitant at first, but I soon loved it very much.

6) Adopt the rule of 14th's - so you may be slightly confused what I mean and you've probably already opened a new browser to search for the term.  Let me ease your disappointment - there is no rule of 14th's...  Back several years ago, a tricked a friend into believing that it exists.  He became fascinated and went off searching for it.  He came back to me confused and asked where I could find it.  I told him it was my rule.  It states that the only rule in photography is: that you should never follow any rules.  I had a good laugh that day, but my point made sense to him.  As a photographer, you should never feel constrained.  You take what you want, however you want because you're behind the camera.  You're photography needs an element of your character in it, so forget about the rule of thirds or anything else you may have heard of.

7) Find a mentor - if you ever want to remain inspired you need to find someone who will motivate you, encourage you and provide constructive criticism.  I am proud to say my mentor is my father.  I also admire the stunning photography of my uncle but it's my father who I've spent the most time with.  He is reason for why I am so passionate about photography to this day, and I know I've still got a lot to learn from him.  I was very, very young when I first played with a camera.  Film cameras were around back then and required a lot more skill.  These days digital photography has made our life easier so there is no room for complaining.  Go and find someone who you view as inspirational, get to know them and ask them questions about their photography and what their interests are.

The photo below is one that I remember taking with my father several months ago.  We were at the beach and he pointed out this amazing trail the tractor had left.  Thanks to him, I have this wonderful photo as a memory and I'll always remember that fantastic evening.  A mentor is important, so never underestimate the value of having one!

Finally, don't forget to go out there and have some fun!  That's what photography is all about.  Don't read manuals, instead experiment and make mistakes.  You will find out that by making mistakes, you not only learn from them very quickly, but you might also have an amazing photograph and story to accompany your mistake.  Some of the best photographers have taken award-winning photographs by mistake.  In short: Do not make the mistake of not making mistakes.  Makes sense?

This photo wasn't exactly a mistake, but it was certainly an experiment.  I took advantage of every bit of reflective material and the outcome was spectacular.  You have a wooden bench in the foreground, the city lights in the background, sparkling ceiling lights that look like stars, infinite reflections on the mirror and it goes on.  It seems like infinity.  You need to forget rules and treat photography as a passion.

And that my friends is the final secret:  #8 - PASSIONATE ATTITUDE = STUNNING PHOTOGRAPHS

I look forward to hearing what you think.  Don't forget to email me your best photo and description for the chance to have it uploaded onto this blog.
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