5 pro tips that’ll spark your photos

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

Words by

Digital Reporter

An audience of twenty‑somethings, sitting on space‑saving plastic stools, willingly crammed themselves into the area provided for them in Camerahaus, Megamall, all ears to hear what award‑winning street photographer and Fujifilm brand ambassador Rommel Bundalian has to say about taking unique, artistic photographs of his travels.

It’s not surprising that more and more young people are flocking to opportunities that will refine their photography skills, now that being a social media influencer is becoming a legitimate job, while big business advertisers are pressured to shift to digital. Influencer Sara Melotti took to her blog with a confession entitled “Instagram created a monster ‑ A no‑bullshit guide to what’s really going on!”that has become controversially viral. She detailed how influencers, whom she called “walking billboards,” reach “consumers” (their followers) through ethical and unethical methods.

Controversy aside, it pays to have good photographs (pun not intended), if not because the modern world increasingly depends on visuals, then for the beauty of keeping memories.

Mr. Bundalian gave his lecture with the Fujifilm’s X-series in mind (his gear consisting primarily of the Fujifilm X‑T1, to be specific), but newbies who have yet to see if they are worth a pro camera may practice on their mobile phones or tablets, he told SparkUp. “But if you’re into serious photography,” he warned, “I won’t recommend that you use mobile devices.”

“Whenever we travel, we always want to capture the beauty of the place,” he began. But tourist spots are often crowded places, all of them taking photos of the exact same thing. How can yours stand out?

Art Samantha Gonzales

The people in the tourist spot can be put to your advantage, Mr. Bundalian advised. “If you look at my photos, there’s always a person that I use as a scale.” See a photo of a mountain is just a photo of a lump of land, but a photo of a man climbing the mountain shows the magnitude of the place, how old the earth is compared to the person who just happened to be walking past. “When we travel, we always want to capture the beauty of the place but always put the scale,” he said.

He favors shooting locals over his friends or fellow travelers in his travel photography. “Minsan hindi na ako nag-papaalam (sometimes I don’t ask for permission),” he admitted about taking photos of strangers, adding there are no laws prohibiting stolen photos in the Philippines. On the other hand, he cited France as an example of a place with strict photography laws. The French civil code protects the rights of its citizens not to be photographed in the streets in a way that would make them recognizable in a published image.

Art Samantha Gonzales

Speaking of France where everyone will most likely take a photo of the iconic Eiffel Tower, he said people get a “sense of place” from looking at a photo. “Iconic sights are important. That’s why we always take photos of them when we travel,” said Mr. Bundalian. “It establishes a sense of place, all it takes is one look to know where it is.”

To expound, a Filipino looking at a photo of a jeepney traversing a long bridge should know that the photo was taken at the San Juanico Bridge. A foreigner looking at the same photo should, on the other hand, get a sense that the scene took place in the Philippines. Festivals and local events should also give viewers a sense of place.

Art Samantha Gonzales

Another tool that a photographer can use to stand out? Google. “Before going to a place, google it,” he said. “There you’ll see what is the best shots of other photographers. You’ll observe that they’ll all see the same photo.”

And after you’ve taken that iconic shot, the same way others have done before you? Be creative. “Know the rules and break the rules, if you want to stand out,” he said. Explore, look at the place through different angles, let wanderlust take over logic.

Art Samantha Gonzales

“Photography is a waiting game. If you think you can get a good shot, you have to wait,” Mr. Bundalian said. He gave as an example a photo that he had to take for an automobile company. Parking the car that he has to shoot by a roadside cliff in Sagada, he had to wait for hours so that fewer pedestrians will be caught on camera. Some of the people, he recounted, even drew on the dew that stuck to the car windows (which he had to wipe clean). The waiting (and cleaning) paid off, and he was able to take a perfect shot of a lone car surrounded by nature, the sun hitting its windshield at just the right angle for a perfect starburst.

Patience is a key trait that extends to the uploading of images. “Marinate your image,” he warned. “Don’t be too excited to post. The photos that you just took, all of them would look good to you because the idea behind taking them is still fresh in your mind.” Detachment, he added, would help you decide if the photo is as beautiful as you initially thought it would be. It would also save you from spamming social media with so many photos of just one place or event.

Art Samantha Gonzales

But the most important thing in taking a good photograph, Mr. Bundalian said, is this: “Don’t take photos for others to like. [Instead,] take photos for yourself. Shoot from the heart.”

“Keep on practicing. Go out and shoot. Always bring your camera,” he said, a feat that is made easier now that cameras have gotten more portable and affordable from the hulking DSLRs of the ‘90s. It’s also important for the photographer himself to smile. “Smile. Talk to people so that you’ll be more comfortable taking photos. At least thank them, and if they talk to you then you’ll also get a good story to back your photo.”

And one not need travel far to take that perfect travel photo. Some of Mr. Bundalian’s iconic works have been taken within the Metro Manila area—Bonifacio Global City, Roxas Boulevard, and Laguna de Bay. In the end, it’s all about having a trained eye, gained through practice, patience, more practice, and more importantly, heart.

Fujifilm Philippines will be holding its 21st Graphic Expo from June 1 to 3 at the SMX Convencion Center, Mall of Asia. A photography workshop and thanksgiving party for Fujifilm users entitled Different Stories will be held at the Green Sun Hotel, Makati City on June 3.