10 great tips


1. Aim to get a “set” of photographs that tell the story — big scenes, portraits, quirky details.

2. Set your camera on its highest resolution. There’s nothing worse than getting a fantastic shot and the file is too small to do much with.

3. Fill the frame. Look around all four edges of the viewfinder and make sure you have packed the frame tight. Invariably you can “move a bit closer” and make a picture better.

4. Look at the background (make sure telegraph poles aren’t growing out of people’s heads).

5. The rule of thirds is a good basic composition technique. Imaginary lines divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically and you place important elements of the composition where they cross.

6. When shooting portraits, make sure your camera focuses on the subject’s iris. The eye needs to be sharp.

7. Don’t forget to talk to people when you are photographing them. The more they relate to you, the more they will appear to be relaxed and “themselves” in the picture. And don’t pose people in awkward places or positions. Take note of their usual body language and posture, and use it. Let them be what they are.

8. Get used to manipulating your camera’s light meter, with the camera set on P. Move the camera slightly and “lock it off”, or zoom in and get a reading on the actual subject matter.

9. Depth of field is very important — this is how much is sharp in front of and behind the spot you have focused on. Most compact cameras have short-cut ways to use this — read the manual.

10. Keep notes. You will always need captions, or title sheets, for photographs long after you may have forgotten exactly where and when you took them and who is in them. Write captions when you download your pictures, relating them to the file number.


I paddled out in a canoe at Crossing Pool, in Millstream-Chichester National Park on the Fortescue River. As the evening shadows were creeping up the birds were moving up to stay in the sun, and then I noticed them start to fly when they were caught in the shade. At some point, I thought they would all go. I had the camera set and kept remeasuring the light, making sure I was going to exposure for the sun on the birds and not the shade on the trees.

Do this by looking up and using the exposure lock button, if you have one. When they eventually flew, I just concentrated on holding still, and the shapes in the sky.



My friend Pramod Pandey works on trains in India. I wanted a picture of him but, rather than just a rubbishy snap, I worked out the idea of him standing on the red carpet by the train and asked him if he’d be in it, and arranged to photograph it the next day. When we stepped out to do it, these trunks had been left there, helping to make the picture. But the moral behind this image is that the formal portrait is alive and well, and it’s a good exercise to go through with your friends and family. Ask them, set it up, take the pictures, build a portfolio and your portraiture skills.


Sometimes . . . well, just be bold. I like “details” in my sets and in this picture of a homemade capo on a guitar in Sepang Goldcoast, in Selangor, Malaysia, you don’t need to see the full guitar.


“Look up, look down, look long, look short” — that helps to give you a true portfolio of photographs. This is me looking down towards the end of the wet season in the Kimberley. I composed it to include both the dry, curly mud, but also the smooth section top right, to give textural contrast. I really concentrated on holding the camera still to make sure it was super sharp.


This portrait took about an hour to take. I stood against the wall in the old fish souk in Muscat, in Oman, until people were comfortable with my presence . . . until I felt comfortable taking pictures. This is a fish seller with his day’s wares. I like the whole “environment” contained within the picture.


In photographing birds, like this southern carmine bee eater in Botswana, the big issue is exposure . . . small bird against bright sky. For this, I was underexposing by “two stops” — I set the camera permanently on this. Generally with birds, I use A1 Servo — a good setting to follow and focus, with predictive autofocusing.


Look for some clue which gives away the scale of a landscape. Here, in the Hajar Mountains in Oman, I set up (in the searing heat), with the camera on a tripod, all set up with the mountain and the track. Then I waited for the vehicle . . . which gives away the scale.


The smoother you can pan the camera with a subject, the slower you can shoot, and the more blurred the background looks, the more creativity you can exert. This picture was taken at the horseraces on the island of Sumba in Indonesia, with a 24-105mm zoom lens at 105mm, at 1/640th of a second and ISO 640. Moving smoothly and precisely with the subject, I was really watching for good shapes in the horses’ legs and manes. It is cropped to get nice balance.


While some pictures are thoughtfully composed and somewhat polished, we want a sense of a city’s everyday life in our portfolio, too. Here, we are in the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka, just shooting pictures out of a minibus window (at 1/500th of a second and panning to keep it sharp). I like the sense of the “moment caught” — the cycles, the umbrella, the light on the man in the foreground.


Having a low f-stop setting reduced the depth of field at the ruins of Zvartnots Church, Yerevan, Armenia — making the poppy stand out, and offering more sense of story and mystery. (cover picture)


© The West Australian