Words and Image: Oleksandra Budna
What story does your picture tell?
We all love a good picture, and with modern technology taking photos has never been easier. But what makes for a good photo? Yes, there are some technical aspects to it and having decent equipment helps but it is in no way necessary. To me, a good picture is about capturing the feeling of the moment, inspiring imagination and most importantly, telling a story. And yet, time and again on our travels, I see people with their backs to the most breathtaking landscapes, wielding selfie sticks, trying to squeeze themselves into a frame; or neatly lined against gorgeous backdrops with posed smiles waiting for someone to photograph them. The only story those pictures tell: I’ve been there. They work well for your Facebook feed but are hardly the photos you will want to go back to weeks, months or even years later.
I have always been interested in capturing people interacting with nature rather than using it as a background. The memories I cherish the most are those of my son paddling a canoe, my husband enjoying the view after a strenuous hike, my kids holding hands on the trail, the joy of splashing in the water, the awe at the beauty of the setting sun. And those are the moments I try to document whenever we go outside. It makes for happier kids too. Instead of having to stand still and wear a forced smile, they can run around and be themselves.
It doesn’t mean that you should completely ban posed photos from your repertoire. They can tell some interesting stories if done with intention instead of serving as a mindless proof of visiting a place. We were once asked to photograph a large group of cyclists on Savannah Trail in Pinery Provincial Park. As they were arranging themselves in rows, they explained they had been taking the same picture every year for the past fourteen years. That must be a neat series of photos.
So how to best capture those special moments?
- Be patient, observant and always ready to spring into action. Special moments can’t be predicted and even if you try to recreate them later, the mood won’t be the same.
- Have a large memory card and take multiple shots. The more photos you take, the better is your chance of capturing that perfect moment.
- Try different vintage points: get up high, bend down low, get to your kids level, or try lying on the ground. In addition to capturing some interesting shots, you will get to experience the world in a new way.
- Use fast shutter speed and continuous shooting mode, if possible, when photographing quick action, like diving off the rock or jumping in the air. It will help freeze the moment and avoid a blur.
- Use a zoom lens. It will allow you to take photos from a distance without disrupting the moment. That being said, don’t use digital zoom on your phone. All you will get is a highly pixelated image.
- If you do decide to take posed photos, get creative. Make silly faces, jump in the air, show how happy, excited or even tired you are. Also remember your face doesn’t need to be in the frame for a memorable photo. Sometimes your feet, shadow or reflection is all you need.
- Finally, have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. After all, it is your story and it should be as unique as you are.