One of my favorite things to do on Instagram is my live photo edit segments on Wednesday nights. I love interacting, sharing my workflow, and showing people what I do to make my photography unique to me. One thing I haven’t done is put some of the go-to tips that get me from my camera bag to the “click” of the camera in writing. I will periodically upload some videos of me editing photos, but these are the simple steps I use to get the base image I want. Remember, these are just my steps and things I consider. Photography is an art that must represent you, so take these as mere suggestions and tips and adapt them to what works for you. Most of these tips are things I have learned or adapted from some of the best photographers I know, and I hope you find this list helpful.
1. Aperture Priority is my preferred daytime “walk around” setting. This one was a game-changer from my good friend and ZADD Crew Media staff photographer @DougDoesDisney and now Aperture Priority is my new setting while walking around the parks. The advantage of shooting in Aperture Priority is full control of how much light is coming into your camera. With this, you are able to control so many different aspects of a photo (i.e., the sunbeams coming through the towers of the castle in this photo, the sharply focused look of the photo to the left, and the very popular bokeh look in this photo here).
2. Change your angles, focal points, shot framing, and field of depth of the same subject matter (just like the Splash Mountain photo). This is where photography becomes something truly personal. This is the first step in making a photo uniquely “you.” When you set up to shoot a subject, especially one that won’t move on you, change up what you are doing. The biggest mistake I made in my early photography days was stand at the same height and focal point and shoot the same perfectly “center framed” photo every time and move on. What happened when I got home? Most of my Epcot photos from day one looked like my Epcot photos from day five. There was nothing separating the photos or making them stand out. I am of above-average height and over the last year, I have started to use that to change the perspective of my photos. With my arms outstretched, I can get some height with my camera and bring a new view. On the other side of this, get low and widen your shots. Don’t find a perfect place to shoot and ruin it only taking two photos standing in the same position, show people a subject they have seen from an angle they haven’t.
3. The biggest keys to nighttime photography are a tripod and practice. To truly get the best image quality you want to shoot with your ISO set at the lowest setting. To do this, your shutter will require a lot of time to allow the sensor to gather all the natural light it can without using the crutch of ISO. Simply put, ISO is a way the cameras internal computer brightens a photo. This perk comes with the consequence of graininess in the photos the higher the ISO. There are certain times to use a higher ISO, like a dark ride (check out this video from our good friend @disney_nuts for more on dark ride photography), but nothing beats allowing the shutter and camera to do the work with a tripod. Most of my night photos, especially the ones with vibrant colors and vivid details, are shot using a long exposure and a tripod. It is impossible to hold your camera still for the 30 plus seconds it could take to take some of those images. Going with this, make sure you practice how to take these types of photos before you’re in the parks. There is a fair amount of science, math, and practice that goes in too long exposure photography, it is rare to grasp it all your first time out. Practice in different settings with different light, just like the parks. There will be moments you need to use handheld nighttime settings for the sake of speed (nighttime parades, stage shows, and attractions), but mostly you will want a tripod in Walt Disney World at night.
4. Take the time to capture things with your camera that your eyes may pass over. Ever walked by something and appreciated it so much later than you did at that first moment? Yup, me too. How about this one… ever seen someone else post a photo and you go “Where in the WALT DISNEY WORLD is that?!” Yup, samsies. Now, I don’t take these things for granted. I grab photos of things I may not even appreciate until I’m home. Sometimes, I shoot something and seeing the photo on my camera makes me appreciate the subject so much more because I changed the perspective to take the photo. Don’t take things for granted when it comes to photos. The shot of Cinderella Castle is, of course, incredible, but don’t discount the small details as you walk by them. Just like Walt Disney World itself, photographing it is all about the details. How many times have you walked by the sign for The Hollywood Tower Hotel? Ever really taken in the details and enjoyed the piece it plays in the story of the attraction? Its stunning gothic design and cracked facade give you a hint to what you are about to undertake. It is a most perfect sign for the attraction it represents and a photo I missed many times until I took this lesson to heart.
5. Flash is SUPER unfriendly in general but especially in the parks. You know whats not unfriendly? Your cell phone flashlight. Unlike the sudden, bright light of a camera flash, the constant soft glow from your flashlight gives continuous light and doesn’t give you a dark background or flash wash-out. This really comes in handy when you are trying to get photos in front of the castle or of an attraction at night. Flash is so harsh and unforgiving, but given control of the flashlight, you or a friend can add the light where and how you want. You may look a little awkward, but when the photos turn out clean and well-lit, it won’t matter. Don’t go buying expensive equipment; I never have. Any night portrait on my page is shot this way – the cat’s out of the bag.
6. We all knew this lesson was coming, but it’s certainly the most important. No matter which photographer friend of mine I have learned from, they all stand by the same “golden rule” of photography: photograph what represents you and how you want the moment captured. Feel free to take my lessons here and grow, but never forget to let the photos you take represent the art you want to create. Some of the photos I am most proud of may not be the ones with the most “likes” but they perfectly captured, in a millisecond, what I wanted to accomplish. This photo is the perfect example, I wanted to catch this character’s eye so badly through the mask. I wanted this exact shot of them looking at me through the mask, and I knew I would have to be quick and lucky. I got the photo I wanted, and to this day it is a photo I love because I accomplished what I wanted to do. Never forget who your love for photography is for. Don’t forget the reason that camera is in your hand, to begin with – to capture memories and share your art.
I truly hope you found these tips helpful as I start to bring some more photography posts to our blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. I would love to answer your questions in a future post or on the podcast.