Ready, Set, Shoot: Photography Tips from a Pro

By , on August 14, 2013

Breathtakingly stunning Coron, Palawan.
Breathtakingly stunning Coron, Palawan.

“Photography preserves history – it documents the past and brings back memories for our future.”

Ferdz Decena has been taking photos of various subjects since he was a teenage boy with a toy camera. Growing up in a family of travel-loving shutterbugs immersed him to a life beyond the four walls of his room and their home. He discovered the impossibly huge world around him and wanted to take home memories from their family trips and adventures. The longing to preserve memories started his love affair with photography.

A rare occurrence: A photographer being photographed!
A rare occurrence: A photographer being photographed!
A Sense of Wonder and Enthusiasm

Ferdz confesses to never leave home without a few things in his bag other than his photography gear.

“Aside from the sense of wonder and enthusiasm… I bring… a compass so I would know where the sun would rise and set; smartphone for the maps, games, and internet to keep me occupied when I have to wait for some long exposures to finish; some books would also be handy to pass time. My Moleskine [journal] to record some details I would otherwise forget. Some snacks for that sudden hunger pangs when I’m out on the field shooting.”

Having conducted numerous photo tours all over the archipelago, he’s had more than his share of “Kodak moments” which keeps him coming back for more.

Preserving culture.
Preserving culture.

“In the Philippines I have 3 places I really enjoy going back to: Batanes for the breathtaking landscape, Palawan for nature, and the Cordilleras for the culture and Igorot people.”

As curious minds coupled with daring feet lead to unforgettable adventures, he’s also had the opportunity to take photos of places outside the Philippines.

“Out of the country I really enjoyed my Myanmar travel, as well as Laos. It felt like being back in time for a few decades.”

In a Split Second

“When we talk about composition there’s always the subject and the one looking through the viewfinder.”

For Ferdz, each photo captures a unique moment in time. It all happens in a split second, with just a blink of the shutter, so always consider factors when taking photos.

“It helps that the subject (be it landscapes, people or objects) have good lighting, interesting concept or unique moment, but it’s the photographer who decides on the composition on how he frames the scene. It always boils down to objective and what story one wants to convey in picture.”

Balance, direction, and movement are also important when taking photos. All factors should contribute to the main message that the photographer wants to express via the subject.

A good morning indeed in Sagada, Mountain Province.
A good morning indeed in Sagada, Mountain Province.
Vision: Beyond the Gear

“At this day and age, photography has really evolved. It’s no longer a question of DSLR [versus] Point-and-Shoot [camera]. I myself don’t use a DSLR, I use a mirror-less camera (Interchangeable Lens Camera). My point is there are so many options right now, even Pros use point-and-shoot since [it] has evolved from mediocre quality shooters to pro-level image quality [cameras]. So which one should a budding photographer choose? First, he has to know his objective. What [will be his subject] – Landscapes? People? Models? Try out the camera choices, which I think is an important step. One must be comfortable with the camera he uses.”

Ferdz believes that the camera “should be like an extension of” the photographer and whether he is using a DSLR or point-and-shoot, his gear “shouldn’t deter him from shooting.”

A photo tour of Ilocos wouldn't be complete without the majestic Paoay Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A photo tour of Ilocos wouldn’t be complete without the majestic Paoay Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

He insists that photographers shouldn’t be limited by the gear that they have, instead they should maximize the resources available to them in order to have the best results.

“Don’t be obsessed by the gear. The latest cameras out there may help but it’s your vision that’s important. Figure out what you really like or enjoy taking pictures of, then little by little you’ll figure out what you really need. As you progress, your gear set-up will also progress with you. More importantly, photography should be enjoyed and [should] challenge you as well. There may be times you may fall in a slump but it’s important to find your inspiration and motivation to continue on.”

All photos courtesy of Ferdz Decena. Follow more of Ferdz’ adventures as he strives to preserve history through photos at