How I got the shot #1

How did I get the shot

When I was learning photography (actually I’m still learning) I liked other photographers to explain how they reached the final image that I was looking at. Sometimes it was a lot simpler than it looks, and all it took was an understanding of the basics.

So, I thought I would do the same thing to hopefully help people get some good results, or at least improve their images a little.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I don’t class myself as an expert photographer. I don’t know everything about it, but I know enough to get images that I am pleased with and images that others have liked, so I must be doing something right.

So here is the first shot:



Taken at Chester Zoo on 19th March 2008. It was in the chimp house which is dark, the chimps are behind some dirty glass and there is not enough room to setup a tripod.


  • Sony Alpha a100
  • Minolta 300mm f2.8 Lens

Original Image

Original Chimp-2

The Process

Before I took this picture, I watched this chimp for a while when it was getting comfortable, so I already had an idea of the type of shot I wanted to end up with. As I couldn’t use a tripod, I had to hand hold the camera for this shot. The 300mm lens is a big heavy lens so it’s not the easiest of things to hand hold, so I found somewhere I could prop my arm up on to help support the lens a bit more. This would reduce the amount of camera shake a bit. The other advantage I had was that my camera, the Sony Alpha a100, has a built in anti shake system which again helps to reduce the camera shake a little.

I had my camera set to aperture priority so I could control the aperture and not have to worry about the shutter speed setting, although you still have to be aware of what the camera is doing.

As there was very little light, I knew I needed a wide aperture to let in as much light as possible. My lens had a maximum aperture of f2.8, so I set that. I checked to see what shutter speed the camera was choosing. 1/30th of a second. Now that may seem quick, but is actually quite slow in photography terms so I new I was risking a blurred image. The added benefit of using a wide aperture was that it blurred the background out meaning there were less distractions in the background.

I waited until the chimp stopped moving and hoped both would stay still long enough. I fired off about 4 shots hoping that one would be sharp enough to use. When I took the shots I tried my best to move as little as possible, I held my breath too to try and keep camera shake to a minimum. This can take some practice and finding a comfortable, stable position is not always easy.

Looking at the image on the back of my camera, I knew it looked ok, but you can never tell until you get it up on a computer screen.

When I got home, I loaded up my images into Adobe Lightroom, which is my preferred choice of image software, and checked my images. This one ended up being the sharpest of the few I took.

I’m not going to go into the technicalities of what I did in Lightroom as this post is more about taking the picture than the post processing. I already had in mind black and white, but first I corrected the exposure a bit and applied a crop to get rid of some of the empty background.

I then applied a black and white conversion and applied a little split toning to add a slight hint of colour so it’s not pure black and white. I also got rid of a distracting highlight just under the chimps head which was caused by the dirty glass I think.

The result

I am very pleased with the resulting image, and you can see that there was nothing really technical about taking the picture, it was more about knowing what settings to use in the conditions and what the limitations of those settings were.

I’ve got more of these posts planned, so hopefully they will help you a bit.

Let me know your thoughts.

12 thoughts on “How I got the shot #1

  1. I like the shot and you are making it sound a lot more simple. Great site. I will be reading more, a lot more. lol

  2. I am a newbie to digital photography. Could you tell me what was your ISO setting?

    Excellent Photo I must say. A job well done.

  3. I had my ISO set to 200. Ideally I would have liked to go higher to get a faster shutter speed, but on my camera, anything above 200 can be a bit noisy so I took the chance with 200.

  4. Thanks for the walk through oif how you got sucha nice end result.
    very helpful for beginners like me.

  5. Although my camera is not digital, in reading all of your posts, I am finding out so much that I know will be very helpful. I plan my first photographs to be of the cows just down the road, so, the details about the aperture settings, light, shutter speed, etc have made me feel a little less apprehensive about taking some shots. Great photograph by the way!

  6. Thanks for sharing. It really helps a new photographer like me to understand the process of getting a good shot. How do you deal with ISO and white balance when shooting?

  7. I leave my camera on Auto White Balance as it does a pretty good job of getting it right. For ISO I try and keep it as low as possible, so 100 if possible, this ensures the best quality image, but if I need to go to 200 or 400 I will. Any more and I get a lot of noise in the picture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.