Practice does make perfect

Like anything in life, if we want to achieve then we must put in the work. Good photography takes time and effort.

Monday, 13th May 2019, 3:41 pm
Causeway Sunrise.

Decide the type of photographs you will take before setting off. Stick to that for the entire photoshoot.

Before you head out, visualise the shots. Set up your camera. Attach the lens you need and select the correct focusing and metering settings.

Back at home study the images. Note the settings on images that went right and wrong. Was there too much or too little depth? Was the exposure correct? Was there movement blur? Is the photo too grainy? Did you focus in the right place? Is the image too cluttered?

Then go out and repeat the shoot, correcting the errors until your photos are just right.

Once you have perfected this, try a different type of photography, repeating the process until you have refined that too. In this way you build up a portfolio of skills.

Photography is all about balance. We decide how the image should look, prioritise what is important and set our camera accordingly. Occasionally this balance works in our favour; a shallow depth of field and fast shutter value go hand in hand, ideal for capturing wildlife. But often it works against us so we compromise.

We usually photograph wildlife with long lenses. Unless we spend thousands of pounds, they are slower, letting through less light. As longer lenses have a narrow angle of view, any movements of camera or subject are exaggerated. We need an even shorter shutter value to stop that movement showing.

Telephoto lenses accentuate a shallow depth of field so we may need to reduce our aperture to get the subject in focus. But this makes the shutter value longer still so we increase the ISO.

You may hear that increasing the ISO is making the sensor more sensitive to light. It isn’t strictly true. It is amplifying the electronic signal from the sensor. As turning up the volume on a hi-fi creates humming so amplifying the signal from the sensor produces graininess or digital noise.

We can counter that using noise reduction software, but images become softer, losing fine detail.

Noise is more apparent if an image is cropped. We have all seen poor resolution pictures of birds and animals. Often, that’s the result of a small subject being made bigger in the frame by cropping.

Avoid that by getting closer to the subject. Fill the frame. Apart from taking time and skill, being closer also exaggerates the creatures’ movements; once again we need a shorter shutter value.

Landscape photography usually requires the opposite settings to those for wildlife. We attach a wide-angle lens, using a higher f/stop to obtain front to back sharpness. The scene is probably still so we can get away with that smaller aperture size and the resulting longer shutter value.

A really long exposure can hide moving objects altogether and make bodies of water appear smooth and milky so we might need a tripod.

The compromises go on and on. Besides having a good eye for a photograph, we need to be able to visualise a shot and decide on the settings.

Learn the skills, get out and practice, practice and practice some more.

To find out more about Ivor Rackham see