What it takes to have a decent snapshot
You’ve body surfed in Bondi beach and scaled the Japanese Alps. What do you have to show for it? Grainy, over exposed photos?
Quite often we would encounter the above situation when taking a picture or the situation is not ideal for photographing. In any case, the picture turns out to be non perfect even the situation appears to be perfect for a snapshot.
In the following paragraphs, we would learn how to be on the right time and right spot to capture that precious moment.
Be on time or early or arrive at the right time!
If we had arrived an hour late, the lamb roasting on the pit would’ve been reduced to a skeleton.
“It’s good that we got here before the crowd built up – the vendors are still setting up their stalls and the food is untouched, so it makes for a better photo,” said photographer Kevin Tan Hong Tatt, as we took shots of the Ramadan Bazaar in Section 14, Petaling Jaya.
“The same rule applies when you travel,” he added. “Work out your trip ahead so you don’t miss out on what you would love to see and experience.”
Know your equipment
While most point-and-shoot cameras are idiot-proof, they don’t guarantee a compelling photo.
“Devour the owner’s manual before you experiment with the settings and flash so that you don’t fumble around when you chance upon a worthy scene,” said Tan.
“In automatic mode, many of the compacts don’t pick the best exposure for a low-light situation, so learn to use the manual mode to get more control over the shot.”
Sidestep the postcard-like photos, and try different approaches to show you were there – photos of the bug bites on your back, for example; a hotel that looks more like a hut, your companion haggling with a tuk-tuk driver, billboards in a foreign language etc.
Unforgiving weather? Use it to your advantage.
“If it’s dark and stormy, make the pictures look brooding and dramatic to add attitude to your picture collection.”
Toy with angles
Pictures, opined Tan, are more eye-catching when you capture them from a fresh perspective.
“You don’t always need to see eye to eye when shooting. To make something appear larger-than-life, get low and point up. Or you could try moving a few steps to the side or stand on a chair and shoot down.”
Get in the habit of seeing how a scene looks in the LCD.
“Are there people walking in and out of the shot? Garbage cans lying around? Cars driving past? Wait until the coast is clear or take the photo from a different angle,” said Tan.
Get up close
To make pictures appear bolder, fill the frames.
“Sure, you can crop later but why waste perfectly good pixels? By getting close, you reveal intimate details like the wrinkles on an old man’s face and the texture of a garment.
A wide angle photo of a church will look great but don’t ignore the smaller details. Zoom in on the beautiful stained glass.”
The built-in flash is useful but can be harsh and unflattering. To get a brighter picture without flash, Tan suggests using exposure compensation, a larger aperture or higher ISO. The flash is not entirely useless, though.
“Outdoors, it helps to fill in shadows when you have both shaded and sun-lit objects in the same scene,” he pointed out.
Taking night scenes using flash will make people in the foreground appear shiny, and the background dark.
“Move the subject under a light source and see how it turns out in the viewfinder. Prop the camera on a tripod and use a self-timer to capture the shot.
“If you don’t have a tripod, lean against the wall or any solid surface, and hold your breath, literally if you must, to keep the camera still.”
Strike up a conversation with the farmer about his orchard, the shopkeeper or the bus conductor. They will probably oblige you with a pose once you’ve made contact. Make them respond to your queries, and as they do, click away.
“I like to hold the camera away from my eyes but still directed towards the subject and snap when they’re distracted so the subject is looser and warmer,” said Tan.
For close-ups, always ask for permission.
“Kids, especially, are normally delighted to have their photo taken, and you get the shot you want.”
Anticipate when the picture-perfect moment will surface, and be ready.
“If you have a digital camera that suffers from a bit of a delay when taking pictures, then you will have to become even more intuitive at anticipating the moment,” said Tan.
Scribble down the narratives, date and time of the pictures you’ve taken to jog your memory when all is done. And don’t forget to look beyond the lens from time to time – the sunset will never look as good on camera as it does in person.