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ICS photography secrets: My 8 top tips to get that perfect shot

With just weeks left until entries close for this year's ICS Photography Competition, there's still time to get in your entries.

But what's the secret to taking that winning shot? We caught up with photo pro Andy Aitchison, a documentary photographer with 20 years experience in development under his belt.

He's worked across the globe, covering everything from weightlifting host parents to toilet building. And that's just for ICS.

Here's Andy's top eight tips on how to make sure you're getting the best photos while on placement.

1. Equipment

Whether you're shooting on an expensive DSLR or on your iPhone, always make sure you set the resolution to the highest output setting possible. That way you will always get the highest quality from your pictures. 

2. Clean

As a rule, whenever I take pictures on my phone I always clean my camera lens. Pockets are dusty places. But you don’t need an expensive lens cloth - a carefully selected clean part of your t-shirt works just fine. But be gentle!

volunteers putting on a pretend boxing match to teach children
© ICS / Andrew Aitchison
Sometimes what's closest makes the best picture, says Andrew

3. Subject

Sometimes the thing closest to you makes the best pictures. Even the relationship between you and the other ICS volunteers you live with in your host home is super special. Simple things like cooking, shopping and hanging out with your host family make great pictures.

host father with homemade weights
© ICS / Andrew Aitchison
Don't be afraid to get closer to the subject - move yourself!

4. Distance

If you ever feel a little far from your subject or there is a bit too much space in your image, avoid zooming your camera - and especially from using a digital zoom. Always move closer and don’t be afraid to get in the action. The results will be worth it. 

5. Angles

If you come across a situation that is really interesting, take lots of pictures from different angles. The more options you have when you get back to the computer for editing, the better. 

6. Edit

But when I say edit, I don’t mean spend hours on Photoshop. Instead, keep the best images and throw away the rest. Memory space is valuable, especially out in the field. If a picture isn’t great, press delete. 

children at a lesson in Cambodia
© ICS / Andrew Aitchison
'Keep the best images and throw away the rest' to use space wisely

7. Memory

Storage space - always take some extra memory cards. I’ve been on quite a few trips for ICS and always have loads of cards with me. There have been quite a few occasions when I’ve met a volunteer keen on taking pictures but with no memory left, and I’ve ended up leaving them a spare card. 

a volunteer giving a talk at the front of the class
© ICS / Andrew Aitchison
'A good picture caption is like gold dust' - write down the details

8. Information

Try and make a note somewhere of who is in your picture, and where and when you took it. A good picture caption is like gold dust to anyone wanting to use that photo in the future. 

Whether you're a UK or in-country volunteer, on placement or have returned - make sure you submit your best snaps to the competition before October 24th.

You could be in with a chance of winning a professional camera.

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ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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