Developing a Negative Attitude: 10 Ways to Use Negative Space in Photography

Negative space is filled with possibility. You just need to know how to frame it. There are 10 fundamental ways negative space can be used to create a masterpiece (and steal the show from the subject). How many do you use? 

Make shapes

Our brains are hard-wired to create patterns out of what we see. 

Negative space is an effective tool that can be used to create striking patterns ranging from the familiar to the abstract. In this shot, negative space has been used to frame the sky in a star shape, providing not only a tonal but a textural contrast in the process.

Create direction

Negative space has an amazing ability to direct the eye from a standstill. 

By simply leaving open space around the telegraph pole (pictured), the eye is directed up, down and along the diagonal, which in turn creates a sense of movement. 

The direction of lines and how much space you surround them with can greatly alter your shot. For example, vertical lines with minimal negative space might convey grandeur, while horizontal lines with a generous amount of space may be used to convey tranquillity or modesty.

Create movement

Negative space can be enlisted to create something called active space.

In the black and white image above, active space has been positioned behind the subject to signal direction and create a sense of anticipation for the viewer.

As an experiment, imagine if the subject was out of frame entering vast space, as opposed to out of frame making an exit from it. A totally different feeling, right?

Play with scale

Altering scale within an image is one of the most popular ways people use negative space — and for good reason. It’s an easy way to make something look spectacular. 

In this shot, the scale and sense of hierarchy between the people, mountains and the man-made structure are playfully subverted, with all of them seeming insignificant in relation to the sky.

Cast a spotlight

The subject is the subject for a reason. 

In no way playing second fiddle, negative space can be used to draw attention to the subject, either by eliminating distractions from the scene or by providing contrast. In addition, negative space has this beautiful ability to give the subject ‘room to breathe’.

Evoke emotion

Yes, all images evoke certain emotions, and yes, space plays a key role in their delivery. 

Lots of it might suggest, quality, tidiness, isolation, freedom or elitism. Less of it might suggest congestion, unity, balance or routine.

 In the image pictured, do you feel a sense of loneliness? Or liberty?

Add contrast

The relationship between the subject and the space surrounding it is often most harmonious when they are inset in stark contrast.

Take the above image for example. Even if you removed all the colour, the contrast would still be the main visual agent of impact.

Provide context

If you want to tell a story, context is key.

By using negative space to inform the viewer of the world in which your subject resides, you are able to create a richer narrative and add a layer of complexity to your shot.

Bring balance

When we talk about balance, we are referencing the relationship between negative space and positive space—the subject or details that stand out. Above, the autumn leaves are the positive space and the background scenery, the negative space.

Familiar with the rule of thirds? It’s a good rule of thumb for balance.

It states that you need twice as much negative space as positive space to create a visually engaging image. Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and playing around with this ratio is a great way to add or subdue visual drama in frame.

Accommodate text

It’s a practical thing really.

If you want your images to be versatile enough to be used in advertising or editorial, leaving enough room for something like a headline is important. A beautiful image that caters for copy? That’s what stock image searchers are always on the hunt for.

Want to feel more positive about your photography skills? Sign up to our ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ course today and learn from one of the world’s most-awarded travel photographers.

Morocco in 9 Days: The Recommended Travel Photography Itinerary

Morocco is a true journey of contrast and discovery. However, with so much to discover, figuring out how to fit everything in can be as stressful as navigating the bazaars of Marrakesh. Fear not, our travel photography itinerary has been carefully compiled to give you the complete Moroccan experience in just 9 days.

Trip highlights

  • Capture culturally-rich Fes
  • Traverse up and down the Atlas Mountains
  • Walk the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Discover Morocco’s iconic oasis at Skoura
  • Visit the exotic and well-preserved kasbah of Ait Benhaddou
  • Wake up to the Saharan sunrise
  • Photograph the gardens, mosques, palaces and souqs of Marrakesh
  • Explore colourful and lively markets and medinas

Getting around

Moroccan public transport conveniently connects most major towns with plenty of buses and collective taxis linking everywhere in between. However, if you want to do it in 9 days, we recommend getting a rental car (with or without a driver) for better, quicker access to your destinations.

Camera Gear

If you aren’t taking any ‘speciality’ shots e.g. long distance wildlife shots, we highly recommend taking two lenses that will cover almost every angle. Your time is better spent focussing on Morocco and less on what you have to lug around.

Etiquette

  • Photography
    In general, you should be careful about taking photos of Moroccans as some feel uncomfortable being photographed. Follow the rules to photographing locals.
  • Greetings
    Handshakes are followed by lightly touching your heart with your right hand.
    Note: Men should wait for Moroccan women to offer handshakes.
  • Attire
    Both sexes should dress to cover their shoulders. Outside the cities, where people are more conservative, even above-the knees shorts may be seen as inappropriate.
  • Eating
    The left hand is considered unclean as it is used for toilet ‘tasks’. Don’t handle food with your left hand, particularly if eating from a communal dish such as a tajine.
  • Mosques
    Most mosques in Morocco do not allow non-muslim visitors to enter, however, photos shot from the outside are allowed.

Day 1: Casablanca and Fes

View of Hassan II mosque’s big gate reflected on fountain water

Half a day in Casablanca is plenty of time to get your senses acclimated to the Moroccan way of life. Before continuing on to day two in Fes, stretch your legs and check out:

  • Hassan II mosque
    The second largest mosque in the world
  • The Old Medina
    The old city district with Maze-like alleyways and shops
  • La Corniche
    Casablanca’s beachfront districtDay

Drive to the next stop (without stops): 3-4 hours

Day 2: Fes

View over the old city of Fes el-Bali from Merenid Tombs at dusk. Captured by Richard I’Anson

Fes is made up of three sections:

  • Ville Nouvelle
    The French-created modern section with chic cafe-lined avenues.
  • Fes el-Bali
    The original Medina and one of the largest living medieval cities in the world.
  • Fes el-Jdid

In 1976 UNESCO declared Fes el-Bali one of the world’s cultural treasures; the palaces, mosques, medressas and fountains are among the most beautiful in Morocco.

The colours and aromas of the olive and spice stores mixed in with communal bakeries and the mysterious perfume shops are just some of the delights that make this journey through the ancient alleyways a memorable experience.

Chouara tannery is also worth a visit to watch the dying of leathers.

Day 3: Midelt

Barbary macaques or Barbary apes photographed on a misty day in Ifrane National Park in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. The endangered species are unique for being the only macaque living outside of Asia. Captured by Richard I’Anson

Wake up to a trip through the Atlas Cedar forest for your opportunity to see panoramic views of the Middle Atlas Mountains, lakes and Berber villages; as well as encounters with nomadic Berber families and Barbary apes if you’re lucky.

With another 4-hour drive still ahead of you, we suggest heading off and making your way to Midelt before dark. Be sure to get some quality shut-eye!

Drive to the next stop: 4 hours

Day 4: Merzouga

Details of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco. Captured by Richard I’Anson

An early start is required for the long drive to Erg Chebbi, Merzouga. Pass through the agricultural regions of northern Morocco, the fertile plains in the foothills of the Middle Atlas and the quaint town of Timahdite. Beyond Timahdite lies a completely barren plateau reminiscent of a lunar landscape pitted with small volcanic craters, the largest of which is Sidi Ali, an immense lake bordered by steep cliffs.  

From there, continue on past palm-fringed towns to Erfoud, and to the sand dunes at Erg Chebbi. Here, the deep orange-hued dunes of the vast Sahara stretch for miles and present the travel photographer with sights you have to see to believe.

Drive to the next stop: 4-5 hours

Day 5: Todra Gorge

We know you’ve already had a few early rises, but we strongly recommend you rise before dawn to experience the amazing colours of a Saharan sunrise. En route to the spectacular Todra Gorgea trench of gigantic rock walls that change colour and run through the High Atlas Mountains—visit some of Morocco’s greatest antiquities or the kasbahs of the eastern slopes of the High Atlas (i.e. the market in Rissani).

Drive to the next stop: 3-4 hours

Day 6: Skoura Oasis


Dades Gorge is a gorge of Dades River in Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The Dades Gorge depth is from 200 to 500 meters

Skoura is one of Morocco’s most beautiful oases and offers you a chance to rest your weary feet and enjoy the abundance of unique nature. After you have soaked in all you can of the oasis, make your way to the fortified village of Ait Benhaddou.

Consider stopping over and visiting:

  • The Dades Gorge
  • Rose Valley
  • Jebel Sahro
  • Road of a Thousand Kasbahs

Drive to the next stop: 3 hours

Day 7: Ait Benhaddou

First light on the 11th century ksar that has featured in many films including Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator & more recently Game of Thrones, Ait Benhaddou, Morocco. Captured by Richard I’Anson

Ait Benhaddou, the most exotic and best preserved Kasbah in the entire Atlas area, is a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco. Used as a set for Game of Thrones, the old earthen structures are also one of Morocco’s World Heritage Sites.

Drive to the next stop: 1 hour

Day 8 & 9: Marrakesh

View over Djemaa el-Fna toward Koutoubia Mosque, as the square comes alive at dusk with street performers & food stalls, Marrakech, Morocco. Captured by Richard I’Anson

Leave the arid desert area and cross the High Atlas Mountains to arrive in Marrakesh late in the afternoon. Framed by the snowy heights of the Atlas Mountains and thousand-year-old palm groves, Marrakesh has a profound impact on all that visit it.

To discover the soul of Marrakesh, photograph gardens, mosques, palaces, and souks of the old Medina before reaching the humming centre of Marrakesh: Djemaa el-Fna. The atmosphere of this square is overwhelming with its jumble of food stalls, snake charmers, fortune- and storytellers and the wide variety of people that flock to its attractions.

After you have a well-earned rest, perhaps with some Maghrebi mint tea, be sure to return at night when the square really comes alive.

Make sure you pack the right skills and know-how for your Moroccan adventure. Sign up to our ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ course today and learn from one of the world’s most-awarded travel photographers.

Shooting the Dark Side of Tokyo: 10 Night Photography Spots

When the sun sets in Tokyo, the city blinks neon and takes on a new identity—one that leads you to lantern-lit alleyways, unexplored vantage points and shots unseen in the daylight. Here are our 10 favourite Tokyo spots for night photography shots.


The Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow bridge connects Tokyo to the man-made island of Odaiba. Powered by solar energy, the bridge’s light show changes with the seasons and special occasions, with its signature rainbow colours on display in December.

It only takes around 20–30 minutes to cross the Rainbow Bridge on foot and is a great way to get a different angle of the Tokyo skyline and explore the less frequented Odaiba.

Location: Minato City, Tokyo 105-0000, Japan

The Soho Odaiba

The Soho is definitely one for the gram.

A collaborative workspace in Odaiba, The Soho offers captivating architectural facets that look great during the day, but stunning during the night. Featuring 13 floors of rainbow coloured doors, The Soho is a must-see if you’re crossing the bridge and on the hunt for some unique architectural shots.

Location: 2 Chome-7-4 Aomi, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan

Sensoji Temple

Sensoji is one of the most famous and photographed of Tokyo’s temples, but its true majesty doesn’t reveal itself until after dark. Slow shutter-speeders will enjoy the dramatically-lit Buddhist temple and five-story pagoda in the heart of the history-rich Asakusa.

Location: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

Tokyo Disneyland

Bright lights. Smiling faces. Nostalgia in motion. The iconic theme park has all the ingredients you need for a magical night shoot. Sunshine and motion sickness during the day. Snapshots and motion blur during the night.

Location: 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba 279-0031, Japan

Shibuya

Shibuya might just be the most well-recognised ward in Tokyo. The centre for youth fashion and culture, Shibuya is painted in neon glory and offers the eyes a sensory experience too good not to be caught on camera.

Once you’ve taken your obligatory Shibuya crossing snap, stray from the path and go get lost amongst the small neighbourhoods, such as Nonbei Yokocho, to explore and shoot Tokyo’s energetic nightlife.

Location: Shibuya

Tokyo Station

Servicing major JR and Shinakansen train lines, Tokyo Station is a grand, red brick building that gets beautifully lit in the evening. Said to be based on the design of Amsterdam Centraal Station in the Netherlands, the iconic facade is a must for your Tokyo photo collection.

Location: 1 Chome Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Metro Government Building

Known simply as “Tocho” in Japanese, The Tokyo Metro Government Building is the centre of government for all 23 wards of Tokyo and also serves as a giant city hall.

An unbeatable view can be had from the 45th-floor observation decks (North and South observatory) which both close at 11pm.

Location: 2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan

Shinjuku

A buzzing playground that stays up around the clock, Shinjuku is bursting at the seams with things to shoot. Shinjuku station sees millions of commuters bustle to and fro daily, moving between countless cafes, bars and skyscrapers.

Bathed in neon, the area of Kabukicho—Tokyo’s red light district— is a favourite among nighttime photographers and midnight revellers.

Location: Shinkuju

Omoide Yokochu

Literally translated to “Memory Lane”, Omoide Yokochu is a bustling alleyway that is home to small wooden stalls and izakaya stands. Masked by the smoke and scent of grilled yakitori, the iconic laneway is a tantalising treat for the senses.

Location: 1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

Golden Gai

A true gem of Tokyo, Golden Gai is a fragment of old Tokyo that miraculously thrives among the commercial and entertainment district of Shinjuku.

Golden Gai consists of tiny, narrow alleyways lined by almost 200 boutique bars, each catering to their own specific clientele. Despite its appearance, this tiny corner of the city is actually warm and friendly. Just be sure to look out for signs that do not permit photography.

Location: 1 Chome-1-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

Heading on a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun? Make sure you have the skills to snap awesome photos while abroad in Japan. Sign up to our ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ today and learn from one of the world’s most-awarded travel photographers.

Cover Every Angle: The Only 2 Travel Photography Lenses You Need

Well, almost every angle. We don’t mean to be misleading, but unless you’re capturing wildlife from a mile away or shooting macro underwater, these two lenses are the only ones you need to confidently capture 99% of your travel pics.


Considerations

Type of travel

Everyone travels different. Everyone shoots differently. You’re going to want a couple of drama-free lenses that can keep up with you, your itinerary and your subjects.

Weight

The adage “ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain” is used in basic training by the US Marine Corps. The same truth applies when packing for your travel photography trips. Camera stuff is heavy so only carry what you need, not what you might need. (Put that telephoto lens down and step away.)

Versatility

Travel photography presents infinite subjects and angles to explore from people to landscapes to architecture. You don’t know what you’re going to see and as a result, a lens (or two) that is as versatile as possible in terms of zoom, size and lens speed is worth investigating and worth investing in.


24-70mm: The most versatile zoom lens

Recommended: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

All-in-one versatility

This is the ultimate all-in-one, do-it-all lens. The 24-70mm is a standard zoom lens that can capture the majority of the shots you want. You can easily shift from wide angle for landscapes to close-ups for perfect portraits—without changing lenses.

All-round capability

Although not quite a macro lens, the 24-70mm is more than capable of taking high quality close-ups and offers an impressive depth of field for you to play around with. It’s low light capabilities also ensure your opportunities and image quality don’t go down when the sun does.

Build and size

Generally speaking, most 24-70mm lenses are built to withstand the odd bump and bruise here and there. Relatively short in length and manageable in heft, 24-70mm won’t be a burden to your neck or shoulders and can easily be stowed in whatever bag you’re toting.

Alternative: The 24-105mm

Just as spectacularly versatile as its more popular cousin, the 24-105mm lens offers similar image quality and shoot capabilities for about the same price (depending on what model you choose). The only difference is that it offers 35mm extra focal length. Up to you if that extra length is worth the extra weight.


35mm: The perfect prime lens

Recommended: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

Superior image quality

One of the most significant advantages of a prime lens over a zoom is better
image quality due to the fact that they don’t have extra glass inside their body
that zoom lenses require. What it lacks in zoom versatility, it makes up in
sharpness.

Shot versatility

Just because it doesn’t have the ability to zoom, doesn’t mean it’s not versatile.
The 35mm is versatile enough to deliver on both impressive wide angle and close-up shots with low light capabilities that make it great for indoors and outdoors.

One of its signature features is that it allows you to capture your subject relative to its environment. A person walking in their neighbourhood. A house in the forest. It is this ability of the 35mm, painting a complete story with context, that
makes it a favoured travel companion.  

Build and size

It’s got to be one of the smallest, lightest lens types around. It’s compact size not only makes it a dream to carry, but also allows you to blend in a little better than your telephoto-wielding counterparts.

Price

For the most part, prime lenses are cheaper than their zoom lenses of the same entry level. Sharper images at half the size and often half the price? You do the maths.

Interaction with subject

Although zoom lenses are convenient, they can often rob you of a level of intimacy with your subject that only a prime lens like the 35mm can arrange. And it shows in the shot. The 35mm forces you to move to get your perfect shot, often requiring you to get up close and personal with your subject.

Not only does this enrich your travel and travel photography experience, but gives you a unique angle of the world that perhaps many miss.

Alternative: The 50mm

The debate between the best prime lens, 35mm vs 50mm, is a debate with no winners. With its extra 15mm focal length, the ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm offers you slightly better depth of field than the 35 mm—which means better bokeh (background blur).

Now you know what lenses you need, it’s time to learn how to use them. Sign up to ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ today and learn all the knowledge and know-how you need from one of the world’s most-awarded travel photographers.

The Not-Quite-A–Beginner’s Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights

No two auroras are alike. Similarly, guides to photographing them.
Some of them are too basic, others, too technical. If you’re not quite a seasoned pro, but know you’re way around an f-stop, this is the right guide for you — less of the stuff you already know, more of the stuff you need to know.


Hamnoy, Norway

Before you even get started

We can’t stress enough how important it is to know your equipment before heading up there — and we don’t just mean your camera. If you have to figure out what this camera setting means or what that thingy on the tripod does, you’re in for a very frustrating morning. Get well acquainted with your gear now, enjoy a stress-free shoot later.

Where to go

The Northern lights can be seen from all the countries within the ‘aurora zone’ in the Northern Hemisphere. The closer you are to this region, the better your odds of catching those spectacular visions in the sky.

The best places include:

  • Alaska
  • Northern Canada
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Russia
  • Greenland

However, they can also be seen from:

  • Faroe Islands
  • Estonia
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • China

Bet you never associated Aurora Borealis with China, right?


When to go

First and foremost, there is no guarantee you will see the Northern Lights. It sucks, but that’s just the nature of, well, nature. The best season to see the Northern Lights does depend on where you go, but in general September to March offers the best chance to see the lights.


What to pack

Warm clothing

You’ll be down the road from Santa’s place — layer up and layer up wisely.

Tripod

We’ve said it before in our sunrise photography checklist, your tripod is the foundation of all late night/early morning photography.

You’ll be setting up 10–20 second exposures so ensure you have sturdy, shake-free one. If that means investing in a new one, consider how much time, effort and money it’s costing you to get to the Northern Lights. It’s a small price to pay for huge peace of mind.

Camera with Manual Mode

You’ll need full control over your ISO, f-stop and shutter speed.

Full frame / 35mm camera

They provide better overall image quality with lower noise when shooting in low light situations.

Wide angle lens

A quality wide angle lens (14–24mm range) with an aperture setting of f/2.8–f/4.

Batteries

Did you know that the cold drains batteries faster? Pack extra batteries, and then pack a few extra on top just in case.

Remote control

These are technically optional, however, like the tripod, if you’re going all the way up there, why risk even the slightest bit of shake? Both digital and cable remotes are good, however, the cable remotes have been known to freeze in particularly cold conditions.

Torch

The skies might be lit up, but on the ground, you won’t be able to see a thing. In addition to it being a safety and convenience thing, your humble torch or headlamp can be used at a pinch for different camera effects (see below).

Camping chair

This one gets overlooked all the time. Unless you like sitting in the cold wet outdoors, we recommend bringing along a cheap collapsible camping chair.


 

Hamnoy, Norway

What to check

Like all outdoor shoots, you’re at the mercy of the weather. However, if you
do your homework before you head out, you’ll increase your aurora chances
astronomically.

Clear, dark skies

Dark skies shouldn’t be a problem up north in the winter, however, clear skies are far more unpredictable. Be vigilant and check the forecast for overcast mornings as well as rain or windstorms that generally precede clearer skies.

Kp index

Thankfully, there’s something that measures aurora activity. Without getting into the science of it, the Kp index is measured on a scale from 0 to 9, with 9 indicating high aurora activity.

You can still witness and capture some beautiful auroras even when activity is low. Remember, the activity can change within the same morning, so if the lights aren’t glowing to your satisfaction, hopefully, you’ll have some wiggle room in your schedule to wait or try a new location.

Aurora forecasts

Although there are global aurora forecasts like this one. Local and area-specific forecasts are better. For example, Iceland has its own, accurate aurora forecast you can find here.


 

Hamnoy, Norway

Camera settings for the Northern Lights

You’ve packed the right gear, you’ve done your homework and now you’re finally on location staring up at the Northern lights in all its green-lit glory.

So, how do you photograph it?

1. Set focus to

Flick that dial over to ‘M’ and you can get on with the trickiest part of the
Setup — trying to focus on something in the dark. If you don’t get this first
step right, your photos won’t be sharp.

By setting the focus to infinity, we’re basically making sure that your images
are sharp and in focus in the far horizon.

The best way to do this is to focus your camera during the day.
Yes, this might make things slightly inconvenient, but it really is the best way
to ensure your photos come out perfectly in focus.

Thankfully it’s quite easy to do. Switch your lens to Manual Mode, focus on infinity, adjust as needed and then mark your lens in the right position. This can be done with a Sharpie or some tape. Then, when it comes time to shoot, you can simply set your lens in position and fire away.

If you aren’t able to set your focus during the day, then look for distant
bright-lit objects (not auroras) like a house or highway to focus on.

2. Set aperture value at f2.4

Set your aperture as wide as possible. f2.4–f4 is recommended.  

3. Set exposure time to 10–15 sec

Your exposure times will depend on the speed of the auroras. If they’re moving slowly, start with a 12–20 second exposure. For faint auroras, you might need to slow it right down to  20–25 seconds. Conversely, If your subject is fast moving 5–10 seconds might be all you need.

4. Set ISO at 1600

If the auroras are very bright, we recommend shooting at ISO 800, however generally a good value to start at is 1600 and work your way up if it’s darker.

5. Set custom white balance

Shoot RAW. It’s best to capture aurora and night sky shots in Kelvin (K) Mode. 2800–4000K is a good starting point.


BONUS: Taking an ‘Aurora selfie’

What you’ll need:

  • Friend and a flashlight/headlamp OR a manually operated camera flash

Simply use all the suggested settings as above (with adjustments) and stand perfectly still in frame. Then, at any time during the exposure period, get your friend to quickly flash you with the light. That’s it!

Told you that torch would come in handy.

Preparing for an adventure up North? Make sure you pack the right skills and know-how to capture every moment. Sign up to ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ today and learn from one of the world’s most-awarded travel photographers.

Architectural Photography: How to Avoid Cliché Shots

If we had a dollar for every cliché architectural shot, we’d probably have enough to straighten the Tower of Pisa — and relieve tourists of having to prop it up by hand.

Although these kinds of photos help postcard printers, they don’t do you or the architectural landmarks any favours. 

Instead of arriving on location seeking originality, often we’re subconsciously herded to familiar vantage points, replicating what millions have captured before us and reducing our man made marvels to one-dimensional structures.

The world doesn’t need any more of those photos—and either does your portfolio.


Here are 7 ways to avoid capturing those cliché architectural photographs.


Capture them anyway

Like all clichés, there’s truth behind them. ‘Postcard’ shots have been taken over and over again for a reason—they look undeniably good. By getting them over and done with, your inner-tourist satisfied, you now have the freedom to concentrate on finding more creative compositions without being tempted to revisit the clichés. Get them in the bag and out of the way.


Find fresh angles

It doesn’t matter how many times a building has been photographed, there is always another angle. Every architectural structure, iconic or not, holds infinite facets to explore.

  • Form
  • Material
  • Dimension
  • Space
  • Story

If you feel that the architecture doesn’t offer you much variety, don’t forget you have a plethora of options right there in your hand.

Easier said than done we know, but all it really takes is an open mind and time if it’s handy.


Demote the landmark

Original shots can be had even if the main attraction isn’t the star of the show. For example, you want to shoot the Eiffel Tower. To ‘demote’ the landmark, you could:

  • Put it in the background with an unorthodox focal point in the foreground
  • Feature it out of focus or mostly out of frame
  • Allude to its presence through shadow, reflection or tightly cropped features

Demoting the landmark not only arms you with more options, but allows you to capture the surrounding context—environmental, cultural, historical.


Dive into details

God lives there. So do the shots you want. There’s nothing wrong with popping on a wide-angle lens to fit the subject entirely in frame, but getting up close and personal allows you to invite your viewers to peer through a more intimate lens.

Try:

  • Finding patterns e.g The Eiffel Tower’s latticework
  • Cropping well-known details e.g. Sydney Opera House’s tiles
  • Highlighting an inconsistency e.g. a broken window

Embrace lousy weather

There are three reasons why shooting when it’s raining, snowing or whatever-ing outside presents opportunity. For starters, when it’s unpleasant outside, there are fewer people out and about snapping photos, giving you the ability and freedom to take your time and take tourist-free photos.

Secondly, because few are shooting in bad weather, there aren’t many photos of the subject in ‘bad’ weather. This is your chance to get that unique shot.

Lastly, all weather conditions come with their own set of advantages. Overcast can provide you with moody lighting; snow, with wondrous white space; and rain with movement. It’s about seeing the situation as half glass full. (Just be sure to take extra care of your gear.)


Shoot off-peak

Better light and no tourists? No brainer. Lighting in the early morning and early evening aka the golden hour is your best friend everywhere you shoot. The unrivalled colour and warmth of golden light make every subject look stunning and the long shadows give you plenty to play with. It really does pay to get there early or stay back late—that extra bit of effort goes a long way.


Involve more people

Put simply, there is no architecture without people. Exploring the relationship between the two allows you to capture and comment on everything from joy to irony to the political climate. Where there is manmade, there is most likely man, so you won’t be in short supply of shots. Invite them into frame and discover the story waiting to be told.

 

Going on holiday this year? Learn how to properly capture every experience with Canon Master, Richard I’Anson. Sign up to his online class ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ today.

Shooting Sunrises: The 10-Point Checklist

Getting out of bed before the sun itself is a labour of love.

Before you go through all the effort required to find and shoot the perfect sunrise, it pays to write a to-do list.

Thankfully, we’ve written it for you.

☑ Be early

Rise before the shine.

Arriving at your spot 60 minutes before dawn sets you up for sunrise shoot success.

Overkill much?

Fortune favours the well-prepared and one hour prep time isn’t much when you consider:

  •  The very first signs of light aka twilight actually start well before dawn The sun may not be visible, but twilight’s blue-hued lights can produce unique, breathtaking results. Once the sun peeks over the horizon—you’ve missed it.
  • Just because you’re on location, doesn’t mean you’ve found your shot
    Allow time to wander around, frame your perfect shot(s) and adjust for unforeseen changes like cloud cover or rained-out terrain.

☑ Pack a torch

Sunlight isn’t the only light you need to capture.

If you’re following our first point on the checklist, it’s going to be dark when you arrive.

It’s really a practical matter of safety and convenience.

Packing a torch or headlamp means:

  • Avoiding accidents while scouting locations
  • Setting up your gear and camera settings with ease
  • Having a light source for creative effects e.g. light painting

☑ Pack a tripod

It’s the foundation of all good sunrise photography. (Literally.)

Even if you’re not taking long exposure shots or your stabiliser tech is top of the range, a tripod is a must—always.

If you don’t have one, invest in a sturdy, good quality tripod.
Depending on where and when you shoot, consider a tripod that has:

  • A hook under the head that allows you to hang weight to help you steady your shot against wind or uneven terrain
  • Vibration dampening technology to reduce shake
  • The option to attach spiked feet for setups in the dirt, sand or water

☑ Check the weather

Get to know the weatherman.

The success (or failure) of most landscape photography is determined by the weather.

But how can you predict whether a sunrise is going to be good or not?

Part science part luck, it comes down to learning how to translate weather forecasts.

Conditions to take into account include:

  • Cloud cover
    Clouds simply act as the light’s canvas.
    Mid to high-level clouds are the most effective canvases, as they reflect the rising sun’s colours the best.
  • Air purity
    Clean air is highly effective at scattering and showing off bright-coloured light. When is the air cleanest of particles? After a rain or windstorm.
  • Humidity
    High humidity mutes colours because of the water content in the air. Shooting in cooler seasons will increase your odds of getting more vibrant colours.
  • Wind
    The wind can be your saving grace or worst nightmare because it can have a positive or negative impact on both cloud cover and air purity.

Generally speaking, for ideal sunrise conditions, look for:

  • Mid to high-level clouds
  • 30-70% cloud coverage
  • Clean air
  • Low humidity
  • Calm winds

☑ Bracket your exposures

It’s all about conveniently covering all your bases.

Bracketing is the technique of taking multiple shots of the same subject using different exposures—some underexposed, some overexposed.

Why bracket?

  • Your camera’s light meter doesn’t always get it right
  • Finding the right exposure through trial and error and changing your settings between each shot is time-consuming

There are two main ways to bracket:

  • Automatic bracketing
    Most digital cameras include automatic exposure bracketing.
    Turn it on and your camera will automatically take several shots (three or
    more) at different exposures. You can then review them all in post.
  • Manual bracketing
    Manually adjusting the aperture or shutter speed is another way to bracket.
    Simply change your aperture and/or shutter speed values up or down to let more or less light in. However, keep in mind that adjusting both of these settings can affect things like depth of field.

☑ Shoot during Golden Hour

That magical hour when it’s your time to shine.

The blue hour is the period of twilight in the morning when the sun has not yet breached the horizon and produces shades of blue.

The golden hour is the period just after sunrise (or just before sunset) and it creates a light that simply cannot be replicated.

Both should be taken advantage of to capture a range of shots and hone your different skills.

But what makes the golden hour so special?

  • Warmth
    Light has a spectrum of temperatures that correspond to different colours. Without getting too into it, during the golden hour, the temperature is in the yellow range—that unmistakable, highly coveted golden hue.
  • Diffusion
    In the early hours, the sun’s light has to travel through more atmosphere than at any other point in the sky/day. This makes the atmosphere act as a diffuser, softening and reducing the intensity of direct light—like a giant light-box!
  • Directional
    When the sun is low in the sky, it creates longer, softer shadows.
    Having long shadows in shot helps you paint and capture a more dimensional sunrise and landscape. Plus, because your exposure is more even, it’s easy to define and properly expose your fore, middle and background.

☑ Get focussed

What do you do when you can’t autofocus?

It’s hard to focus your camera in the early morning, but not impossible.

  • Aim for a bright spot
    Simply switch to Live View (it’ll be too dark to see through your tiny viewfinder), switch to manual focus and manually focus on a light source e.g. the moon, a star or a lighthouse.
  • Use your torch
    We told you it would come in handy.
    Shine your light on an object that’s at least three metres away from you, focus your camera on it and then switch over to manual focus and shoot.
  • Open your aperture
    Open up the aperture as wide as possible.
    Now that your camera can ‘see’ better, focus anywhere, then switch to manual focus and increase the f-number back to normal.

Tip: You can combine this method with the torch technique.

☑ Change locations

Don’t be afraid to switch up your position.

There’s something almost honourable about staying steadfast and committing to one spot to get that perfect shot.

It can also just be really boring.

If you don’t think your spot offers the right shot, or you’ve got what you need—move.

By covering different angles, not only can you collect more unique shots but you are teaching yourself to:

  • Be decisive and learn on the go
  • Take advantage of the windows of opportunities you are given
  • Be flexible

But what happens if you end up in a worse shooting location?

There’s always tomorrow.

☑ Gaze away from the Sun

The effects of the sunrise can be as captivating as the sunrise itself.

The sunrise might be the star of the morning show, but it’s got an amazing support cast.

Broaden your mind and your viewfinder to see what’s happening around and as a result of the sunrise.

For example:

  • A mountain range washed with vibrant sunrise colours
  • The sun or cloud’s reflection in a body of water
  • The silhouettes of people or natural landmarks

☑ Stay a little longer

Don’t pack it up so soon—the show may not be over.

There are several reasons to hang back after the sunrise:

  • You might witness Crepuscular rays beaming from behind the clouds.
    Piercing upwards or downwards through the clouds, their lines produce great elements to feature in your image.
  • True to their nature, clouds change shape and location with the wind all time. What might have been obstructed or overshadowed a moment ago, might well turn into a one-of-a-kind shot.
  • You’ve spent so long witnessing the sunrise through the lens. Take a moment to take it all in.

***

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A Quick Guide to Slow Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is one of the three pillars of photography.

  1. Shutter speed
  2. Aperture
  3. ISO

It primarily determines two things:

  • Exposure
  • Amount of blur

However, when you understand how shutter speed works, you can do so much more than simply manipulate the brightness or amount of blur.

In this post, we’re going to take a quick look at slow shutter speed photography, and go through the creative shutter speed techniques that are ‘must-masters’.

What is shutter speed?

Every time you take a photo, a small flap called the shutter opens and closes to let light reach your camera’s internal sensor, which creates your image. Shutter speed simply describes how long the shutter stays open.

Fast shutter speed means that the shutter is only open for a short period of time and slow shutter speed means the shutter is open for longer.

How is it measured?

Shutter speeds are measured in seconds, or fractions of a second. For example, a shutter speed of 1/100 means 1/100th of a second or 0.01 seconds.

This is also known as the ‘exposure time’ because it’s the amount of time the sensor is exposed to light.

Most cameras offer a wide range of shutter speeds, starting at just a few thousandths of a second and going up to several seconds. Some give you even more control, allowing you to hold the shutter open indefinitely.

What does it do?

When the shutter stays open for a longer time (slower shutter speed) the object in motion will appear blurry in the photograph because that same object is recorded in multiple places on the film or sensor as the object moves across the frame for as long as the shutter is open.

The longer the shutter is open, the more light reaches the film/sensor, resulting in a brighter overall image and more recorded movements of the object (blur).

…this is where the fun comes in.

Slow shutter speed is your window of opportunity to get creative.

What you’ll need:

  • Tripod
    It’s frustratingly easy to capture camera shake if you’re going handheld.
    A tripod is crucial no matter how steady you think your grip is.
  • Camera
    Most decent DSLRs on the market will do.
    You don’t need a top of the range camera to pull off top-notch shots.
  • Remote shutter release [optional]
    A remote shutter release is a device that lets you trigger the shutter remotely to avoid moving the camera when you press the button.
  • Neutral density filter [optional]
    • ND filters black out the light so that your shutter can be open for longer. They’re recommended if you’re experimenting with long exposure during the day.

Running Water

Shutter speed: 1/2 seconds or slower
Equipment: Tripod, ND filter

Setup:
Because you’re capturing a moving scene, it’s important to have elements within the frame that remain static to highlight the moving smooth blur of water.

For example, if you are shooting a waterfall, compose and focus your shot of the water but be sure to include protruding rocks or trees to add contrast in movement and detail.

Tip: Use an ND filter in bright light or you won’t be able to use a slow shutter speed and get a properly exposed image.

Light Trails

Shutter speed: 10-15 seconds or slower
Equipment: Tripod

Ever wanted to capture and track the motion of evening traffic or bustling nightlife? Thanks to slow shutter speed, you can capture these streaks of light, otherwise called light trails. The longer the exposure duration, the longer the light trails.

Setup:
Simply steady your camera and tripod and frame your shot. Be sure to experiment with different angles and different shutter speeds to achieve your desired light trails.

Tip: Make sure that your shutter speed is long enough to capture longish light trails. You don’t want to cut them off too soon as you will have some unwanted short trails in your image.

Panning

Shutter speed: 1/30 to 1/60 seconds
Equipment: ND Filter

This one’s a cool one, but a tricky one.

Panning is a technique where you pan to follow an object in motion to capture the object clearly (sharp) and render motion blur to the rest of the image. Unlike the other techniques, a tripod’s not going to help you with this move.

Setup:
This technique is best done by tracking the motion of your subject, turning your camera to follow its motion and releasing the shutter during the process, while continuing to pan.

Getting your timing and coordination down at the start might be slow going, but having this trick up your sleeve is well worth the effort.

Tip: The shutter speed will depend on the speed of your subject and how much panning effect you want. Experiment in the recommended range and adjust accordingly.

Light painting

Shutter speed: 2 seconds or slower
Equipment: Tripod

Just about any light source can be used to create a light painting, from a flashlight to your phone to party sparklers.

Setup:
Simply set up your camera in a dark room or outdoor setting with the ‘painter’ out of frame. As soon as you take the photo, the painter is then free to paint or write different patterns with their chosen light source.

Tip: The exposure duration depends on how much time you need to finish your drawing. Allow for extra time if you want to finish out of frame.

Ghosting

Shutter speed: 5 seconds or slower
Equipment: Tripod

This technique is sure to get heads turning, and it’s shockingly easy to pull off.

Setup:
Start with your ‘ghost’ subject out of frame. Once you open the shutter, have your subject simply movie in frame and plant themselves in different positions to capture them as a semi-transparent ‘ghost’.

Tip: Consider a 5-15 sec exposure (depending on the lighting) with the ghost standing still in any given position for no longer than half the exposure duration.

Star trails

Shutter speed: 1 hour or slower
Equipment: Tripod, fully charged battery

Bring warm clothes because this long exposure shot can take hours—but it’s worth it.

Long exposure shots of the night sky are at the extreme end of the slow shutter speed effects. We’re talking shutter speeds over an hour.

Setup:
This effect lets you capture the motion of stars in the sky as star trails. The longer the exposure, the longer the trails captured.

If you are shooting in the Northern Hemisphere, take the time to locate the Polaris star (North Star). When in frame, it’ll give your image a pivot point around which the rest of the stars rotate. Sorry Southern Hemispheres, we don’t have an equivalent.

Tip: Check weather conditions before heading out. The last thing you want is getting there and discovering an overcast night with low star visibility.

Racking the Lens

Shutter speed: Variable
Equipment: Tripod optional

This last long exposure effect doesn’t have a recommended shutter speed and you don’t even need a tripod.

If you’re going to attempt this one, you’ll need to be fairly well versed with your shutter speed settings, as well as your aperture and ISO.

Setup:
Simply set your shutter speed to a reasonably long exposure and then compose and focus your shot as normal. While taking the shot, between when the shutter opens and shuts, zoom in or out.

It seems easy enough, but pulling off your desired effect takes a lot of experimenting with different light and settings. All part of the process!

Tip: Choose a shutter speed long enough to zoom your lens from one end to another. Things to consider are the level of available light, type of lens being used and amount of movement in frame or from your camera.
***
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Travel Etiquette: Photographing Locals

The rules are pretty clear on what you can and cannot shoot when travelling.

Mountains. Bridges. Bodies of water. Yes.
Taj Mahal. The Louvre. The Sistine Chapel. No.

But when it comes to people, well, there’s a little more to it.

We’ve all known those travellers who use zoom lenses or covert camera tricks to snap photos of locals without their knowledge and permission. Admit it, you’ve probably taken a few in your day too. The thing with taking surreptitious shots of unsuspecting people is that it’s not only risky, but you miss out on personal interactions that often lead to memorable experiences—and shots.

Follow these rules of etiquette to make sure your candids and portraits are met with nothing but a smile and nod of approval.

Assume you’re being seen

This automatically encourages you to act appropriately and act accordingly. With your intentions clearly on display for the world to see, your body language will in turn project a more disarming manner for potential subjects.

Put yourself in their shoes

How would you feel if you were walking down your street and a stranger dashed across the road to ask you if they could take some photos of you doing your groceries? Or dropping your kids off at school?

Be overly sensitive in every situation and approach only as you’d want to be approached. This doesn’t mean simply being polite and courteous. Often it might mean leaving the shot entirely out of respect for their time, privacy and practices.



Be culturally sensitive

Every culture is different, as are the individuals within them. If you aren’t travelling with a guide or local friend, do your due diligence and read up as much as you can about the ins and outs of your destinations.

Not only do you reduce the likelihood of you running into any drama, but you increase your chances of connecting with a willing subject.

Ask permission

This really is a tricky one simply because there’s no right or wrong answer.

Some firmly believe that photographers should always ask for permission out of respect and courtesy, even if it’s a simple nod of the head and a gesture with the camera. Those who disagree argue that certain moments dictate that you need to take the shot when you see it and that some of the most famous photos of people wouldn’t have been possible if permission was asked first.

At the end of the day, it’s a judgement call. Following the other etiquette rules and reading the situation will more often than not lead to the right call.

Ask yourself: Does this photo depict a stereotype of people?

Think about the common imagery associated with your destination and its people, images that you have been exposed to online or on the news. Before you take that photo, ask yourself if it is contributing to a negative generalisation, or is it offering a fresh new perspective?

Ask yourself: Does this photo depict your subject with dignity?

Again, would you want strangers photographing you in situations that you deem invasive or compromising? Choose only to take and share photos that frame people in a good light.

Share with your subject

Permission’s been granted, and the photo, taken.

Share your shots with your subjects as a way of thanking them for letting you into their lives. This small gesture is such an intimate icebreaker, allowing you to connect with locals in a way that is liberated from things such as language barriers.

Inform them of the intended use of their photo

This last one is important because it involves the law and, unlike asking for permission, is not up for debate.

Firstly, always ask your subject(s) if they mind if your shot can be published. If you aren’t able to communicate this, at the very least make sure your subject is aware that you may use the images. If you wish to commercially use your photos, you might even need to submit a model release form to make it all legal. As a rule of thumb, be sure to do your homework first and bring along any forms, passes or licenses that might be required of you.

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How to build a photography portfolio (properly)

Thinking of starting a career in photography?

No matter what you shoot or what skill level you’re at currently, your photos deserve a proper portfolio.

Think about all the countless hours that go behind every shot.
All those unmarked hours spent setting up your shoot, huddled over your laptop in post, and not to mention all the practice that lead up to you capturing those single moments.

Don’t let those hours be spent in vain.

Here are 7 rules to remember when building your photography portfolio so you always frame your photos in the best possible light.

More is not merrier.

Leaving out photos can be tricky for photographers because you want to show off the depth and breadth of your skills. We understand. However, you should see it as cutting the fat as opposed to cutting out favourites.

Start by removing entire sessions. One or two shots from a session is all you need. Time-poor viewers aren’t interested in seeing a dozen shots of the same subject.

What’s more, paring back your selection shows that you are selective and value curation.

Let your shots speak for themselves.

If they’re already worth a thousand words, there’s no need for a thousand more.

If sharing the specific gear you used or the image’s backstory adds to the viewers experience. Keep it. If it doesn’t. Lose it.

If you are presenting your work in person and the viewer wants to know something, they’ll ask, which can be a great way to develop dialogue or narration throughout the presentation.

Work towards being a master of one.

No one expects you to be a master from the get go. Not even clients. But they do want to see that you are specialised in one or a few subjects/styles. You want to demonstrate that you can do the one thing they’re after, and do a great job.

That means if you want to focus on wedding photography, avoid peppering in corporate headshots or those macro shots of insects that you’ve been experimenting with.

Aim to be a photographer than can shoot a few things well and not a photographer that can shoot everything pretty well.

Bookend your book with your best.

Start with a good impression and leave on a good note.

Of course, you’re aiming to have a portfolio filled with equally strong images, but starting and finishing with a bang is a simple way to put your best foot forward.

Don’t use flash.

HTML trumps flash, hands down.

Flash sucks. it’s slow, it requires constant updates for rendering, and it doesn’t show up on some mobile devices.

Sequence sells.

Even if you want to take your viewers on an emotional journey, the path must be logical. Arranging the sequence of your portfolio by mood, colour, composition, movement or a combination thereof create a seamless flow for the viewer.

Get a different perspective.

Photography is an extremely personal practice and it’s only normal to feel defensive over your snaps. But seeking out advice from an expert or someone who’s been there and done that is one of the most effective ways for you to get better. In fact, it’s what separates the good from the great.

Seek feedback from those who genuinely want to make you better, and not just feel better.

Sorry, Mum.

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