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Prague is a visually compelling place. Naturally, most of us want to preserve the sights while at the same time expressing ourselves and maybe even capturing something new and fresh. We asked a handful of Prague-based photographers, all hailing from around the globe, for their pointers for taking more compelling photos of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Paul Pacey (CA), a frequent contributor to Expats.cz, relocated to Prague in 2006 and has made a name for himself with his impressionistic images.
Jennie Zeiner (US) has had her work featured in Forbes, BusinessWeek, and Newsweek among others. Her artistic shots have an undeniable intimacy.
Kurt Vinion (US) is a prize-winning photographer, whose work has been exhibited in London, New York, and Prague as well as many other places. He is much in demand as a wedding photographer.
Pavel Matela’s (CZ) work is an engaging and often humorous blend of media.
Roberto Alvarez (EC) got his start when he picked up his Nikon and just started shooting. The name of his website LVEphotography is from ‘live’ and ‘love’ …Live to shoot & Love to shoot!
Ioana Taut (RO) is a photographer and journalist. A lover of music, Taut is pursuing a career as an events photographer, but her black-and-white images of Prague showcase the city’s romantic side.
Paul Knowles (UK) is a British freelance photographer who shoots “the places, spaces, and people of my hometown Prague and beyond”. While the subject matter is familiar, the angles he uses present it in a new light.
Here is what our photographers had to say about turning simple snaps into something memorable:
Learn how to use your digital camera better…
“Experiment as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are better than what you intended. Unless you’re willing to make mistakes, you won’t learn.” -Paul Pacey
“Regardless of the options available, everyone can take a second to look at what they’ve just shot and ask – Does this show what I intended to capture? Is there anything I could do differently to make the picture better?” -Jennie Zeiner
“Think about the framing of your photograph before you take it, the best cropping is done before you take the picture. Try and use available light if possible, rather than a flash.” -Paul Knowles
Find a unique vantage point for Prague’s landmarks…
“If you look unconventionally, you will shoot unconventionally.” -Paul Pacey
“Look for unusual vantage points such as atop the Powder Tower overlooking Charles Bridge or capturing reflections off the glass buildings that mirror old Prague. Plus nothing is more dramatic than capturing this city at night, especially when it is raining or foggy.” -Kurt Vinion
“I recommend getting out early when the streets are empty. The famous landmarks take on a new look entirely and you will find you are able to shoot from different angles and capture greater detail.” -Paul Knowles
“If the location is a place you frequently see, try shooting it at different times of day, in different types of light and different seasons. Then really examine the differences and see what YOU like.” -Jennie Zeiner
Get a great shot from on high…
“If you are shooting from heights, don’t 50/50 sky vs. city skyline.” -Roberto Alvarez
Shoot smart in low light…
“For shooting in low light, start by changing the ISO to a higher number. It depends on how much light is available but start at 800, try it and keep going to a higher number until you find what works.” -Jennie Zeiner
“One of the easiest and worthwhile technical things that you can do is to simply use a lamp post, a handrail or even a monopod to take long exposures or even to shoot with your zoom fully extended.” -Kurt Vinion
“My first rule is not to get ISO higher than 1,000, because from that point on you usually start having quite visible noise on your photos. Of course this depends a lot also on the lenses. If you have fix lenses with a diaphragm of F-number 1.8 or 1.4 then, of course, things are easier.” -Ioana Taut
Focus in on the small details…
“I always try and look at the smaller details, the texture of an old door, a battered street sign, a table and chairs outside a cafe, things that give a flavor of a place but without the obvious landmarks that everybody photographs.” -Paul Knowles
“When going for buildings, statues and signs don’t automatically center the object, look for different perspectives that might add to the object.” -Roberto Alvarez
Choose a great spot in Prague to shoot…
“Where Národní třída hits the river. You have the theater, a view of the old town, the river and Prague Castle.” -Paul Pacey
“I like exploring so I can’t say that I have one specific vantage point. If I were forced to choose, I think Letná has some great vistas for shooting. I also love Petřin. You can incorporate the nature and the Castle in the shot and this is something I love about Prague: it is a city but there is lots of nature too.” -Jennie Zeiner
“There is something simply quite dramatic about the setting sun behind Prague Castle and a young hip couple enjoying a moment that is captured for eternity.” -Kurt Vinion
“Everywhere you look in Prague there is a great photograph waiting to be taken. Probably my favorite place in Prague to photograph is the Metro. Every station is completely different with its own atmosphere, color, light, and character.” -Paul Knowles
“I really like to take pictures in these area: U Obecního dvora and Aněžská streets, Haštalské náměstí. Very nice and quiet places.” -Pavel Matela
“When shooting in Prague, LOOK UP. The architecture of this city is breathtaking.” -Roberto Alvarez
“My favorite place is the little street Mostecká that takes you from Charles Bridge to Malá Strana.” -Ioana Taut
Go here for gear…
In terms of software, Photoshop got a number of votes and iPhoto for Mac. Picassa was suggested as a good starting point, too. If you’re not ready to part with cash for photo retouching software, check out these free online image editors.
PHOTO COMP: How do your own photos of Prague stack up? Enter Expats.cz’s first-ever photo contest and win a 1000 CZK voucher to Curry Palace!