Capturing Stunning Photos In-Camera: Mastering the Art of Problem-Solving

It can be easy, when creating an image, to think “I’ll just fix it in Photoshop afterwards”, but that type of mindset may actually be having a negative impact on your photography.

I don’t often use Photoshop to ‘fix’ my images as there are numerous advantages to getting an image right in-camera, as I explain in this video, where I replicated an old photo of mine and show you how to achieve the same image without any Photoshop.

In this blog post, I delve into the world of in-camera photography and explore the art of capturing stunning photos without relying heavily on post-production techniques. While Photoshop is an incredible tool for photographers, it is important to develop problem-solving skills in order to minimise the need for extensive editing.

By adopting a new mindset and focusing on solving problems during the shooting process, you can produce better results, reduce post-production time, and elevate your photography to new heights.

The Power of Problem-Solving

Many photographers believe that achieving extraordinary results requires extensive post-production work. However, by approaching your photography with a problem-solving mindset, you can create impactful images straight out of the camera. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples that demonstrate the power of problem-solving during a shoot.

Example 1: Defying Expectations

One of the most common misconceptions in photography is assuming that impressive shots must involve complex compositing or heavy editing. However, this is not always the case. Take, for instance, the image below. At first glance, it appears to be a result of a CGI effect or extensive post-production.

Surprisingly, the original image required minimal retouching. By strategically addressing challenges during the shoot, such as an 11-second exposure in a darkened studio, moving fluorescent lights, and timing the studio light, I was able to capture a mesmerising shot with minimal post-production.

Before example of a creative portrait image

Before example of a creative portrait image

After example of a creative portrait image

After example of a creative portrait image

Example 2: Recreating the Magic

Sometimes, revisiting an iconic photograph from the past can shed light on the power of in-camera techniques. I captured this image over 20 years ago, long before the era of digital photography and Photoshop.

Despite the assumption that this shot demanded extensive post-processing, it was actually achieved entirely in-camera. As you've seen in the video above, I've proved its authenticity, by recreating and sharing the step-by-step process.

I worked very methodically, tackling each challenge of the shoot as it came. This involved using a hidden wire rod to hold the leaf, a custom made tray to contain the water, and various implements to get the ripples in the water, not to mention flags, coloured gels, pieces of acrylic and glycerine.

By understanding the techniques used, you too can unlock the potential of in-camera photography. This particular shoot only used two monobloc lights and could easily be done in a small space.

Fixing the leaf in position for the shoot

Fixing the leaf in position for the shoot

Filling the tray with water for the shoot

Filling the tray with water for the shoot

Adding 'water droplets' to the leaf

Adding 'water droplets' to the leaf

Lighting setup for the leaf shoot

Lighting setup for the leaf shoot

Mastering the In-Camera Techniques

Now that we understand the significance of problem-solving and its impact on creating remarkable images, let’s explore some essential techniques to master in-camera photography for this type of shoot.

Precision Cutting: To achieve seamless composites, cutting elements precisely is crucial. By cutting out elements slightly smaller than the object itself, you can ensure a flawless integration within the scene.

Controlling Water Levels: When working with water, maintaining precise levels is essential. Using a level tool and replacing it with the desired object, such as a leaf, allows you to ensure accurate positioning.

Creating Realistic Effects: Simulating water droplets or other effects can add depth and realism to your images. Experimenting with different techniques, such as using glycerine for soft liquid drops or creating movement by gently swirling the water, can elevate your compositions.

Original leaf image

The original image, captured in the days of film.

Model with paint splash over back

The digital image, captured in-camera with no Photoshop work.

The Joys of Problem-Solving

While Photoshop affords many creative opportunities that sometimes aren’t possible to achieve in-camera, it can do the exact opposite and actually limit our creativity, especially when it comes to achieving realistic-looking results.

Over the years I’ve shot many images that involve elements of motion, whether it be glasses smashing, paint splashing or even models falling. All of these images are completely real — we’ve actually smashed glasses in the studio and thrown paint on models.

Wine glasses smashing

Wine glasses smashing

Model with paint splash over back

Model with paint splash over back

By actually creating and shooting these shots, rather than just comping bits together, I’ve been able to achieve the most realistic results possible.

What this means though, is that I have to think differently about creating images and take the time to think about the possible problems and how to solve them.

Solving problems during the shooting process not only saves time in post-production but also unlocks a world of creative possibilities. Instead of spending hours and hours, or even days, retouching and perfecting the shot in Photoshop, much of my work involves just simple colour and contrast adjustments. Yes, there might be a pole to remove here or a flag to remove there, but those tasks take very little time at all compared to actually creating a result.

By mastering in-camera techniques and approaching photography with a problem-solving mindset, you can create captivating images that surpass expectations.

For example, our flying tea food image shot as part of our food photography course involved many different challenges, which we overcame by thinking logically and working methodically (we also used some specialist, but readily available, equipment to get the final result).

Other examples include many of my splash images. For for example, the Clinique advertising-style product image I shot as part of our product photography course, the water sculpture image from our live show and liquid art and motion image shot during another live workshop. Even the sports product shoot in our advertising, product and still life course was put together from just two shots.

Ready to scale up your results?

Now that you've gained valuable insights into improving your in-camera photography skills, imagine having access to a comprehensive education platform dedicated to helping you master every aspect of photography and the visual arts. That's why we developed our unique training platform.

Visual Education Classes Montage

The Visual Education Team

Pick Your Plan - Deal from $4.99
Led by world-class professional photographer Karl Taylor, our small but dedicated team curates top-notch courses taught exclusively by operating professionals at the pinnacle of their craft. With our unique approach to education, you'll receive unparalleled training to take your photography skills to new heights.

What you can expect

  • Get unlimited access over 900 online classes with new classes added every month, all delivered by world-class professionals, and ready for you to watch at your own pace.

  • Learn by doing. Apply what you’ve learnt and create your best work by participating in our Working to a Brief, taking part in our weekly challenges and winning prizes in our competitions.

  • Connect with a global community, join LIVE workshops, get certified with levels and become a master of your craft.

Customer Reviews

How it works

  • STEP 1: Choose your membership plan
    No matter which plan you choose, you'll enjoy full access to everything our platform has to offer.
  • STEP 2: We'll setup your personalised access
    Login to your one-stop shop for all things learning. Access our expert team, explore our vast library of classes, save your progress, bookmark your favourites, and stay informed about upcoming events.
  • STEP 3: Thrive and watch your results transform
    You're in control of your learning journey. Whether you prefer a deep dive or a steady pace, we're dedicated to providing the knowledge and skills you need to elevate your creative results. Our team is here to support you every step of the way.

Here's What You'll Get

  • Unlimited Access to All Classes
  • Learn at Your Own Pace
  • New Classes Added Every Month
  • Live Workshops Every Month
  • Critiques, Competitions, Community
  • Get Certified with LEVELS
  • Captions in Multiple Languages
  • Discounts on Top Brands
  • Expert Support as You Learn
  • Professional Educators

© Visual Education. All rights reserved. No content on this page may be used or shared by third parties.

Leave a Comment