As our daily life adapts to the changing world, more of us have turned to photography to capture our perspectives and document this moment in history. From shooting observations from their windows to the newly noticed intricacies of our homes and gardens, or even just documenting this time spent with our families and pets, photography has become an outlet for many.
Award-winning professional photographers, from Sony’s Alpha Universe Ambassador programme, have shared tips and insights on photographing the new normal, to help guide and inspire. They’ve also shared a range of their photography, which you can access at the bottom of the page.
Night Sky Exposures – Stefan Lieberman, Germany
With clearer night time skies, Stefan Lieberman shares his tips on how less pollution can help your night time photography:
“As a night sky photographer, I’m active when it’s darkest. I mostly work alone and rarely encounter people. Because of this, very little immediately changed for me. But I could see the difference in the sky.
The most critical thing for my work is avoiding light pollution. Too much light drowns out the sky. But the current situation means there’s less traffic on roads, and ambient light from businesses has decreased. All in all, light pollution has noticeably reduced.
While we wait for the world to return to normal, we’ve all got a rare opportunity to get out and capture the sky with less interference. Travel restrictions may mean I’m staying local, but I’ve been able to capture beautiful shots while exploring the Thuringian Forest in Germany.”
When it comes to making the most of the reduced light pollution, Stefan outlines the key elements:
“First, it is important to avoid bright light sources. There are currently fewer, but it’s still best if you’re away from a city. Next, you’ll need to use a tripod to keep the shot steady. Finally, you’ll need to experiment with setting long exposures, and ideally trigger it with an external shutter release.
In addition, this sort of photography can benefit from a good understanding of post-processing techniques, such as stitching shots together. Now is a great chance to spend time learning about these.”
Macro Photography – Petar Sabol, Croatia
While we’ve less space to roam, Petar Sabol talks us through capturing the beauty of smaller things, with macro photography:
“Where I live, I have been unable to leave my village. While that might normally limit me, macro photography focuses on small subjects. It’s the perfect art to practice when you’re confined, because any space is full of tiny details to capture.
I think that this period has given us all the chance to take a second look at the familiar. Over the years I’ve trained my eye to search for the beauty in the small details. But even I am finding that I’m noticing things that I’d normally pass by.
My focus lies on wildlife, with insects in particular, and this time has given me the chance to really learn the habits of local creatures. I’m able to get up early, when it’s cold and quiet, and the insects are still sleeping. That’s when they’re most still, and I can capture the best shots.
I’m interested in insects, but there’ll be something small and close to home for everyone to capture. The textures, the abstract details we normally ignore. The possibilities are limitless.”
To capture great macro shots, Petar suggests:
“This is a time to improve skills indoors. Take ordinary items and use them as your focus, whether it’s sugar or a kitchen utensil. Find the detail worth observing in things we use every day, but don’t normally pay attention to. Make sure you’re learning how to light small subjects to capture all the details.
If you’ve got a garden, or even just an outdoor space, look for the insects! Get out early when it’s cold and they’re still. Get down low and on their level but be sure to respect their space and not damage their environment while you’re photographing them.
Macro photography takes patience and practice. But now is the best time to learn or perfect the art, because a lot of us have a bit more spare time.”
Wildlife Photography – Will Burrard Lucas, UK
Having gone from shooting in Africa to home in the UK, Will Burrard Lucas talks us through how best to capture wildlife in your immediate surroundings:
“Last year, I was photographing a rare black panther in Kenya. I was finishing this up, and planning to collect my cameras, when the coronavirus struck. Things are definitely different now, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t kept busy.
Having time to experiment with techniques and practice with your camera is a good opportunity to improve your photography. I’ve been setting up camera traps in the garden, and they’re perfect for getting intimate images of shy garden wildlife. While I might not have any panthers around, there are many similarities between photographing wild animals and our household pets.
Not to mention, now I have time to catch up on all of the office tasks I had previously put off; I’m laying foundations so that when this is over I will emerge in a better position to be able to concentrate on my photography.”
There are three types of image Will is looking for when capturing wildlife and pets:
“Firstly, I try to capture candid images that show behaviour. What is it that your pet does that reveals their personality? Perhaps you can photograph them while playing or snoozing in their favourite spot.
Secondly, I look for wider shots that show the animal in their environment. Often the animal is small in the frame. Perhaps this is the type of image you can look for whilst walking your dog or in your garden.
Finally, I aim to capture intimate portraits. I will often use a wide aperture to blur the background and isolate my subject. Make sure you focus on the eyes (Animal Eye autofocus is helpful for this). Eye contact helps create more impact – if the eyes aren’t sharp it is very difficult for the viewer to connect with the subject. Try to reveal the personality of your pet. Get down on their level so that you are not looking down at them – this will give them greater presence and make a more engaging image.”
Landscape Shots – Ilhan Eroglu, Turkey
While we’re spending less time outdoors, Ilhan Erglu has landscape photography tips for those of us lucky enough to have a good view:
“I live in Foça, a small coastal town. I cannot travel anymore, which is usually important for landscape photography. Instead, I am photographing the views of my town. Rather than going to location shoots, I’m seeing what comes to me and photographing the same location each day.
The framing is almost the same, but I’m experimenting with different techniques. Every time I capture, it’s still a unique shot. Whether it’s the style, the time of day, the weather – there are many different ways to get a new result from the same perspective.”
When it comes to improving your landscape photography, Ilhan suggests:
“I suggest photographers review the styles of different artists during this time. You can aim to emulate their techniques when capturing the same shot, giving you different results each time and something to aim for.
This is also the best time to learn about your camera. Find out what techniques your equipment is capable of and try things you wouldn’t normally try.”
Telling Your Story – Kenton Thatcher, Portugal
While we’re instructed to spend time further apart, human stories bring us closer together. Advertising portrait photographer Kenton Thatcher discusses how to capture photography that tells a story:
“Within 48 hours, all of my jobs were cancelled. Everything I had in my diary was put on hold. At the time you just think ‘ok, it’s going to be two or three weeks’. But then as the days go on you realise it’s not. It’s going to go on a lot longer.
But positive moments have come out of this. On a walk one day with my dog, I encountered a photojournalist. He’d started a group for photojournalists across Portugal. They had decided to share what they were doing, to help one another; a community where there’s normally competition. They’re capturing the stories of lockdown, and I was inspired by their work.
I’m not a photojournalist, but I have always had a big passion for documenting life. And while on this walk, I realised that, in my 28-years in Lisbon, I’d never seen the city like it is. A storm had cleared the air. The streets were empty. It felt like a movie set: eerie, melancholic, but beautiful. I took a series of pictures. Upon uploading them to social platforms, I had people getting in touch who were unable to get out and see what their city looked like, thanking me.
I realized the importance of documenting our journey through this and telling the story of the world as it is right now.”
When it comes to sharing our stories through photography, Kenton says:
“We are all in different situations. I can imagine that some people can feel they’re a little bit stuck. But I really believe that there are so many different stories to tell.
Here are a few suggestions:
• If you’re allowed to go on walks, take a camera wherever you go and capture your experiences
• Create a diary of your family life during this time to look back on
• Take a selfie every day in the mirror and note how you’re changing
• If you’re learning a new skill, use that as inspiration and take photos that chart your improvement
Use your photography to capture life in whatever form you find it. Whatever enters your head, whatever you see, whatever looks even a little bit different. Capture it. Because even though the unusual has become normal for us right now, in 20- or 30-years people will look back on these photos to understand this moment in history.”
About Sony’s Alpha Universe Ambassadors:
• Stefan Lieberman is an internationally awarded night photographer.
• Petar Sabol is Croatia’s most-awarded photographer, specializing in macro wildlife photography.
• Kenton Thatcher is an internationally acclaimed award-winning contemporary and advertising portrait photographer.
• Will Burrard-Lucas is a wildlife photographer from the UK.
• Ilhan Eroglu is a self-taught landscape photographer based in Turkey.