Better Photography Takes More Than A Fancy Camera.

I my latest article for the New England Photography Guild I share a few tips on how to take your photography past the snap-shot and on to creating beautiful and compelling photographs.  

None of the tips involves buying any new gear, except maybe an alarm clock. 😉

Snap-shot, Mad River Falls

Hand-held, snap-shot. Camera on full auto setting.

Mad River Falls, Farmington, NH

Tripod mounted and set to Manual. Quite a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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47 thoughts on “Better Photography Takes More Than A Fancy Camera.

    • Thanks. You don’t need a big heavy DSLR. There are quite a few great advanced P&S style cameras that are capable of shooting in aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual control. All in a packets that will fit in your coat pocket. If you’re ever in the market take a look at the Canon G series cameras. I have a friend that uses one and I get a little jealous of how little she carries with her while out taking photos.

      • Thanks for the recommendation! I have a Nikon Coolpix 30X which actually does a fantastic job as a point & shoot as far as color and light balance goes. It only takes baby steps as far as manual options with a +/-2 for exposure. But – it does fit in a coat pocket or fanny pack and causes me just minimal pain if I use it for too long. I’ll have to check out the Canon G’s when I’m ready for a next one.

  1. Loved the article and I can see you were doing some shooting in my heighborhood (Baxter Lake & Mad River). The pondicherry photos were fantastic. Good luck with getting the one you are after.

    • The short answer is yes. All of my images, with the exception of the most awful full auto shot are enhanced in Lightroom and one or more of the Nik plugins. Nothing major, boost saturation and contrast a bit, set white balance, and a few other little tweeks. I’m not afraid to say my images are all “Photoshopped” to a degree.

      I do whatever I feel the image needs to best realize my interpretation of what I actually saw.

        • Excellent. In my opinion the press of the shutter is only the beginning. Unless you’re looking for a photojournalistic or documentary style of photograph a photo isn’t done until I’ve worked my magic on it.

  2. Definitely agree! I’m so happy to have learned to use my camera on manual settings… I’m still missing the tripod but I’m happy to have mastered some great shots of running water your way sometimes… will show you soon! 😉

    Thanks again for all the good advice.

  3. I’ve been trying to figure out how to take photos of running water like this for a while now.. I’d forgotten about it for a bit, but this post reminded me again. Do you really only need the camera to be completely still to get the water to appear that way in the 2nd picture? If so, I wish I had known this a while ago. I’ll definitely be reading the article you posted about in reply to Colline’s comment 🙂

    • You need two things to capture flowing water looking like this. A steady camera and a slow shutter speed. Start with at least a .5 second exposure time, and go up from there until you get the look you’re after. Of course you’ll have to play around with aperture too in order to maintain a good exposure.

      A few other tips I can offer. A circular polarizer will do wonders for removing reflections from the water and help saturate the colors a bit. I never photograph waterfalls or running streams without one.

      Probably the most important tip I can offer though is to shoot either early or late in the day when there is no sun on the white water. Or on an overcast day. Having the water partially in the bright sunlight is going to cause you nothing but headaches when it comes to getting a good exposure. You’ll end up with either the water in the sun looking the way you want, and the rest of the scene way underexposed. Or the scene looking great and the water a blown out white blob. Of the two choices I’ll try for an overcast day to give me more time to experiment with compositions.

      Good luck, I hope that helps 🙂

    • Oh, and please do read that article. Hopefully I’ve explained the settings on the camera in a way that’s clear and easy to read. And of course helpful too. 😉

  4. I will need to check out your article you referred to in the first comment as I have just recently started shooting completely manual whenever time permits. I’m still quite the amateur with a passion for photography. You have beautiful photos and am looking forward to following your work and learning from you.

    • Thank you and please do. I hope that and other articles I’ve written for them(soon to be published) prove to be helpful. Also, my door is always open, if you have questions I’m happy to answer them.

  5. OK. Use a tripod (which I admit I don’t because I get embarrassed) and set the camera to manual – but what settings? I have tried to capture slow water by changing the aperture, but always end up with the photo being overexposed. I’d love to take better photos, but when ever I try to use manual settings they turn out worse than using auto. Sigh!
    Jude xx

    • The settings will vary with the light level. That’s the short answer.

      To make it easier I strongly suggest photographing moving water in full shade, early/late in the day, or on an overcast day. If you’ve got bright sunlight hitting the water anywhere in the frame it’s going to give you a great big headache as far as exposure is concerned, so try to avoid such mixed lighting conditions if you can.

      Now I’ll share what works for me as far as camera settings. My aperture is usually somewhere between f11-f16. If I’m shooting on manual I’ll set the camera on spot meter, meter the brightest part of the whitewater and set the shutter speed so the meter in the viewfinder shows 1 1/2 – 2 stops overexposed, recompose and then take a test shot. On my camera, a Canon 7D, I also have the preview set to also show the histogram. That way I know right off if I have any blown highlights on the water(histogram bunched up to the right). I also have the overexposure “blinkies” warning enabled so any overexposed areas will blink. I’ll then adjust shutter speed accordingly based on the test exposure.

      My goal is at least a 1/2 second exposure, but it also depends on how fast the water is flowing. Really fast water doesn’t need as long an exposure as slower moving water does to get that silky look.

      I hope that helps. If you’d like more information, or have other questions, please don’t hesitate to click on contact and shoot me an email. I’m happy to help.

      • Many thanks for this Jeff. I shall start practising and see what results I get. I guess the moral is that you really have to get to understand your camera settings. I’m a bit lazy in that aspect, plus I only have a bridge camera, but I need to understand how to use it on manual settings before I venture into anything more expensive.AND I need to get out there early in the day!

        • Yes, if you’re camera has the ability to shoot on either manual or one of the semi-auto modes like aperture priority, you’ll get a lot more out of it. The full auto setting can work, but usually it wants to set a fast enough shutter speed to freeze an movement in the shot.

          Most important, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading until the camera is holding you back and not the other way around. By that I mean, as you stated you still need to learn to use what you have. Which really isn’t all that hard once you set your mind to it. Once you’ve reached the limits of the camera, or you have a wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket, then it might be time to upgrade. But if by “bridge camera” you mean an advanced point and shoot you may never need to upgrade. A good photographer friend uses a Canon G-series camera, a G11 I believe, and her photos are outstanding and she has no desire to lug around a heavy DSLR.

  6. Its’ quite a difference, that’s for sure. I always carry my Canon Ixus 130 point&shoot camera with me and the camera could have been so much better if it was only possible to get RAW files from it.

    • I agree, RAW would be a great addition to and P&S. My iPhone is always with me as well, and even though it doesn’t shoot RAW it does allow me to record something to potentially revisit with my “real” camera.

        • As I feel the cell phone camera is killing the P&S anyway, that’s where I’d like to see future RAW support. I’m not usually quick to upgrade my iPhone as soon as the newest version comes out, if they added RAW I’d be first in line at the nearest Apple store 🙂

          • I’m not quick either, because I still have an old flip phone! I don’t like the photos from phones – I estimate that 98% of what I’ve seen online of phone photos so far has been of poor quality.

            • I’ve got some great photos with my iPhone. I think the problem with most cell phone photos is that proper technique flies right out the window when people are using their phones. Good composition and a steady hand go a long way.

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