Here's some great tips on how to make the most of your camera and your visit to any of our WWT wetland centres.
The Boring Bits
Aperture - this is the hole through which the light enters the camera. The bigger the hole the more light can get through, the smaller the hole, less light gets through. Simple!
Depth of field - a large depth of field means both the foreground and the background subject are in focus. A small depth of field means only one or the other may be in focus. Different apertures determine depth of field.
Shutter speed - the shutter prevents light from entering your camera. When the shutter is open you are taking a picture. When its not, you aren't! If the shutter remains open for long in daylight your picture will be flooded with light and will just come out white. If it isn't open long enough it wont get enough light to take a picture and will be very dark. Also in low light conditions any movement will create blurring with a slow shutter speed.
ISO - a form of measurement relating to how good at 'soaking up light' the film is. ISO 1600 soaks up light much quicker than ISO 400 but will result in a grainier picture.
Rule of thirds - a series of lines that are useful for placing your focal point or subject on. Imagine a grid (left); if you placed your subject in the middle of the frame it would be a very static image. By placing it on one of the lines it creates a sense of space for the subject to 'move into'. It's all a bit arty!
The almost fun bits
Composition - this is where you place your subject matter - whatever that may be - within the frame. Remember your rule of thirds. Use your viewfinder and your eyes! Consider 'negative space' - this is the space around your subject - keep any distractions out if possible. When photographing people/animals make sure you don't cut off your subjects head. Eek!
Perspective - this is where it gets fun! Perspective refers to the angle at which you take the picture. Imagine your subject matter was floating in the air - you could take the picture from below, above, at eye level, close-to, from afar. Explore different angles and don't be afraid to get your knees mucky or lie on the floor.
Colour - It's simple really. If somethings nice and colourful then try to capture that. If something has lots of contrast then it may work better as black and white. Sometimes colour can add a sense of warmth or coldness to the subject. Or different colours next to each other may look pretty.
Distance - If you get really close to your subject you can get more detail and remove background clutter using a tight crop to fill the frame. However you may wish to move back and use some of the surroundings to place your subject within it's context. Imagine the damselfly at the bottom of the page - if I had taken that picture from 10 metres away it would be a tiny dot... and a very boring picture! But if I want to capture the pic of the damselfly sitting within a landscape I would move back and capture the surroundings. It's your choice!
Focal point - moving on from distance, focal point refers to which bit of your picture is actually in focus. Maybe you want everything in focus or maybe you just want something in the foreground in focus. With some cameras you can change the aperture, which changes your depth of field. A low F number (how aperture is measured) results in a lower depth of field, resulting in a narrower focal point, and vice versus.
Drama - have you seen the old pictures of people in the Victorian era? They are just stood there looking really, really bored and serious. Capture something on the move like a flying bird or a splashing duck. Also make sure that the movement is directed in towards the frame not out of.
Lead lines - if your subject matter is about to fly out of the frame this draws your eye away from the picture. Using rule of thirds position your subject so it is moving into the frame and drawing your eye into the picture.
The fun bits
Get down n' dirty - Warn your parents first mind you! If you can get closer to your subject by lying on the floor or kneeling down then why not do it?! Worried about looking silly? Who cares if you get a good picture out of it. But remember the welfare of the animals comes first!
Sunshine - Be careful not to snap straight into the sun or else you'll get a silhouette. You can use sheets of white paper to reflect light and make sure your subject is lit well.
Be prepared - Keep your camera on if possible and ready to snap some action. Particularly if you are after a moving shot. Also make sure you have enough film or memory cards. Something as simple as a cloth to clean the lens is handy too.
Snap happy - Particularly if you have a digital camera - snap away like mad! You can erase the ones that aren't good but at least you don't limit yourself to one picture and you can try different settings too. Try more than one angle for the same subject.
Whether the weather - Cloudy day? So what? Even dull weather can yield good results - particularly macro (close ups). Perhaps you want to catch a picture of something splashing in the rain.
Now go, go, go! - The best way to learn is to explore and not be afraid to play with the funny buttons on your camera. You can always ask advice! Also it's not cheating to explore books of other people's pictures for inspiration either.
To get you started here's some ideas to explore;
- Movement e.g. splashing/flapping duck
- Macro e.g. close up of a flower with bug
- Dramatic weather conditions e.g. stormy clouds
- Crazy angles e.g. someone feeding a duck