Top Ten Tips from Dan Bridge
Our first official club meeting of 2024. We were very pleased to welcome Dan Bridge who took us through his top ten tips for photographers. Originally a guitar maker, he turned to photography, his true passion, in 2002 running workshops, private tuition and delivering lectures.
Spoiler alert, I am going to repeat all of Dan’s tips below. But without his spectacular photography to fully illustrate the points, you’ll only get 20% of the story. Dan is a very natural, relaxed presenter and I would thoroughly recommend his talk to any camera club. So, what are those top ten tips?
Come off Auto Mode
Well yes, we should do that. But how many of us do? Dan clearly explained the difference it makes when you are in control rather than your camera guessing what you are trying to achieve. He showed some stunning examples and explained the F/Stop, Shutter Speed, ISO triangle. I use the excuse of being time poor – usually 20 paces behind the other half, annoying him by snapping away. But Dan explained there where half way points, and using aperture priority will now be my default position – a start to taking back control.
Set your White Balance
Following on from the above – your camera by default will be on AWB (auto white balance) and it will be doing it’s best to guess your lighting conditions. Mostly it might get this right – but if you aren’t happy with what you see, try adjusting your white balance. Dan’s woodland and forest examples really made this point very well.
Use a Tripod
Now this one for me is unarguable (apart from the weight and awkwardness or carting a tripod across whatever terrain is your fancy that day). Whilst some photos – slow shutter speed projects for example – cry out for a tripod, Dan explained that the stability, and perhaps most importantly, the repeatability of a tripod, is worth it’s wait in gold.
Maximise the subject/Eliminate the distractions/Don’t forget to move
Forgive me for squishing three into one, but these are your go to composition tips. Dan’s message is clear – think about your end result. What’s your focal point – find it and play with it. Fill the frame, or minimise everything else around it, but make it the most important thing. Look for the things that will distract your viewer: a random twig, stone, signpost, or colour pop. And to get rid of said distraction, or change the pattern and flow of your image: move. To the left or right, up or down, closer or further away from your subject. You may be surprised at how much difference it makes.
Notice the little things
OK, it’s important to see the bigger picture – but don’t lose sight of the small stuff. As photographers we should always keep our eyes open and look around us. The patterns, detail and beauty in things we may often overlook make for some amazing photos. Dan showed us examples of frost, moss, bark and many other small and perfectly formed photography examples. Inspiring stuff.
Enjoy the weather
Enjoy and learn to work with the weather. You might need some good warm, waterproof clothing for this one – and a plastic bag for your camera. But embrace the lighting conditions and make the most of what the weather throws at you. Strong sunshine can let you play with light and shade; rain throws up opportunities for raindrops and puddle reflections; frost and snow can transform landscapes; and a grey, flat day provides lovely soft lighting and plenty of opportunities for monochrome shots. Dan’s message really was don’t let the weather be an excuse to stop you getting out there.
Be critical…but not too critical
Dan encourages us to look at our photos with a critical eye – but not at the expense of enjoying what we do. Look at your shots and be honest with yourself as to whether you could have done better – refer back to the composition tips, could you have moved aside and got a better angle, did you miss that nasty rubbish bin in the left hand corner. Critiquing your own photos will make you a better photographer and sharpen your eye over time.
Ultimately though, have fun. If snapping away on auto mode is what makes you happy and using manual settings stresses you out – keep on going on auto. Look at your photos and think about what makes you smile. Taking spontaneous photos of my friends, birds in the garden, and details in nature is what does it for me. Find your thing and go with it. The best tip in the world.
Contact Dan Bridge
Daniel Bridge is a professional photography tutor and nature photographer running workshops and providing private photography tuition for clients of all abilities.
Based in Billericay, Essex, tuition is frequently carried out here, and in the neighbouring towns of Chelmsford, Brentwood, Romford, Colchester, Harlow, Basildon, Maldon and Southend.