BY URVIL JAMES VILLARUEL
Dec. 26, 2015, Toronto, ON - Photography - the most effective visual medium for conveying a story or implanting an idea in the minds of its audience. Daily, we are bombarded with and create our own visual stimuli; cameras being so readily available that anyone with a cellphone is considered a photographer. But what can help you to enhance your own images and push them to the next level when cameras are now a dime a dozen? I used to think that all a photographer really needed was just a body and a lens... Boy was I wrong.
So much more goes into photography than I initially anticipated, and most of that comes not from what you have at the ready, but what accessories you choose to employ in order to help enhance your storytelling prowess.
Here are a few of my own photography-essentials that have helped me and can certainly help you to start taking some really great images:
1. External Flash
It’s all in the lighting. You hear that phrase get thrown around a lot while in the photography world (and it’s a very true statement); yet, you wouldn’t believe how underutilized and overlooked flashes have become in the realm of up-and-coming photographers. I also used to think that I could get away with natural lighting and my stand alone camera setup - wrong! To help push your shots to the next level, invest in something that can really add that extra element of “fill” to your lighting. Flashes really come in handy when you choose to backlight your subject with the sun, or for when you really want to enhance the details of a shot. Just don’t forget to also purchase the defuser, or else you might find the Flash to be a little bit harsh for your liking.
2. Natural Light
Where does the light fall? How can you use it to enhance your shot? How much stronger, more powerful and meaningful will your image’s story become when you effectively utilize the sun? These are some very important questions for any photographer looking to use natural light. Natural light creates an ambience that artificial lighting can never hope to achieve; I mean, you are using the sun after all! A great photo-tip is to try shooting during the golden hour of photography - approximately 1 hour before the sun rises and 1 hour after the sun sets. Everything just looks more epic during these two time frames.
3. ND Filter
Get a variable one - period. I started off with non-variable models, myself, before going variable, and boy was that ever a mistake (not to mention a waste of money). Sure, the non-variable models are more “reliable”, and some might even say “cleaner”, but it's a real pain when (1) you've purchased the wrong stop, (2) you have to pause the shoot in order to switch filters. ND Filters are also really useful for capturing lens flare (though some photographers don't appreciate this effect in their own shots). They're also great for cutting out the harsh mid-day sun.
4. Flash Trigger
This may or may not have been obvious for some of you who read my first suggestion (External Flash), so I thought I’d address it here, just in case. External Flashes are great, yes, but if you’re looking to add that extra element of drama or to properly fill out your shot with additional lighting, you’d better invest in a Flash Trigger. These little doohickeys will allow you to take your Flash off-camera and move it around the shooting space to get the light exactly where you want it. Trust me, the versatility is much appreciated.
Yup, the good-old, trusty tripod. Great for landscapes, long exposures, night time shots, etc. Tripods are perfect for night time photography, especially, because they allow you to keep the shutter open for longer. Want to try a neat little trick? Leave the shutter open while mounted on a tripod for 3-4 seconds as your camera points to oncoming or going traffic. The light stream is sure to look amazing!
6. Camera Strap
More for safety than actual photography. Wrap it around your neck, your wrist, or wherever, just be sure to wrap it around something! There’s nothing scarier in the photography world (save for accidentally erasing your entire memory card) than dropping your camera and freaking out about the glass or body that you may have just broken. Granted, cameras are built like tanks, but I sure wont be the first in line to test that claim. Personally, I like to use Nikon straps on my Canon and Canon straps on my Nikon. It’s just cooler that way. And yes, I did totally steal that look from DigitalRev.
7. Adobe Lightroom
I used to only use Photoshop when editing my photos. Granted, Photoshop is an amazing platform, but when I was finally prompted to start experiment with Lightroom, I never stopped. It’s one thing to have taken a shot in-camera, but it’s a completely different story when you start to enhance the mood of the capture by running it through photo-editing software. (Just think of Instagram filters - they're pretty much like a dumbed down version of how Lightroom photo-editing software works... Now imagine if you had a greater degree of control when editing your photos as opposed to on Instagram - why wouldn’t you want to take the next step in creativity when presenting your own image captures?)
8. Adobe Photoshop
The mecca of all photo-editing software. The holy grail of photography. Photoshop will help you get done what you need to get done, and then some. Need that shirt to change colours? Easy. Need to erase something or someone from the photograph? Got it! Need to superimpose my face on top of yours? Child’s play. Photoshop can do it all. If you really want to start learning a photo-editing software and it’s between Photoshop and Lightroom, I’d say go with Photoshop. At least, that’s how I started, anyways... Once you understand the principles of Photoshop, Lightroom will just come naturally to you. Photoshop is truly a remarkable and ever-astounding program, when you get the hang of it!
All in all, the moral of the story is this: great photos aren’t just taken with a camera, alone. It truly takes a village to raise a child; and in this case, the child is your photograph. So, how do you take really great photographs that you can be proud of? You have to get the accessories that match. Once you start looking beyond the initial device and more into what helps you to enhance each image, you’re well on your way to mastering your own expression of this art from that we call: photography.
But hey, what do I know? It’d only make sense for you to listen to me if you like my photographs, anyways, so I’m really just preaching to the choir here... Thanks for reading.