In Onboard Pursuits

A Conversation with Crystal Chief Photographer Jeremy Fratkin: Part Two

Serengeti National Park, dusk (or dawn), Tanzania

By Don George

I recently had the great pleasure of cruising with Jeremy Fratkin of Paragon Pixels, who is Chief Photographer on Crystal Serenity. During the course of the luxury cruise, I was able to ask Jeremy about his life and work as a photographer with Crystal and about tips he could share to help us all take better photographs. Our conversation is presented in two parts. Below is Part Two.

What are your top tips in terms of equipment? What do we need to have to take great photos?

This question always comes up from everyone. You don’t need a great camera to take great photos. You just need a firm understanding of composition and lighting. You can take a great photo with any camera, even a disposable camera. The problem with cameras these days is there are no bad cameras on the market. You can get a fantastic point-and-shoot for around $300. A camera at this price point will come with all the bells and whistles. Some come with cards and cases, and most cameras around this price point also come with at least 5x optical zoom. This means the zooming is in the lens, not in the computer. For those looking for a more semi-professional/professional camera, entry level SLR cameras start at around $600 and go as high as you want to go.

What are the secrets of taking great landscape photos?

Lighting and composition. Lighting is essential for taking stunning landscape photos. Without great lighting, you have nothing. Composition would be No. 2. You should always have a firm understanding of what to include and what to crop out, because how you crop the photo in the frame of the camera can make or break the photo.

A lioness in Serengeti National Park
A lioness in Serengeti National Park (photo by Jeremy Fratkin)

How about wildlife photos? What do you look for when youre shooting wildlife shots?

My favorite. Wildlife is a tricky thing. I look for anything and everything when I shoot. There are no specifics. I do watch the lighting when I am out and about. If the lighting is terrible, I might still take a few photos; but when the lighting is bad, I will only take close-up shots and adjust my camera to expose for the type of lighting on the animal in that specific shot. Otherwise, when the lighting is in my favor, I really like to capture wide landscape shots, incorporating the animals in their environment to really show off the scene; and I also go for close-ups.

I love shooting portraits of animals. Being able to capture all the raw and pure emotion in the eyes of animal is what really does it. Eyes tell all. There is so much feeling that is given off from just the eyes of all creatures on this planet. This is why it’s so important when shooting close-ups of wildlife to make sure the eyes are in focus and are pin sharp.

Jeremy Fratkin, photographer
Jeremy Fratkin

Taking photos of people seems to require a different level of sensitivity and engagement for the photographer. What are your top tips for taking great people photos?

Have a great personality and be very social. Have a firm understanding with yourself that it’s your job as the photographer to take control of any situation in order to ensure that you will be able to capture exactly what you are looking for. The most important thing is to really be able to engage with your subject and connect with them so they feel more relaxed in front of the camera.

And how about urban areas? These seem to require a different eye from the landscape photos. What are the things to think about when youre photographing in urban places and situations?

This is a tough question. The reason this one is so difficult is because everyone sees things differently. I can go out in any port around the world with some of the top photographers from around the world, and each one of us sees the world differently. You have to have the courage to walk up to people on the street and shove a camera in their face. You have to be ready and prepared to get yelled at, chased, or smiled at. Sometimes it helps to show them the picture you just took and compliment them.

Also, be ready to pay for your candid street photos. This is something a lot of people don’t understand. When we go out to do urban street photography, especially in Third World countries, our pockets are loaded with small change. We know what we are capable of doing. We know we will take stunning photos and are prepared to give out money like it’s candy. If we capture all the raw emotion of the people on the street, and they are asking for money in the end, we have no objection to that.

A girl in ???
A candid street photo by Jeremy Fratkin

What are the best times of day to take photos?

The absolute best times to take photos would be 45 minutes before the sunrise until roughly three to four hours after the sun rises and from about 3 p.m. until it’s completely dark outside.

If youre traveling during midday, are there tricks you can use to help utilize the light as well as possible?

Pay really close attention to the shadows on people that you’re photographing and try to position yourself in the best possible spot to eliminate harsh shadows.


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