Ask The Expert: How to shoot like National Geographic
Ok, so you’re probably not going to be off on a commissioned photo shoot in some little-known African country any time soon like our guest writer and professional travel photographer Travis Longmore. But it’s always nice to capture a beautiful moment like a pro. Travis shared a few short tips that can help take you from “snapshot” to “wow” the next time you’re traveling or trying to capture the essence of that new place your family is calling home. Here’s what Travis says every Moving Mom needs to know in order to kick their photo game up a notch:
First, there’s a setting you need to get really comfortable with that will separate your photos from 95% of everyone else’s. The setting is Aperture Priority (A on Nikon and Sony cameras, Av on Canon) and it gives you control over the depth of field in your photos. In basic terms this controls how much of your shot is in focus. When you see those enchanting portraits of faces in India with the background blurred nicely that’s how they do it. It’s fairly simple once you know how but spend some time mastering that setting and you’ll be ahead of the curve!
Here’s a very quick rundown on what it all means and how to use it. When you set your camera from “Auto” mode to “Aperture” mode you’re telling it that you want to control the aperture and you would like it to control the shutter speed. You’re going to set the aperture with the control dial on the camera (the rear dial on my Nikon) and you can set it to a low number like f2.8 or a high number like f11 or f22. That’s the easy part but what exactly does that mean?
At f2.8 the hole in the lens of your camera is open up nice and wide letting in lots and lots of light. That part is easy but while it lets in all this light it also creates a really shallow depth of field. That’s the part you need to wrap your head around. A shallow depth of field means that only a small part of the photo will be in focus. The rest will be blurry and out of focus. The trick is to get the camera to focus on the right part of the image and have all the distracting background elements out of focus. Most modern cameras do this really well and while you may end up with a few blurry photos most will be perfectly fine. I suggest leaving the camera at the lowest number possible for your camera/lens combo. If you can get down to f2.8 great but some will only go as low as f5.6. Stick it on the lowest though and you’ll get good results.
The reason I love this setting for almost everyone is the fact that at f2.8 or f5.6, you’re letting in as much light as possible which means that the dreaded blurry photos that plague so many people will be eliminated as much as possible. The second benefit of blurring the background of your shots is that you’re getting rid of anything that might be distracting. It’s a really neat effect and will be the perfect way to start improving your snaps.
The second piece of advice isn’t a setting or button on your camera. I like to tell people this, “If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re not getting a good photo.” This may be exaggerating slightly but it’s worth explaining what I mean. When most people take a photo of the Taj Mahal or even simply their kids, they stand upright, lift their camera to eye level and press the button. Sounds fairly easy right? The problem is just about every photo taken is done the same way and we’ve come to get comfortable seeing them like that. By simply getting lower to the ground and shooting from below or trying to find something to stand on and shooting from up high you can change the perspective of the shot and show something completely different to what people would expect. It makes people stop and stare for longer and that’s what makes it an interesting photo.
There’s another level of being uncomfortable too. The first one was easy enough. It’s a physical level of being uncomfortable by squatting down low or crawling on your stomach. There’s a mental side I’m talking about as well, though. It’s that feeling of taking a photo when you’re not quite so sure. It may be trying to get a shot of someone on the street and you feel bad for asking. Pushing through that feeling is a great way to get photos most aren’t capable of getting simply because they’re nervous. Go ahead and ask that person if you can take a shot! The worst thing they can do is say “no.”
These aren’t things that are complicated to learn but they will elevate your photos way past other people’s shots. It’ll make others stop and ask questions and that’s the trick of getting something memorable. Try them out next time you have your camera handy and get used to them before you’re off traveling. You can thank me later!
Travis Longmore is a full time photographer and social media specialist. Having spent 6 years as an event shooter and photojournalist, he then moved into the travel and tourism world where he is now a travel photographer and destination marketer. Based in the lively city of Melbourne, Australia, he is now moving into the next chapter of his career as a tourism content producer. If you want to see more of his work visit: www.travislongmorephotography.com.au and find him all over social media!