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Young Photographer: Getting started – Nov 2020

We hope students and club members are beginning to get ideas about suitable subjects to photograph for the “Wild Nature” competition.

Below are the basic rules followed by some advice and tips some of which will only apply to those using more complex cameras.

Basic Rules

By what date must I submit my entry?

The closing date is  February 20th 2021. Extended to March 28th because of the pandemic

How do I choose what to photograph?

The Theme set for this Competition is Wild Nature.

The choice of what you photograph is entirely yours, but must be based on the Theme. Your interpretation of the Theme is an important part of the Competition..

What do I need to do?

 You should submit a Portfolio of 3 different printed photos, based on the above Theme. Prints can be Colour or Black & White and should be made on photographic inkjet paper, and not larger than A4 size including any optional mount.                

With each print you must supply a brief written note describing why you think the picture fits the title of the Theme. Doing this part is very important.  

What do I have to submit?

You must make sure you have included:

  1. Your 3 photos
  2. Your completed entry form with a parent/guardian signature. You can download a copy of the blank form here.
  3. Your short written explanations for each picture and how it fits with the “Wild Nature Theme.”
  4. Please also make sure you have written on the back of each photo your name and the name of your school or club or if you are not entering through a school or club – your name and address. We suggest you do this with a spirit based felt tipped pen, to prevent the writing showing through on the picture itself.
Where do I send the entries?

Some – but not all – schools and clubs may collect the entries and send them all together.

You may also send them individually.

In either case the address to use is: Rotarian Tim Bryce, 49 Spencer Court, Britannia Road, Banbury. OX16 5EZ

If possible please use a card backed envelope to stop photos getting bent.

Tips on taking a good photograph

These tips are aimed largely at older competitors using cameras with a wide range of settings on them but others may find them of interest.

Composing a good photo

This is a skill that comes with experience and practise but here are a few tips perhaps of what not to do, rather than what to do!

When you see the picture in your viewfinder try and avoid :-

  1. Putting the main subject right in the middle.
  2. Splitting the picture exactly in half with a strong vertical or horizontal line. (for example, a Telegraph Pole or the Horizon, for instance between the land and the sky.)
  3.  Having a tree or pole looking as if it’s growing out of a person’s head!
  4. Water looking as if it is going to flow out of the picture and Buildings looking as if they will fall over, because the camera or phone was not held vertical or horizontal

It is perfectly possible to correct the issues in 4 above, by reframing on the screen before printing or even after making the print by trimming off a certain amount of the edge of the print to square up the image.

Avoid Camera shake

Camera shake, blurring of the image, is caused by movement of the camera at the moment of shutter release. To avoid this very common problem:

  1. Always hold the camera firmly using two hands. A tripod can help in certain circumstances.
  2. Always squeeze the shutter release, rather than press it.  Be gentle, avoiding harsh movements and jabs.
  3. Some cameras have built in antivibration software. If you have it fair enough, but I would say do the above and you don’t need to rely on this technology.
Getting the right exposure

This means making sure the photo isn’t too dark or too light.                                                                                  Most modern cameras have a sophisticated built in automatic exposure system.

The camera automatically measures the strength of the light illuminating the object, decides on the Shutter speed (the length of time light is allowed to fall on the sensor or film) and opens or closes the Aperture (that is the small hole in the centre of the lens that can be made larger or smaller) in order to allow just the right amount of light to fall on the Sensor or Film. Lens apertures are calibrated and marked in F numbers, the smaller the number the larger the aperture, letting in larger amounts of light, the larger the number the smaller the aperture.

The big advantage of a Digital Camera is that immediately after taking your picture, you can view the result on a little screen on the camera. You can see if it is either too dark or too light and make adjustments before taking a second picture, and you can go on doing that until you get it right.

If working with film you don’t know you have got it right until the film is processed.

I order to make exposure adjustment you need to know how your particular camera system operates. Most digital cameras have a small LCD screen showing settings. Somewhere close by they have a control knob that adjusts the exposure in small increments and shows them on the screen. This is where I have to say you now need to read the instructions for your particular camera.

On most cameras, but possible not a Mobile Phone, you can choose to set the sensitivity of your cameras to light, increasing its ability to record images in much darker lighting conditions. The scale used in the photographic industry is shown as ASA or occasionally ISO. It is a universal measure so that all cameras and film manufacturers work to exactly the same standards. 50 ASA is a slow speed, or low sensitivity, 200 average, 400 accepted as high speed but speeds can go much higher.

You may also be able to adjust the brightness afterwards using computer software. Most Mobile/Smart Phones have useful built in software to make simple adjustments like brightness.

The shutter speed

Continuing with the camera set to automatic exposure. On most cameras you will find some alternative settings under the automatic mode, Aperture priority or Shutter speed priority. If you change to Aperture Priority you can fix the aperture setting and the shutter speed only will be used to change the exposure, similarly when Shutter Speed Priority is chosen only the aperture will be changed by the automatic system.

This is a very useful feature. Fast moving objects need a high or fast shutter speed to arrest or freeze movement which would otherwise blur the image.

Also if you want to make a subject stand out from the background, you can use Aperture priority, set your camera to use a large aperture F2.8 to 1.8 which will reduce the depth of focus, then carefully focus on the subject of interest in your picture and the background will not be in sharp focus and become blurred.

Flash

Most phones and cameras have a flash option that can be turned on or off. Obviously this is meant for situations where there is insufficient light to take a satisfactory picture. It is a harsh form of lighting and can produce harsh looking images with the problem that the flash cannot illuminate far off parts of the picture at the same level as the foreground, leading to black and sometimes totally black backgrounds.

However what we call “Fill-in” Flash can be very useful, where the subject in the foreground is in relative shade and the background fully lit. Using flash in this situation, lights your subject without having any influence on the well lit background.

Computer photographic software

There are many software programs designed to improve photographs. Many smartphones have this built-in or you may be able to transfer your photos to a computer and use commercial software such as Photoshop or free software like GIMP.

Such software often contains an ‘automatic smart-fix’ option to improve the brightness contrast, colours etc. You can use such software in the competition but it can be quite complicated to get the hang of and so make sure you have a safely stored copy of your image if you decide to give it a try.

Printing

There are 3 main ways you might obtain your prints.

  1. Taking your camera, smartphone or memory card to a shop such as Boots or Tesco.
  2. Uploading your chosen photos online to collect the prints from the shop or get them posted to you.
  3. Using a colour printer at home.

The two things you’ll have to decide upon are the size of the print (Maximum A4 210mm x 297mm) and the type of paper (glossy, lustre or matt.)

The type of paper surface is a personal choice. Glossy prints appear sharper and often have more saturated colour, but are slightly more prone to damage and finger prints.

Printing on non-photographic paper will not give the best results.

If you’re using your home printer:

Sometimes the first print is less than perfect. Sometimes a print comes out not quite the right colour or with an overall cast. These faults can be corrected but it is much easier if you work with a Computer programme like Photoshop etc.

Enjoy yourselves and keep learning.

Good luck – We look forward to seeing your work.

 

A few local photos

Below are a few photos taken by some of our not so youthful members of Banbury Rotary Club. We include them not because they are especially great photos but because – with a few exceptions –  they were obtained at or very close to home.

For full details and to register a school or club to take part visit: https://banburyrotaryclub.org.uk/youngphotographer/