While looking through old photos, photographer Nigel Dansonrealized how far he has come as an artist. In addition to this realization, Danson also considered what sort of lessons he wished he had learned earlier on in the process. In his latest video, seen below, he shares seven simple photography tips he wishes he knew sooner. Hopefully they’ll help beginner photographers progress faster and avoid some mistakes many of us make along the way.
Before getting into the tips proper, Danson suggests that you don’t necessarily have as much time as you think when doing landscape photography. It’s not a matter of just sitting around, waiting for the shot, but rather, you need to be more active because the best conditions are often very short lived. This means that getting to know your camera better is important. You need to know where all your controls are and understand how to be fast and precise. There’s no substitute for experience, but it’s important to have the right mindset too.
His first official tip is to use aperture priority mode. On Danson’s workshops, many photographers are electing to use their cameras in full manual mode. That works, you can keep checking results and get things right. However, why not use your camera’s metering to get a good shot from the start? It’s about efficiency. There’s a time and place for manual mode, but it probably doesn’t need to be your go-to mode. Depth of field and sharpness are of utmost concern when doing landscape photography, so with a tripod you can let your camera select the shutter speed without many concerns. For the rest of Danson’s tips, check out the video below.
Leave the Ultra Wide-Angle; Zoom In
One of the main differences between photographing grand vistas and forest scenes is that it’s much harder to just place the camera, point it in some direction and get a decent image.
With grand landscapes you can often get away with this as the landscape itself is stunning but in the woods, you need a better composition and more thought-out image in order to convince the viewer.
A good way to practice this is by leaving the ultra wide-angle lens at home and instead choose something with a more narrow focal length, such as 50mm, 85mm or 100mm. By limiting your field of view, you’re forced to spend more time analyzing the scene and adjusting your frame until you’ve removed all distracting elements; if you’re not able to remove all those elements, reconsider if the shot will work or not.
By limiting yourself to a narrow focal length you’re also more likely to notice details which you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Perhaps one of the trees bend in a certain way, perhaps there’s some moss on one of the trees or perhaps there’s a squirrel eating breakfast.