So, what does it take to be a winner? Leica Fieldsports Photographer of the Year 2016 Mark Payne shares his top tips.
Whilst I use a Nikon D810 DSLR, it really doesn’t matter what camera you use, although you will need to provide a final quality image which can be printed to at least A4 size. Whether it’s a DSLR, compact camera, or even a smartphone, they can all produce fantastic results.
Sharpness & focus
The subject(s) of your image needs to be pin-sharp and stand out. If your camera gives you the option to adjust the aperture (the size of the hole the light travels through), setting the camera’s f-stop number low (e.g. f/1.8) will help your subject to stand out from the background, giving it real punch.
This is one of the most challenging aspects of photography. A bright day will make things easier, especially if you need a fast shutter speed to capture an action shot. Most cameras allow you to change the ISO (the sensitivity of the sensor), allowing higher shutter speeds to be used in low light. The higher the ISO, the more noise (grain) the image will have. That said, many high-end cameras can shoot up to ISO6400 without a problem. Don’t worry if the ISO is high – it’s more important not to miss the shot!
If your subject is moving, you’re likely to want to freeze the action. That requires a shutter speed of at least 1/1000sec, and if you have enough light, up to 1/2000sec. If you’re shooting a portrait, you may be able to go as low as 1/100s. The lower the speed, the more likely the image will be blurred.
Capture the moment
You may have a specific idea of the image you want to take, or you may be lucky to just capture a fantastic shot. Just having a camera with you is probably the best piece of advice I can give you.
RAW or JPEG?
I shoot in the RAW image format as it gives me a better chance of being able to correct an image if I get the settings wrong. The downside is that you definitely need to edit your images and the fi le sizes will be larger. A JPEG file may look great straight out of the camera, but if you don’t have the exposure or colour balance correct, it’s more difficult to rectify.
Generally, your image will look better if you edit it, and fast-paced fieldsports photos may not always turn out how you would like. Whether you use Adobe’s Photoshop, Lightroom, or one of the many free programs available, it’s important to control and correct the exposure. Editing can take time, and the learning curve can be steep, but it’s worth persevering!
Make it different
Stand out by doing something different. If it’s been done before, it may not have the impact.