Learning from the Best – Travelling with National Geographic Photographers


I have recently been privileged to travel alongside some of the worlds best National Geographic photographers. Travelling with these experts, learning of their rise to success, having the chance to obtain some hints and tips from them is like a dream come true. I can only imagine how many aspiring camera enthusiasts would yearn for this experience.

So what did I learn from travelling alongside the worlds best? Learning to understand what your camera is thinking and how it functions is key.

I have broken down the tips I have learned into three modules, allowing you time to practice and play with your camera. These tips are for those perhaps using an SLR but not to its full capabilities, or for those looking to get the most out of their point and click which now offer many functionalities that SLR cameras offer.

But first we need to understand.

Why do we take photos? The answer is to capture memories, memories we love to share.

More importantly, what is photography? Broken down, it translates to writing with light.

There are three important elements when capturing the perfect shot. Light, lighting and colour. The number one rule around these elements, is that if the light isn’t perfect, don’t shoot it.

What is the perfect light?

Back in the days of film cameras and even in the early days of digital, you were always taught to take photos with the subject in the centre and the direct light behind you. This would front light your subject making your photos flat and without shadows. Shadows used to be seen as bad.

If you move the light behind the subject, it becomes backlit this doesn’t always work either, but it is great with flowers and for illuminating in close up shots or silhouettes.

Some cameras have a feature called a starburst. This is something you may be able to preset, otherwise it can be created manually by simply using the sun to hide behind half an object.

Overhead light quite often makes images flat and pretty blah. No details are captured.

45 degrees up and 45 degrees to the side lighting – this works brilliantly in mid-morning light and the early evening. It is better known as side lighting and provides glimmer and glowing to your images.

Side lighting is the best type of lighting to highlight details in an object and is generally the best light to shoot in.

Do not shoot photos in the middle of the day unless it is cloudy. Diffuse light, such as clouds, is beautiful.

It can convey mood in your photos. Don’t preconceive what you think you can or can’t see.

Never shoot in black and white. Always shoot in colour, and if you wish to convert your image to black and white, do so on a computer.

This way you will avoid losing data captured by your camera if you were to shoot in black and white.

Silhouette photography
Silhouette photography

Light has colour.

At high altitude, it is blue.

In polar regions, it is pewter.

A forest is green.

Mornings are pink.

And evenings are golden.

Remove the filter from your mind and use your eye.

Share your photos taken using these lighting tips on our facebook page or tag us on Instagram @crooked_compass for us to repost.