Monthly Archives: July 2014

Favorite Wildlife Photography Locations

This post looks at one of my favorite wildlife photography locations – Yarra Bend Park in Melbourne, Australia.

Flying fox

Grey headed flying fox showing off its wingspan. Yarra Bend Park, Melbourne, Australia

Where is it?

Yarra Bend Park is 4km north east of the Melbourne central business district in the suburb of Kew. If you are familiar with Melbourne, it is also close to Abbotsford, Collingwood, and not too far from Richmond. It is a 260 hectare park, which makes it the largest area of natural bush land close to the city center. In the area are large residential areas, bush land, parks, sporting fields, and golf courses. The Yarra River winds its way right through Yarra Bend Park. The area is popular with cyclists, walkers, mountain bikers, and has a great lookout area which provides views of the sun setting behind the city.

How do I find it?

I first went to Yarra Bend Park in 2008 when I was invited to play golf at the public golf course there. I have since found out that it is well known in Melbourne, but I had not been there before 2008. My round of golf, which I remember being a particularly bad (!), was the first of many trips.

What can I do there?

Actually, more than I realized! I looked up the Parks Victoria website and it shows that you can do walking, jogging, golf, fly fishing, picnic, sports, eat at the restaurant, visit Studley Park boathouse, and see Dight Falls.

Flying Fox

Position yourself to get clear background for your image

But the main thing I go to see are the huge number of grey headed flying foxes. They roost in the trees next to the Yarra River in very large numbers. There are publicly accessible walkways through these areas on one side of the river. You can see them hanging upside down in the trees, sometimes sleeping, sometimes interacting with each other, and now and then keeping an eye on you! If you had a view that bats or flying foxes did nothing during the day, that’s not the case. On most times I’ve visited there is plenty of noise and movement, and it is fairly straightforward to get images of bats in flight. In early summer, October and November, if you look closely you can also see them flying with their babies clinging to their chest.

About Grey Headed Flying Foxes

Grey headed flying foxes are the largest bat in Australia. They have a dark grey body, a light grey head, and reddish-brown fur around their necks. The  adults have an average wing span of 1 meter and can weigh up to 1 kg. They rely on sight to find food, and so they have relatively large eyes for a bat. But the thing that strikes you when you see them at Yarra Bend Park is just how many there are. It’s a huge thriving community of bats!

What Equipment Should I Take?

Canon lens

The Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens

While there are a lot of flying foxes at Yarra Bend Park, they are small animals and will often be some way off in the trees. To get close up images of them, you’ll need at least a 200mm lens. Even better is a 300mm or 400mm lens. (All the images on this post were taken with a 200mm lens.) For camera bodies, I use my Canon 7D for the high burst rate. It is ideal for taking images of these flying foxes in mid air. And I always take several memory cards. It is easy to take plenty of shots in burst mode and I don’t want to run out of memory.

What Types of Shots Can I Get?

Due to the large numbers of animals here, you can get a range of different images. It is possible to get these shots of flying foxes:

  • hanging upside down staring straight at you
  • interacting with each other seemingly oblivious to any humans nearby
  • in flight
  • isolated against a grey or blue sky
  • in silhouette against the sun
  • showing the veins in the wings

How do I Take Shots of Bats in Flight?

Flying fox

Flying foxes gather in big numbers at Yarra Bend Park

Taking shots of the flying foxes in mid flight is not difficult – particularly as there are so many of them. My suggestions for achieving this shot are to:

  • position yourself so you can get an uncluttered background
  • if it is a windy day, get them flying into the wind. They will be going slower which makes this shot easier
  • use the continuous focusing mode on your camera and track them in flight
  • use the burst mode to take a series of images in quick succession
  • use a fast shutter speed. My best images of these animals have been at 1/2500s and faster shutter speeds

Why is Yarra Bend Park a Favorite Wildlife Photography Location?

Yarra Bend Park is one of my favorite wildlife photography spots because:

  1. it is so easily accessible. It is only a few kilometers from the city and there is easy parking
  2. I have visited over 20 times, and the large group of bats has always been there
  3. there are so many animals, that a wide range of images is possible
  4. the contrast of being able to shoot what I consider to be a night animal during the day is unique

Take Me There!

I’ve always thought that Yarra Bend Park would be a great place to conduct photography tours. If you’d like me to take you there, drop me an email at

Thanks for reading all the way to here! I hope you might think of bats differently now. Yarra Bend Park is one of my favorite wildlife photography locations.

Fruit bat

Bat in flight, with baby on its chest

Manly Urban

Today we have a guest post from Renate Hechter from Pure Dynamics Photography in Sydney, Australia. Earlier this year Renate launched a new twist on family portraits – a concept called Manly Urban. In this post, she explains Manly Urban.

Thank you again Craig for giving me the opportunity to post on Beyond Here.

I have the privilege of living near one of the most beautiful areas in the world.  I do not think anyone that has been to Sydney and more to the point, Manly, would disagree with me.  One is surrounded by beautiful expanses of blue ocean, with the heads in the background on one side and Manly beach on the other side.  If you have ever been on the Manly ferry, you would agree that it one of the most iconic and picturesque methods of public transport.  All in all, to be able to have this view, day in – day out, is not only a blessing, but a calling to a photographer.


Manly Urban. Family portraits with famous Manly backgrounds. Copyright Renate Hechter.

For any photographer, it is important to create a service that is new and different to new and existing clients.  I have come up with the ManlyUrban idea, as people not only love to get some photographs of the area they live in, but it also provide a beautiful and modern back-drop for some stunning and different photographs. Manly also has a huge expat community, so it is a great keep-safe of your “home away from home”.

As you walk around and through Manly, you will realise it is a treasure-chest of scenic and urban areas. Here are some of my favourite areas.

  1.  Manly Ferry/Heads (in the background)
Family portrait

Manly Urban. Families in context. Copyright Renate Hechter.

The Manly Ferry is a tradition.  Since 1855 it is a “must do” for visitors.  It is the way Manly locals commute to Sydney. It operates 7 days a week, day and night.  It is one of the most picturesque and relaxing commutes in the world.  What a wonderful way to include this as a backdrop for a photograph.  The same is to be said for the famous Sydney Heads, which is the 2 kilometer-wide entrance to Sydney Harbour. People from all over the world will recognize it and these are some of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks.

  1.  Manly Corso

Manly, Sydney, Australia. Copyright Renate Hechter

The Corso is a busy and bustling place.  It provides direct access from the Manly Ferry Wharf to Manly beach.  It is also the main shopping area of Manly.  You get locals, tourists, buskers, mum and babies, school children, toddlers in the playground, retirees, surfers, skateboarders and many more all mixed together and wandering about.  Being photographed in the Corso takes some courage, as soon a crowd of people will gather to see what you are up to.  (My urban ballerina kept her cool in the Corso, even though she was surrounded by holiday-makers).

  1.  Murals

Murals make vibrant backgrounds. Copyright Renate Hechter.

There are a number of murals in different alley-ways in Manly that provide fabulous backdrops for urban photography.  Note, Manly Urban are not just for children.  My friend, Liz, is a local business owner and a Manly local.  As an artist ( she loved the opportunity to have a photograph taken in her beloved Manly in an area where the photograph could double as a piece of art.

When you visit Sydney again, make sure you get your Manly fix. You may even see me shooting Manly Urban in different locations! Please STOP and say HI!

Succeed in Photography Business

Photo business

Financial success means different things to different people

People get into photography driven by a love of making images, not a love of dealing with business issues. It is passion and creativity that drives us, not a desire to spend hours doing book keeping or other business tasks. I see plenty of photographers who produce brilliant work but struggle to make a living. That leads me to consider – can non business minded people succeed in photography business?

This is a big question – so where do we start? We need to start by understanding what success means to you. What is your definition of success? There are as many answers to that question as there are photographers, but the only answer that matters is your own. What is your definition of success?

Is success:

  • to be able to call yourself a professional photographer regardless of whether you make any money?
  • to make enough money to fund your gear purchases?
  • to make a significant supplementary income to add to another primary income source?
  • to make an income equivalent to the national average income?
  • to make three times the national average income or more?

Lets look at each of these.

Success Level 1 – Calling Yourself a Pro. If success is to be able to call yourself a professional photographer, regardless of the income generated, then yes – this can be achieved without much business knowledge. If you want to reach this level of success, focus on acquiring pro standard equipment and get a nice website. You may not have too many clients knocking down your door, but you will have some nice gear to use, time to shoot personal projects, and a nice website to display your images. You can also look into membership of your national photography body.

Photo business

Business skills can be learned as your photo business grows

Success Level 2 – Fund Your Gear Purchases. If success to you is to be able to generate enough income from your images to fund your gear purchases – this too can be done with limited or no business skills. If you would like to do this, I would recommend looking into micro stock photography sites and selling prints online. In both of these models you simply upload your images to the site and they do the work to attract buyers and complete the sales transaction. Keep in mind that any sales generated are likely to be slow to start with and build over time. You will need to be patient. If your goal is to generated a few thousand dollars each year then this is a legitimate way to do it – and thousands of photographers are doing this. If you are interested in using micro stock photography to get here, you may be interested in this post.

Success Level 3 – Making a Significant Supplementary Income. By a significant supplementary income I mean greater than $10,000 per year. I expect you would need another source of income in addition to this. Perhaps you work full or part time and run your photography business outside this. If you hope to reach this level of success it will help if you start to learn some business skills. At this level you may be using micro stock photography to provide some of that income and you may be taking on some commissioned work. It could be weddings or family portraits or other client work. At this level it helps to have an understanding of business structures, so you can consider what structure suits you best, particularly if it is going to continue to grow. You would also benefit from some understanding of invoicing, book keeping, marketing, and tax.

Success Level 4 – Making the National Average Income. At this success level, if you are running your own photography business, you will need to have some business skills. In addition to the skills mentioned above you’ll need to have a good understanding of marketing your business, and that will probably include a good understanding of social media and online marketing. This will ensure you generate a pipeline of future clients which sustains your business into the future.

Photo business

It is possible to achieve high income through photography but it will require business skills as well as photographic skills

Success Level 5 – Making 3x the National Average Income or More. If success to you means generating an income three times the national average or more then you will need business skills. In addition to the skills above you may need to also understanding issues related to contacting and sub contracting, employing staff, contract law, pricing, and you will definitely need a strong marketing plan. You possibly will need to invest time and effort into generating partnerships – perhaps with wedding venues, or advertising agencies. At this level it is likely your photography skills will need to be very strong as well. That’s my take on what is required to meet these levels of success. I see many photographers producing great images but not succeeding financially. If you are one of these, my recommendation is to invest in building business skills, not photography skills. It is also possible that investments in the business need to be into generating new clients, rather than further investments in equipment. That might be advertising or a new website or promotional materials.

In summary, you can achieve success levels 1 and 2 with limited or no business skills. If you want to ‘get serious’ and move to levels 3, 4 and 5 you will need business skills. If you are starting out it is absolutely legitimate to work your way up through the levels. If you believe you are not business minded – don’t worry, business skills can be learned along the way. If you are determined to succeed, the skills can be learned. Equally, if you have strong business skills you can get started at level 4 and 5. There is no tried and true formula here – you can make it your way based on your own skills and knowledge.

These are my thoughts about whether non business minded people succeed in photography business. Here comes the disclaimer – I’m not a business adviser, or financial adviser, or any type of adviser. I’m a photographer. Please keep this in mind and seek your own expert advice. Can non business minded people succeed in photography business? What do you think? What is working for you?

Photographing Babies

Recently on Beyond Here we had guest contributor Renate Hechter of Pure Dynamics Photography in Sydney, Australia contribute a post titled Newborn Photography Some Easy But Essential Tips. Coinciding with that, I had the opportunity to photograph a 6 week old baby. Photographing babies is always special, but this was more special as I had photographed the parents wedding in 2012. Here is an outline of how the shoot went, and some insights and tips for photographing babies.

Baby Photography

Work to baby’s needs. If baby wants to stay in mum’s arms, let him or her.

Preparation. We organised the shoot to be in the morning to fit in with baby’s normal routine. We discussed clothing before the shoot, and the parents brought several changes of clothes for baby and for themselves. We concentrated on solid colours which would look good in colour or black and white. We avoided patterns.

The session was held in my studio and in preparation I made sure we had:

  • the heater on, so the room was nice and warm
  • a place where the parents could put their bag
  • a chair where mum could feed baby
  • back drops in place and ready to go
  • lighting in place and ready to go
  • a bean bag handy which we could position baby on
  • 2 camera bodies with lenses on, to save on time changing lenses
Baby Photography

Converting images to black and white helps keep focus on baby and not on any minor imperfections

On the Day. When the clients arrived the baby was wide awake and looking very alert for a 6 week old! It must have been all the new sights and sounds and smells. However, despite all our best preparations baby was reasonably unsettled throughout the shoot. While he was fed several times and kept nice and warm, it was just one of those days where he had other things on his mind apart from being the ‘perfect model’. Not to worry! This is quite normal for really little babies and so it important to remain relaxed – and to keep mum and dad relaxed. In this case, mum and dad were well prepared and not in a hurry so we did have time, and enough cooperation from the model, to get them some ‘A’ grade images.

Shot Plan. I plan my shots and poses before the client arrives and make sure I have any equipment on hand. That is helpful for making the most of the time, but it is more important to remain flexible. If baby wants to stay in mum’s arms – let him or her. There will be time to do all the shots planned, they will just need to be done in an order and a time which baby is happy with.

The Results. Don’t worry – this story has a good end. Firstly, we all had a relaxed and enjoyable time. Baby wasn’t the perfect model, but we all had fun and we have finished with a number of ‘A’ grade images for the family. This was a good reminder to not get stressed if baby is not perfect. You will have a short window of opportunity when baby is settled to get those images you need. Be patient and be ready.

Baby photography

A hat or beanie helps make a baby’s head look normal and to keep warm

Insights. There were several things which went really well from this shoot that are worth taking as insights or tips. They were:

  • ask parents to bring several changes of clothes for baby and themselves. At this shoot, baby had a “call of nature” on his dad. Dad had a change of clothes, so we had no problems and a funny story to tell!
  • include several hats or beanies for baby. A baby’s head can look disproportionately large compared to its body. A hat will make it look in proportion
  • be flexible. This was essential in this session. We worked to baby’s routine and got a good outcome
  • relax. It helps the parents relax too. They need to have an enjoyable time as well as having nice images
  • it’s not about volume. You don’t need hundreds of great shots for very little ones. This shoot is capturing a moment in time, and a handful of good images will do that
  • convert images to black and white. Black and white is very effective in newborn photography. It helps to focus on the beautiful little parcel, and not on skin imperfections or colouring

Do you have a story to tell from photographing babies? Key lessons learnt? Tips for good outcomes?

The Benefits of the Off Season

Right now, in Melbourne, Australia, it is the middle of winter. After a reasonably mild June we have had a cold, grey, windy July. It is a quiet time for weddings, with most weddings being held in the warmer months between September and March. I don’t shoot many weddings at this time of year, so this post covers the benefits of the off season.

I am really glad that my wedding business is seasonal and that there is a quiet time of the year. I wonder what it must be like to be a wedding photographer in Hawaii where there are lots of weddings all year round. Would you ever get a break? How would you re-charge the batteries? How would you stay fresh?


The wedding off season is a chance for photographers to recharge

I see lots of good things about having a slower time of year. Here are the key ones – the benefits of the off season.

Rest and recharge the batteries. During spring and summer it can feel like a never ending run of weddings to photograph, images to edit, deadlines to meet, and albums to deliver. It is an exciting time as you watch the brides eyes light up at her new album, and the mother of the bride burst into tears as she sees the large print of her daughter in her wedding dress for the first time. It is also a really busy and challenging time. The more successful you are, the busier you can be. The first benefit of the off season is the chance to rest up and plan for the season of weddings ahead. Life in the fast lane can be great, but life in the slow lane can be a welcome change.

Evaluate your work. Being less busy gives critical time to evaluate your work. How has it improved over this wedding season? Where does it still need to improve? What new edge can I bring for next year? The slower pace in winter gives crucial time to reflect and plan, and prepare for next seasons weddings.

Revise marketing materials. The winter wedding slowdown gives a great opportunity to assess marketing materials and to ask key questions. Does my marketing material reflect what I can bring to a bride and groom? Do they communicate how I am different to other photographers? Do they attract my target client? The off season is a great time to re-assess marketing materials and the marketing plan.

Fruit bat

The off season is a great time to shoot personal projects

Shoot personal projects. In the middle of summer, back to back wedding work makes it very difficult to tackle any other photography work or projects. One of the great benefits of the off season is to shoot personal projects. I love wildlife photography and find the time in the great outdoors to be refreshing and invigorating. This time of year gives me the chance to shoot wildlife projects.

Try new things. The off season is the time I try new things. When I am in the middle of wedding season and I have brides and grooms relying on me, I stick to equipment and techniques I know and have practiced many times. A wedding is the time to deliver a great client experience, not to experiment. Winter gives me the chance to try new styles, new equipment, and new post processing techniques. It’s the time to learn, and learning helps keep us fresh. Photography is a lifelong process of continual improvement and winter is a great time to improve.

Evaluate the business. In Australia, the end of the tax year is in the middle of winter. This is a great opportunity to connect the creative side of a photography business with the business side. How well is the business doing? Where could it do better? What can I learn from other photographers businesses? What can I learn from other creative businesses? The slowdown in client work is a great opportunity to assess whether I am meeting business goals, not just creative goals.


Rest, relax and read in the off season

Read. I love to read and winter is the time that I read the most. Recently I have re-read two books about the business of photography which I highly recommend. They are VisionMongers by David Du Chemin, and The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan by Dane Sanders. Whether you already run a photography business or are considering it, these books are both well worth reading. Another of the benefits of the off season, is the chance to reflect and read, and to learn from others. It helps bring perspective and to open your mind to new approaches.

I love winter and the off season. It is also the time in Melbourne to get to the AFL football! So there you are – seven of the benefits of the off season. What do you like to do when client work is slow? Do you enjoy off season or would you prefer to be busy year round?

Five Lessons from Film Photography Days

I have come across several photographers and clients recently who can barely remember film and film cameras. I feel fortunate to have lived through both the film photography and the digital photography eras.Soon there will be a generation who only grew up with digital. Technology changes have brought changes to photography, and made me think about my top five lessons from film photography days.

Film camera

We are getting to a time when many young photographers have never used a film camera

In the days of film, photography was different. I bought my first SLR camera in 1997. At that time, you planned how much film you could afford and could carry. The rolls came mainly as 36 exposure or 24 exposure. You were careful with how you used each exposure as you had a limited number and each one cost you money, both to buy the film and to have it processed. When you got your film processed it could be days, weeks, or months after you made the image. Wow, times have changed! Today, memory cards are cheap and have almost unlimited capacity. Images can be viewed on the back of the camera immediately. Often, images don’t ever get printed, they exist only in digital form. So, looking back on what I’ve learned, what are my top five lessons from film photography days?

(1) Consider Composition

In the film photography days, you had to carefully consider each image before you took it. With a limited amount of film, you had to make sure it lasted. With today’s cheap memory cards there is almost no limit on the quantity of images you can make. Sometimes this leads to an approach of shooting everything – summed up in that great description to “spray and pray”. Unfortunately this can lead to a large number of poor quality images. Lesson 1 – take the time to consider composition. It will improve your photography, and save you time reviewing and processing lots of poor quality images.

(2) Learn Faster

You had to wait for processing in the film era. This made it difficult to learn, as sometimes I could hardly remember actually taking the shot! Being able to review images instantly in the digital age gives us a great opportunity to learn faster. To make the most of this opporunity to learn faster, take the time after each shoot to review the images you have made and consider how you could improve them next time. Do this on your computer away from the shoot.

(3) Avoid Constantly “Chimping”

Chimping is that annoying habit of constantly reviewing your images on the back of your camera. In the film photography days, this option didn’t exist. Ironically, this helped the photographer engage with the subject and remain focused on creating great images. In effect, it kept you in the “creating zone” and didn’t allow you to drift into “reviewing mode”. If you are a photographer who checks the LCD screen after every image – think about not looking at it for a while, and staying engaged with the subject you are shooting.

(4) Get it Right In-Camera


Film and film canisters used to be in every photographers bag. Now very few carry film.

Digital technology and the post production tools we have now give us great flexibility to adjust images after they have been made. Unfortunately this also leads some people to believe that the quality of the image coming directly out of the camera is less important now as they “can fix it in photoshop”. I hope you cringed as you read that. A bad image will still be a bad image after post production. A really good image straight from the camera, can remain a good image, or be enhanced further in post production. Don’t get lazy and expect your camera and post production tools to do everything for you. Learn your craft. Get it right in-camera and use post production tools to enhance, not fix, your images.

(5) Print Your Best Work

In film photography days, there were only prints or slides. Now it is very common for images to exist only in digital form. They can be shot on a digital camera, digitally enhanced in post production, and be used only on websites. If you have ever seen good quality images in print you will know how powerful prints can be. Think of family portraits in a home, wedding images hanging on walls for generations, and landscape images in corporate boardrooms. Take the time to print your best work. It will have an impact.

These are my top five lessons from film photography days. I don’t miss those days, but I feel lucky to have used film and digital technology. Did you live through the film photography era? What lessons did it teach you? Do you miss any aspects of that era?

Make the Most of Your Flash

Have you heard that your flash photography will improve dramatically if you use your flash off the camera? Believe me – it will. In this post I outline how to make the most of your flash by using it off camera.

So, how do we use the flash off the camera? In an earlier post I explained How To Use Flash Triggers (thanks to the readers who emailed me with positive feedback about that post). Flash triggers enable us to fire the flash when it is off the camera. With 3 other simple pieces of equipment you will be able to create images with soft, directional flash light. When you master this, you will really make the most of your flash!


Attach the adapter to the top of the light stand

What equipment do I need? In addition to the radio triggers you will need:

  • a light stand
  • an adapter
  • a shoot through umbrella

First, you will need a light stand. This enables you to position the light at whatever height and distance from the subject you like. Second, you will need an adapter. This is the small piece of equipment which attaches to the top of your light stand. It allows the flash to sit on top of it. It also has a hole through it for the umbrella to fit in. Thirdly, you will need something to spread and soften the light. You can use a reflective umbrella or a shoot through umbrella. My preference is the shoot through umbrella as I find it enables better control of the light.


Attach the flash unit to the top of the adapter

How do I set it up?

(1) attach one of your flash triggers to the camera, and one to the flash
(2) set up your light stand
(3) attach the adapter to the connection point on top of the light stand
(4) attach the flash (with trigger attached) to the adapter
(5) thread the umbrella through the hole in the adapter

Now that you have this set up, you can position the light relative to the subject. If you don’t like how your subject is lit, move the light or adjust the power from the flash. Now, instead of being stuck with the flash on the camera, you can use your flash anywhere! This is how to make the most of your flash! (This is a one light setup, for additional light sources replicate the process for multiple lights).

What does it cost? This is a hard question to answer and depends where you live and where you like to shop! I live in Australia and buy most of my equipment at an online store. At that store there is currently a special offer which includes 2 radio triggers, a reflective umbrella, a light stand and an adapter, for A$140.

Off camera flash

The final set up

What next? To build on this lighting set up you can add a portable background. Once you have a background, you effectively have a simple, portable studio. I use this set up when doing corporate portraits in an office environment.

If you have questions about this set up, please feel free to add a comment to this post, or email me at

I hope this post has been useful and will encourage you to take the flash off the camera and make the most of your flash!

Better Backgrounds for Better Images

Better backgrounds

A clean background has added impact to the subject

This photo was selected as the file of the day on one of the wildlife photography communities I participate in on Google+. It is a female superb fairy wren. I took this shot yesterday afternoon in Melbourne, Australia. It has prompted me to write about what is the single biggest way to improve your photography – better backgrounds for better images.

This tip is applicable to nearly every type of photography – and on this post I have included sample images from weddings, wildlife, sports, and family portraits.

In all these types of photography, having a nice clean background has focused attention on the subject. There is nothing distracting or off putting, and the subject really stands out in the frame. So, let’s see some sample images, and discuss how to use better backgrounds for better images.

Better backgrounds

A clean, bright background focuses attention on the subject

This example is from a family portrait shoot. In any type of photography where you are setting up the shot, getting nice clean backgrounds is straight forward but requires the photographer to choose the type of background suitable to the shot. In this case, I was doing an outdoor family portrait session at a park. The child was wearing dark colors so I looked for a plain background which also had lighter colors. In this case, the background is a stone wall which formed part of a monument. It is a nice bright color which offsets the subject’s dark shirt, and provides a clean but textured background. At a park environment, also look for trees or nature scenes which would give clean backgrounds, or fences or building walls. These can all be effective.

Better backgrounds

An outdoor stairwell as a background for a wedding image

Ok, now for a wedding image. This image was taken at an inner city wedding. As you can see I have used an outdoor stair well as the background for this image. Weddings are particularly important to get clean backgrounds, as the focus needs to be on the couple, their relationship and the wedding day.

Again, with weddings you have time to plan these images in advance, and as long as the weather cooperates, it is a matter of following your plan. In this image the lack of color in the stairs also helps to focus attention on the bride and groom. (Interestingly, this image had more impact because of the colors than a similar black and white image.)

Even in inner city, busy environments with lots of people, it is possible to find clean backgrounds to support your images. Look for stairwells, doorways, arches, or architectural features – like walls. Better backgrounds for better images works for wedding photography too.

Freezing motion

Freezing motion in indoor lighting conditions will require higher ISO

The use of plain backgrounds in sports can be effective, but there are also times when a busy background works well in sports photography.

If you think about a basketball image, there is a time to have the player on there own, and also a time for the player to be seen against a background of a cheering crowd.

In sports photography, it is still possible to get clean backgrounds, but it also might be more effective to get a busy background of a cheering group of supporters.

Ok, so how do we put the lesson of better backgrounds for better images into action? To improve your photography with this technique it is a matter of consciously choosing what you would like for your background and then practicing. After a short period of time you will be subconsciously positioning yourself and your subject to achieve backgrounds which help your subjects stand out.

If you have found this post – better backgrounds for better images – useful, you may also like posts on:

Thanks for reading this post. Good luck with better backgrounds for better images.


Getting Started in Your Photography Business

Today I swapped Facebook messages with a very enthusiastic photographer who has visions of a career change and making a living from travel photography. Her enthusiasm coupled with a healthy dose of “where to next doubts” reminded me of myself when I was starting out in 2008. It prompted this post – getting started in your photography business.

Financial Planning

Plan for your financial success.

Lots of people dream of turning their hobby into their source of income. It is all about “living the dream” and reminds us that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. Cool! But getting started in an industry you may have very little experience in is a daunting challenge. So, I’ve thought about what I’ve learned over the last 6 years. Here are 7 tips if you are planning on getting started in your photography business.

Tip 1 – Capitalize on Your Enthusiasm

The early stages of starting a business are very exciting, you are full of enthusiasm and enjoying the new challenge. Capitalize on your enthusiasm! Act on it, get started, do something.

There is a hugely empowering feeling that comes with taking action – get started, and get started now! Organise a website, join a stock photography website, shoot a pile of new images, write an advertisement for yourself, find an online community to join. Whatever it is, act today. Get started.

Tip 2 – Expect Mistakes

As you start in an industry you don’t know, you are not going to get every step right first time. Expect mistakes, they are part of the learning. When they come, welcome them. This is how we move forward. I started out with a horrible website and expected that to get lots of visitors, and then get lots of clients. That’s not how it works. The mistake and the lesson are both ok. Learn the lesson and move forward.

Tip 3 – Ask for Advice

If you want to reach your goals slowly – do it your own way, don’t ask for input, and refuse to take advice. If you want to reach your goals more quickly – ask for advice from people who’ve trodden this path before you! As a photographer, ask for advice both on your images and how to market your images.

The bad news is that making images and marketing images are entirely different skills. The good news is that the photography industry is full of people who will share their experience and help you. All you have to do is ask.

E business

Today there are a wide variety of ebusiness opportunities

Tip 4 – Be Prepared to Learn

Asking for advice is the first step. Being prepared to learn is the next. Running a successful photography business is both a journey of self discovery and a process of continuous improvement. Whether its learning a new lighting technique, understanding how e business works, learning about stock photography, getting better ways to pose your subject, or knowing how to improve your post production workflow – be prepared to learn. Keep improving. Then improve again. And again. And again.


Research your target market

Tip 5 – Research the Market

Right when you start you are full of energy but without direction. This is a great time to study the market.

If you are a travel photographer, what are successful travel photographers shooting? What style of images are popular? How are they lit? Why do they work? If you are a stock photographer – what are the current trends in stock photography? What are the next emerging markets? What is the under served niche you can target? If you are a wedding photographer, how are the best wedding photographers in your area marketing themselves? What style of images are they shooting? Why does it work? Is there an opportunity for you?

Use some of your new starter energy to see what the market is doing.

Tip 6 – Plan your Finances

Starting a business means generating an income – and having an income higher than your expenses as soon as possible! It is very easy to get carried away with the romantic notion of being a photographer, and not bother to look at your income and expenses. When you are starting out, you are setting the principles you will run your business on forever. You need to look at both expenses and income and assess how well the business is going. Happy clients is one thing, a happy accountant is another. Keep it real.

Tip 7 – Keep Going!!

You will run into road blocks, you will get discouraged, you will have doubts. When you get to the point of being about to give up – this is the time to keep going! If this were easy, everyone would do it. There is something special in overcoming difficulty to arrive at success. The journey makes you better – keep going!

There are hundreds of other lessons learnt in starting a photography business. Please leave a comment on this post if you have an issue you’d like me to address, a question you’d like answered, or just some encouragement!

Finally, the lady I swapped messages with today has already found a community of photographers, she is asking questions, and listening to the answers. If she can keep that up, and keep going when she has doubts, she will do very well.


Freezing Motion

Freezing motion is a photographic technique to capture what the human eye cannot see. It is particularly effective in wildlife and sports photography. So what do we need to do to freeze motion, and how can we use this?

To be effective in freezing motion we need to use a fast shutter speed. To achieve this we may need to use a high ISO depending on the lighting conditions. How fast does the shutter speed need to be? That depends on how quickly the subject is moving. Let’s look at some examples of freezing motion.

Freezing motion

Freezing motion in indoor lighting conditions will require higher ISO

Indoor sporting settings are particularly challenging for freezing motion. The low levels of lighting will mean higher ISO settings are required to get fast shutter speeds. In this image the settings are ISO4000, 1/500s, f2.8

In this case the player has just set off from a standing start. For this shot 1/500s has been fast enough to freeze the action. If he was running full speed we would need a shutter speed of 1/1000s or faster to freeze the motion.

Black swan

Freezing motion is very effective in wildlife photography

Example two is a black swan. This image was taken at Albert Park Lake in Melbourne, Australia. The outdoor setting and brighter lighting means we can use lower ISO, though we still need fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. In this case the settings were ISO100, 1/1600s, f2.8.

The bright sunny conditions means I have been able to use ISO100 and 1/1600s to freeze the action. Smaller, faster wildlife will require fast shutter speeds than these. To achieve focus, I have selected a single focus point and focused on the swan’s head. In the sports examples, I have used the same technique. Choose a single focus point and focus on the player’s head.

Freezing motion

Freezing motion in sport is straightforward in well lit conditions

In example three we have a player running towards first base. The brightly lit outdoor conditions mean we can achieve fast shutter speeds with lower ISO’s. In this case the ISO is 200 and the settings 1/1000s and f4.5. Again, for faster moving subjects, higher shutter speeds will be required.

How might we use the techniques for freezing motion? The sports examples show you that action images are no longer reserved only for professional sports people. With today’s camera technology and these techniques it is possible to create action portraits in local, amateur sports too.

In example four, we have a cassowary. These very large, impressive, flightless birds are difficult to photograph. Being ready with the techniques outlined in this post, meant that when this cassowary moved its head in an unusual way, I was ready to capture a unique portrait. In this case the settings were ISO500, 1/200s, f2.8. The slower shutter speed was effective here because these large birds move relatively slowly (except when they are running!!)


Be ready with a fast shutter speed, and a single focus point

For success in freezing motion, keep your shutter speeds high, and use a single focus point. 1/500s will work successfully for larger, slower moving subjects – and 1/1600s and faster for smaller faster moving subjects.