6 tips to take better photos with Deb Cochrane


21 Jul 2016

photo tips debcochrane2



6 tips to take better photos with Deb Cochrane

21 Jul 2016

Deb Cochrane is an Australian-born US-based professional landscape and nature photographer and a recent winner of the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards.  

SAE Institute sat down with the photographer to share her hints and tips.


Antelope Canyon Arizona USA


Tip #1
Shooting in low-level light

Context: "This image was taken in Antelope Canyon Arizona USA. It is a slot canyon so it feel like you are in a cave when actually you are in a canyon where the walls are so close together that daylight only pierces the darkness at a certain time of day.

Technical consideration: This image is of the canyon wall being illuminated by reflected sunlight from above.

Tips to shooting in low-level light

  • The light level was very low so Deb bumped the ISO up to 2500 the Shutter speed was 1/50th sec.
  • Deb had to jam by body up against the wall to steady the camera.
  • Deb kept the f-stop at 11 to give me more depth of field.

Because the high ISO created some noise in the shadows, Deb applied some noise reduction in post processing.



Tip #2 Shooting dramatic weather

Context: Image taken in Colorado USA. "It was a stormy windy day and the light was changing rapidly as the clouds were moving fast. I saw this shot as I was driving so i pulled over. By the time I got my camera out, the light had gone. I could see a gap in the clouds so I waited for the sun to burst through the small gap. I fired off a couple of shots and the light was gone again."

Tip to shooting dramatic weather

  • Shooting in these conditions is a challenge but if you have your camera set and ready you wont miss an opportunity.

Colorado USA

 Colorado, USA



 Tip #3 Photographing water and landscapes

Context: This image was taken in Canada at Lake Louise. I wanted to capture the amazing view of this mountain by the lake.

How to frame water and landscape

  • Deb used her 17mm wide-angle lens and got down really low so my camera was just a little above the water. This gave me strong foreground interest and something to lead the eye into the image to the rugged mountain disappearing into the clouds. The reflection of the mountain also helps to guide you into the scene.
  • Aperture was f16 to keep the foreground in focus as well as the mountain.

Canada Lake at Lake Louise

Canada Lake at Lake Louise, Canada



Tip #4 Photographing from inside to outside

Context: Mesa Arch in Utah at sunrise. The time of day for shooting this place is really important. At sunrise, the underneath of the massive arch is illuminated by the sun hitting the massive cliff that this arch sits on top of. "It made the arch glow."

Tips to shooting from inside cave

  • When thinking about a location you want to shoot, do some research and find out where the sun rises and sets so you can pick the best time of day to be there.

Mesa Arch in Utah

Mesa Arch in Utah, USA



Tip #5 How to shoot panoramas

Context: Grand Tetons National Park Wyoming USA. This image won 3rd place in the 2016 Sony World Photography National Awards.

Tips to photographing panoramas

  • The photograph is a 6-image panorama stitched together in Lightroom CC.
  • Deb had her camera on a tripod and shot the images vertically (or in portrait orientation), overlapping each shot by about a third. Shooting panoramas vertically allows you to maintain the height of the image. Shooting them horizontally will give you a very long narrow image.
  • The tripod helps to keep the shots aligned but if you are handheld just keep the horizon in the same place in the frame as much as you can.

Grand Tetons National Park Wyoming USA

Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming, USA

Context: Woody field

Tips: Another panorama using 8 images. Deb used the same technique as before. "This foggy scene struck me when I saw the creek running through the field of grass. It leads the eye into the scene. I cropped out the top part of the image, as it didn't add anything to the scene."

Panorama stitching technique

How to take better panorama shots



Tip #6 Creating drama from a single element

Isolating a single element in an image is a powerful way to draw the attention of the viewer.

Context: The Aspen forests were so vast and colourful but I wanted to create a more intimate image of them. I climbed up on this rocky outcrop and this leaf was just laying there as if waiting for me.

Tips to manipulating depth of field

  • Deb put her camera down low and close to the leaf.
  • Deb had a 17mm wide angle lens on her camera so I had to get very close to the leaf in order for it to dominate the foreground.
  • The aperture was set to f4.5 to give a shallow depth of field and isolate the leaf from the background.

Panorama stitching technique

Aspen, Colorado USA


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Panorama stitching technique

Find out more about Deb Cochrane here