8 Photography Tips for Capturing the Spontaneous

Photo tipsShaen_11_clShaen Adey believes that being able to grab your camera and just shoot without thinking is key to capturing spontaneous shots.

So if you don’t want to miss a million-dollar smile, can’t be bothered to read the manual, or don’t pick up your camera often enough to know it like the back of your hand, rather dump the idea of owning a complicated SLR and arm yourself with a good compact.

They’re small and light, have a range of auto and scene settings, and most have manual exposure for when you really want to be creative.

Dynamite comes in small packages, and Shaen says that, if she weren’t a professional photographer, she’d only own a good quality ‘point and shoot’ that fits in her pocket.

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1. Colour and Composition

Who says you can’t mix pink, green and orange? I love outrageous colours, they’re the first to leap off the page and get noticed. And sometimes a picture works when you slap the subject in the middle of the shot, but if you compose the image with the subject falling on the one-third line in the shot, it becomes way more powerful as it smoothly leads the eye into or out of the shot.


2. Good moods in Bad Weather

Generally, if it’s sunny I head to the beach, and if raining I aim for the forest, but not always. Overcast conditions are the best time to capture moody shots with beautifully saturated colours. Also, you don’t lose detail in the shadow areas of the picture as you would in sunny, harsh and contrasty conditions. And you can bank on awesome sunsets if there’s a small gap between a heavy cloud line and the horizon.


3. Framing a Shot and Balancing Light

Glance around and see if there’s anything you can use to improve on the picture. I particularly like strong subjects in my foreground, like a piece of the surrounding architecture. It ends up telling more about the place and simultaneously frames the image. Shooting at dusk – or in blue light as I call it – is the best time to balance natural and artificial light, particularly useful in interior shots with stunning views beyond windows.


4. Limiting Depth of Field

Keep your eye focused on what’s important in an image – the rest must go. This is where you can use your aperture creatively. It’s a bit like painting with dots, the wider the aperture of your lens (which strangely is the smaller of the f-stops numbers f2-f4), the bigger the dot and the less detail at the end of the day. As a result the only point that ends up sharp is exactly where you focused and, vice-versa, the higher the f-stop (f16-f22) the more will be in focus.


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5. Polarising Filters

This is one filter I don’t leave behind, especially if heading to an exotic location with balmy water, in this case a dhow trip from Ibo Island to Songo-Sawe, Mozambique. A polarising filter cuts out reflections on water and metallic subjects 90° to the sun; this is how those aquamarine shots are created, where you can see the bottom of the seabed. And the one and only time I did forget my filter I shot through my polarised sunnies with reasonable results.


Shutter Speed good copy6. Shutter Speed

Fast shutter speeds freeze shots while slower ones allow for blurring (including shoddy shots from handshake if you don’t steady your hand or use a tripod). This shot was taken at Monks Cowl in the Berg. I placed my camera on a tripod and set my shutter speed at two seconds to blur the water and give a sense of movement. If you don’t have a tripod on hand, balance your camera on something like a rock. You can also use the peak of your cap on a rock to support your lens.

7. Slow Down and Smell the Flowers

It’s easy to miss the small things in life but fortunately I know these particular soft corals are a favourite habitat for the longnose hawkfish, so I took a closer look. Not only was this little fella camouflaged but only about 3cm long, so not easy to spot let alone photograph. Macro is fairly unforgiving when it comes to focusing, and on this occasion it was made twice as difficult by surge, so I set the aperture at f8 to make sure the fish was sharp, without worrying too much about the coral in the background.

Longnose Hawkfish

8. Scaling Images

If there’s nothing to scale a shot you will lose the impact of the image, especially when using a wide-angle lens. So turn on the charm and ask your willing hiking buddies to hop into the picture to emphasise the size of a place, in this case the magnificent Wolfberg Cracks of the Cederberg.


Fancy yourself a photographer? Then consider entering our Image Club photography competition. You could stand a chance of winning a Burblepix voucher as well as having your photo published in our magazine. Show us what the countryside looks like from your eyes and submit your entry today.

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