Being on assignment for a wildlife magazine has always been a passion of mine. In the simplest of terms, I’m dropped off somewhere and have to come back with a body of work that can be narrowed down to less than a dozen of the most compelling images that tell a cohesive story. There isn’t necessarily a recipe for success, and each photographer working an assignment tackles it in their own way, but along the way I’ve acquired some helpful tips from mentors and came up with a few myself after much trail and error. Here are some photography tips to help aspiring professionals and recreational shutterbugs tell better stories and connect with their audience.
Know your audience
Many publications, photography websites, etc. have a good idea of their readership and what this audience likes to see. Asking some questions and finding out more about this group of people can help you make images that better connect with them.
Visualize the assignment
Before each assignment, I think about the process of engaging my audience. In my mind’s eye, I dream up images that will propel a visual story forward, very much like trying to emulate a movie or a TV show.
Gain access with a guide
On most of my assignments, I collaborate with a guide who knows the region and, if that’s what I’m shooting, where the animals are and when to photograph them. Build a rapport with your guide even before you start an assignment.
Make memorable images
We see so many images out there these days, remembering them all would be an impossible task. To stand out from the rest, create an image that marries composition, light and, perhaps most importantly, a moment. Without all three, it will likely get lost in the pile.
Share your perspective with the viewer
Images that show a sense of place reveal the characteristics of the environment where you’re shooting and are particularly striking when paired with wildlife. Use a wide angle lens to bring your audience into your image.
Contrast is key
Don’t fall into the trap of staying on the same f-stop or using the same shutter speed during a shoot. Creating contrast within your selection of images can be used to mix up the pace of the story you’re trying to convey.
Remember your story arc
If you’re trying to tell a story, remember that all stories, good or bad, have a beginning, middle and end. Your photography story needs to be built using images that take a viewer through this narrative. Think about this as you edit your images.
This little gold nugget has been shared to me by a number of different photographers and each one has their own way of breaking down the rule. My version is: spend 20 per cent of your time capturing the images you know you can, 60 per cent experimenting creatively and the last 20 per cent trying for that one special image that no one else has made.
Just one more hour
If you think your day of shooting is done, wait one more hour. I guarantee your patience will pay off — it certainly has for me.