Photography tips

Getting close to wildlife

Using a long lens means that you don’t need to get as physically close to a wild animal as you would otherwise, but understanding the subject and fieldcraft are more important than camera equipment. Wear rustle-free clothing that breaks up your shape; make sure your outline doesn’t break the skyline; and approach mammals with the wind in your face so your scent isn’t carried towards them.

Long exposures

Yes, long-exposure seascapes have been done to death – but, done well, a bit of blur in the water and sky can still go a long way to lifting a coastal composition. Getting a shutter speed slow enough to achieve the effect in bright light requires a strong ND filter. If you’re using a square filter system, check that the filter is in the slot nearest the lens, and ensure the viewfinder is shielded. Use mirror lock-up or Live View to prevent vibrations and fire the shutter with a remote release.

Part of a team

Wedding and commercial photographer Kate Hopewell-Smith says: "Learning to direct and pose are key skills for any people photographer, but successful portraiture is down to teamwork. The photographer needs to give energy and enthusiasm – but so does the subject, or the results will not be as successful as they should be."

Use a preset white balance

Your camera’s auto white balance setting will attempt to neutralise strong colour casts, but setting a preset that matches the light source can give better results. You can also use an ‘incorrect’ white balance creatively: try the Shade setting to add warmth to a sunset, for example, or Tungsten/Incandescent to cool down a daylight scene. Read more: Cheat sheet – White balance presets

Shoot into the light

Shooting into the light can produce dramatic results, although you need to be conscious of lens flare. If you have square filters in place you’ll have to ditch the lens hood, so be prepared to shield the front of the lens with a hand or hat held out of the frame

Shoot in the blue hour

Twilight, or ‘the blue hour’ as it’s sometimes referred to, is a great time of the day to shoot cityscapes and floodlit architecture, as the sky will have some colour instead of being an empty black void. Not only does this look more interesting, it also makes for more balanced exposures.

Pan with action

Moving the camera at the same speed as a moving object means the subject will remain in the same position in the frame and will be recorded sharply. Experiment with the shutter speed: the slower the shutter speed, the more the background will blur, conveying greater speed.

Double-check the background

Details in the background can take viewers’ attention from the main subject. They don’t have to be obvious colourful road signs: even the out-of-focus line of the horizon will be a distraction if it runs directly behind a person’s head. For clean shots, look for clear backgrounds that are well separated from the subject. Darker backdrops tend to work better than bright ones, but be mindful of patches of bright sky through trees.

Develop an eye for abstracts

The middle of the day, during the non-magic hours like the golden hour and the blue hour, is often a great time to go looking for abstracts to shoot. With an abundance of light, you’re less likely to need a tripod, and the hard light can be used to accentuate shadow, form, texture and tone. Alternatively, head out on overcast days, when the sky acts like a giant softbox, making it easy to pick out fine details.

Choose good shoes

Don’t underestimate the importance of comfy shoes. Whether you’re pounding the cobbles in pursuit of street photography or chasing the light in the hills, you’ll be more inclined to walk farther and shoot for longer if your feet aren’t sore. Waterproof boots or Wellingtons are a must for shooting at the coast or when you’re photographing a waterfall, where the best views typically involve getting your feet wet.