Picture Perfect

It was a trip to Tasmania at the end of the seventies that first piqued Darran Leal’s interest in photography. “I had just bought a Praktica Super TL SLR outfit secondhand,” recalls Leal. “I still have a few photos from that trip… “Then I was at Norfolk Island about a year later, shooting a Red-tailed Tropic Bird. Suddenly, travel and photography became linked. I was amazed how I could press a button and capture a split second in time.” Leal abandoned his aspirations for a career as a sportsman and took up a role as a waiter on Norfolk Island and within a few months, through a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, after the sudden departure of the island’s resident photographer, Leal stepped into the shooter’s shoes.

“A week earlier, I had taken one good image that suited the job. It was a simple shot of a family enjoying their time on the Island. That one image started my career in photography.” A few years later, a move to Sydney brought a role as a photographic teacher, where Leal learnt his craft under Sydney pro Warren Macris, and a lifelong love affair with teaching photography and shooting photos began. A working trip to Carnarvon Gorge commenced his career as a guide and in 1988 Leal led his first photo tour. These days World Photo Adventures takes intrepid photographers on journeys of a lifetime all over the globe. According to Darran, “photography and travel go hand in hand”.

“We live in such a great age where we can shoot digital images and instantly review them in camera. We can transfer them to other devices to look at and send them around the world. Our company combines over 50 years of travel experience, photographic passion, great itineraries to amazing locations and the ability to optimise a small group of photographers to shoot unique images. A small group photo tour is guaranteed to offer more photo opportunities and the chance to learn not only from a seasoned professional, but the combined experience of the group.” With summer coming up most of the nation gets set to pack up for holidays, so what’s Leal’s best advice for capturing those magic moments on camera?

“K.I.S. – Keep It Simple – is our company motto. In an era where it seems many new photo educators are suggesting complex and difficult ways to shoot and process your images, I suggest the opposite. In fact the same base principles of photography apply across the board. My suggestion is that you start with the basics, keep it simple and grow your creative interests over time.” His idea of a great holiday snap is to “use your framing option to tell a story”. Leal says to zoom in “to cut out unwanted aspects and get in tight on the key point of interest”.  Importantly don’t forget to add yourself into the photo! “Use your self-timer with a tripod (a table or similar will also work) or ask someone else in the group to shoot for you.”

Darran is the owner of World Photo Adventures. Visit for free photo tips and more information n tours.

Nikon D7000 body. (APS sensor size.)
NIKKOR 28-300mm f3.5/5.6 lens.
Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 lens.
Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens.
UV filters on all lenses for protection.
Tamrac Expedition 5x camera bag.

Darran’s TOP TIPS
1 Use Aperture Priority (‘A’ mode) as much as possible. You set the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed for you. It allows for excellent control over the look of your final result.

2 Use f/5.6 for people/portrait images with a telephoto lens (around 100mm). Also, if you or your subject is moving, use f/5.6. The reason for this is you will usually be offered a faster shutter speed to help freeze the movement. (See point 6.)

3 Use f/11 for landscapes or creative subjects. This helps to offer more. Area of sharpness (depth of field). If the shutter speed drops below 1/60th of a second with a standard lens or wider, consider a tripod. If a telephoto lens, you might need a faster shutter speed to hand hold.

4 Get to know your Exposure Compensation system. It allows you to darken or lighten your photo. It is a +/- button, found on most cameras. If your photo looks too dark, go to the plus range by one (one stop) and see how it looks. If the image looks too bright (washed out) go to the minus range by one. You will quickly learn how this works.

5 Don’t be scared to use Program (‘P’ mode) for simple snap-and-shoot occasions or in particular for flash use. I regularly use ‘P’ mode with flash. The success rate is 99%. In time, you will learn other skills and different modes to be more creative with your flash.

6 Use your ISO control to your advantage. I shoot as much as possible at 200 ISO. However, I will increase to 400 or 800 ISO for lower light situations. If required, I will go even further to 1600 and 3200 ISO. (Some cameras do not handle the last two settings very well.)

7 Isolate your key subject if possible from distracting or busy backgrounds. Many nice looking images have clean and simple backgrounds to the key subject.

8 If your goal is to produce the best image quality, shoot in RAW.

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