When I met Rick Sammon a couple of months ago and showed him some of my pictures, he asked me what program I used to post process. I was a bit confused and ashamed of my answer as I know everybody is post processing with Lightroom or Photoshop and I don’t …yet. So far in my photographic journey, I was most concentrated in learning about photography itself and I have been using the program that was provided with my Canon Camera, the Digital Photo Professional to tweak my pictures in order to make little improvements or changes. For that reason, I was obliged to get my pictures “right” at the camera from the very start.
Yes, Yes, Mea Culpa! I should learn Lightroom and/or Photoshop because of its infinite possibilities to my artistic creativity. Every new year, it’s one of my top resolutions along with dieting and exercising:-) So hopefully, this year is The Year…I’ll keep you posted!
My big break in photography came in 2010 When I moved to Istanbul, fell in love with that mesmerizing city and I bought my first DSLR Canon EOS 500D with Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens. Previously, I used different Canon point-and-shoot cameras which were compact and pretty convenient before upgrading to Canon 5D Mark III with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Zoom Lens (What can I do, I am Canon girl!). With a new DSLR in hand, it felt like having a Ferrari but not knowing how to drive it. Everybody was telling me to read the manual which is not always convenient if you were used to a point-and-shoot and don’t understand the photographic gibberish. I took the bull by the horns, put my camera on AV mode and set out to capture the beautiful scenes of Constantinople.
1. Know your camera
It is true that if you want to capture great shots, you have to understand the fundamentals of the camera components, how each function works, what every button does so you are not baffled when you are out shooting. Try different modes, different settings…if it doesn’t work, delete and try some more. Today, in the world of digital photography, the sky is our limit as far as the numbers of shots we can take. Some cameras have HDR or Multi exposure possibilities. Use them. I have downloaded the PDF version of my camera’s manual to my phone and have it handy if you need to look up a particular situation. One great resource (and free) is Youtube. You can find a multitude of useful tutorials about your camera.
2. Choose your lens
The choice of lens is also very important. I tried many different ones throughout my journey from prime lenses to wide angles, telephotos… However, each lens is adapted to a particular type of photography and depending on the lens you choose, you can dramatically transform the sense of depth and space in a scene. I love travel and street photography and one of my favorite lens is Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM. I also used the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and f/1.4 before upgrading to Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 USM. For macro and portrait photography, I use Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens. They are all amazing lenses. I opted for these Canon L lenses despite their high cost because of their superior quality to yield an image with sharper details, richer colors and better contrast. I am not saying that you have to get the most expensive lens to have beautiful pictures. You have to learn to use your lens to its fullest capability.
3. Work your picture
If you want to avoid spending a lot of time in front of your monitor correcting or editing your images, make sure you pay close attention to your viewfinder. Think about composition before clicking that shutter button, check the four corners of your viewfinder to avoid that little branch sticking out or that little corner of the building showing up… Half-press the shutter button and you will not have unfocused shots.
Know where to crop your image when photographing people. Don’t amputate their toes or hands or scalp their head. Crop with care.
Check the horizon line, avoid distractions and use your feet. Don’t be afraid to move closer. Move around to “work your shot” to experiment with different angles, and reframe. Sometimes, the best shot is revealed when you start moving around and trying new perspective.
Explore the light around you. Choose the right time to go shooting. The blue hour and the golden hours are the best for beautiful scenes and colors because it can give a magical effect and transform an ordinary situation into something unique. I particularly love rainy or snowy days more than beautiful sunny ones because of the atmosphere, the wet streets and light reflections.
Use the rule of third, pay attention to reflecions, symmetry and leading lines. But sometimes, know when to break those rules too. Have fun with panning.
Also, look for a nice original background, arm your self with patience and wait for the proper moment to click. Think about the colors wheel and different color combinations you can make.
I usually shoot in RAW format. So, I keep my white balance in Auto. But if you shoot in JPEG, check your white balance to avoid having to deal with weird colors later on.
4. Some extras
Avoid Camera shake by turning on the IS (image stabilizing) button if your lens has one.
For a sharper picture, use a faster shutter speed that is as fast as 1 divided by the focal length of the lens. If your focal length is at 100mm, your shutter speed should be at 1/100th of a second at least.
At low apertures and low shutter speeds, you can avoid blurry images caused by camera shake by adopting good postures when taking the shots (elbows tight to the body, holding the lens properly, exhaling completely before pressing the shutter) or finding a steady place to put your camera on like a wall or a chair to minimize movement.
Having a good sturdy tripod, especially if you like night photography or want to experiment Long exposure photography. you can avoid raising your ISO by using a tripod and hence avoiding noise in your picture.
Using different filters like Polarizing filters to enhance the blue of the skies, avoid reflections from shinny surfaces or Neutral Density filters for Long exposure photography.
Use a portable flash to create attractive images.
5. Continue the learning process
Don’t forget to practice as much as you can. Get out from your comfort zone and you’ll discover what you like what you don’t like.
Moreover, you’ll learn new techniques by reading or joining some photographic groups (Meetup.com is wonderful for that). Being in New York, I have a great opportunity to attend in person free courses provided by B&H eventspace or Adorama. All you have to do is sign up online and attend these very informative courses given by famous professional photographers. If you cannot attend, they often stream it online or are available later on Youtube.
Another way of learning is to subscribe to Kelbyone.com or lynda.com. These site are amazing as they have all sorts of photography related videos, easy to understand and to follow.
I would like to thank Rick for giving me this opportunity to talk about my experience in photography. It has been a very challenging and productive path from Istanbul, to Bangladesh, Morocco, New York… As a travel photographer, I’m loving the journey and the excitement of discovering different places, new faces and various culture and hope to share glimpses of that journey with the rest of the world!
Feel free to contact me through my web site.
And please follow me on Instagram.