Bridge photography is a favourite subject for travel and landscape photographers alike, but getting quality pictures of bridges isn’t as easy as one might think. Your main subject is static but there are a whole host of other elements to think about. Below we’ve offered 10 bridge photography tips direct from the experts to help you bag better pictures of bridges.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 01 Shoot in Raw
For maximum control when it comes to processing your images, always shoot in Raw. You’ll often be shooting high-contrast scenes, with dark bridges backlit by bright skies, and Raw files enable you to extract the maximum amount of shadow and highlight detail at the editing stage. You can fine-tune the white balance post-shoot too.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 02 Use a sturdy tripod
For bridge and landscape shots you’ll often be recording a long exposure, so to capture sharp shots your camera needs to be perfectly stable. Use a sturdy tripod, and keep it as low to the ground as possible; if you need to raise it up, extend the legs rather than the centre column, as this will be more secure. On windy days you may need to find a sheltered spot to shield your camera and tripod from gusts.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 03 Camera accessories
A remote release is essential for hands-off shooting to avoid blurry shots. Use this in conjunction with the Mirror Lock-up Custom function to ensure that there’s no risk of camera shake. For more about remote controls, see this issue’s Help Me Buy feature on page 102.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 04 Camera filters
To stop bright skies overexposing, use an ND grad filter to retain the detail and colour – but avoid positioning the filter over the bridge, otherwise it’ll look unnaturally dark. A polariser will decrease reflections and increase colour saturation, especially after rain, and is great for deepening blue skies.
Or for that sought-after wispy effect in water use a straight ND filter. A variable ND filter with a range of densities from one to eight stops will give versatility. Or use a 10-stop ND filter for really long exposures of 30 seconds and more – in daylight!
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 05 Focus and metering
If you’re using filters, such as a 10-stop ND filter, make sure you compose, focus and meter the shot before you fit the filter. This is because the camera will struggle to focus if it’s too dark.
If you do decide to meter with the filter fitted, it’s best to cover the eyepiece completely so it doesn’t affect the light reading. And remember to focus on the bridge – it may sound obvious, but that’s what you want the viewer’s eye to be drawn to.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 06 Use a wide-angle lens
Wide-angle lenses have a wide field of view that enables you to fit more into the frame, so they’re ideal for photographing large subjects like bridges. They can also introduce perspective distortions that exaggerate lines and curves, which can add impact to imposing subjects (but you can correct them if they spoil a shot).
A common mistake when using a wide-angle lens is including too much bland sky or empty foreground – move around to find the best viewpoint and composition.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 07 Camera settings
Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av) mode, and select a narrow aperture, ideally somewhere between f/11 and f/16 to ensure your images are sharp from front to back.
You should also set a low ISO, ideally ISO100, to ensure that skies and bodies of water are free of image noise. The camera will select an appropriate shutter speed, although you may need to dial-in some exposure compensation if the lighting is tricky.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 08 Use the golden hours
As with landscapes in general, the best times of day to shoot bridges are during the ‘golden hours’ around sunrise and sunset. The quality of the light during these times can change quickly and dramatically, so be sure to take plenty of shots.
These are also the best times to shoot long exposure pictures of bridges, as the light levels are lower. Bridges that are illuminated, or are framed by the lights of a city, also make great night photography subjects.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 09 Composition
A classic wide-angle bridge picture usually requires a foreground object to help create an interesting photo composition, and give the image depth. As most bridges are over water, one option is to capture the reflection of a bridge to fill the foreground, if the water is calm enough. You can also look for rocks, jetties, boats and so on.
Get Better Pictures of Bridges: 10 Colour vs mono
Images shot during the golden hours work well in both colour and mono. Colour is great for showing off a dramatic sunrise or sunset, while mono can add moodiness and atmosphere to shots. And if a bridge is backlit by a bright and colourful sky, try turning it into a dramatic silhouette.
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