Believe it or not, one of the greatest challenges budding photographers face is deciding exactly what to take photos of. As time goes on and as they accrue experience, they develop what’s called an “eye.” This eye has the uncanny ability to see things. The strangest things. Things that might not be easily noticed by anyone other than someone who’s holding a camera in their hands. A crack in the sidewalk. A car driving by. An insect on a flower. There are so many photographic opportunities around us every single day, but it takes practice to put each one of them into context for that perfect image capture.
Today’s post will be a bit different than the ones I normally write. I think I’d like to offer some tips for both getting used to finding things to take pictures of when you can’t think of anything as well as how to best take photos under certain conditions at night. Since darker scenes add tons of interest, I’ll combine these two areas into this one post. Over the past few days, ideas and thoughts have been swirling around my head and I thought I better get them out before I forget all of them.
I’ll admit it. Sometimes, I walk around with my camera and I feel bored. I think the environment which I’m in is boring. As if there’e nothing in the world that would look good behind the lens. The remarkable thing is that there are opportunities all over the place. You just need to know where to look and what to look at. Here are a few tips.
Always Have Your Camera with You
This has got the be the most important tip of all. You can’t take photos if you don’t have your camera with. I’m telling you from personal experience that I’ve missed so many great shots because I wasn’t prepared when the time came. And by great, I’m talking really great. The way the world works is like this; it waits for you to be cameraless and then it presents you with the most stunning sunsets or most interesting wildlife. Or even the most incredible natural event. It’s not all about going on planned out photography excursions with all your gear. It’s more about being at the right place at the right time and being ready for anything that happens. It’s almost embarrassing to tell you this, but we bring our cameras when we do such mundane chores as driving to the store to pick up groceries. Things are happening all day, all the time and in order to get the shot, you need to have your camera close by.
The Shot Might Just be in the Mundane
I browsed an Instagram profile the other day and my jaw almost hit the floor. Each and every photo was absolutely gorgeous. At first glance, I was blown away, but as I continued to look through each photo, I realized that the objects in each shot were completely ordinary. It was the angles and lighting that made them look so good. One of the images was of a flower, but it was looking straight down towards its center, which I found rather unique. Another one was of some nostalgic looking sunlight being filtered through a window, hitting some books in a library. Another one was of a car tire. It sounds weird, but the way the camera sat while taking the photo, it creatively displayed how the tire met the road. It was compelling and interesting all in one and I would seriously have difficulty mimicking this style without lots of practice. The shots may be in the mundane, you just need to take the time to see things others generally don’t look at.
Show People What They Don’t Know They Want to See
When you watch a new TV show, do you know everything that’s going to be in it? Of course not. You won’t know until you’ve seen it and oftentimes, the story is very good. The same holds true for photography. When people view images, they want to see the story behind it. If you can capture that, you’ll hold the viewer’s attention and they’ll be interested in what else you’ve produced. By “story,” I mean a situation that is easy to follow. Something like a ladder leading to a roof or a man walking towards a woman in a romantic setting. A simple silhouette. A dog leaping off a big rock into a river with other dogs waiting for him. Maybe even a car rounding a bend on a race track. A story consists of something that’s leading to something else. We know the first something, but we aren’t sure about the second one and that’s what makes things interesting and desirable.
You’re Going to Need to Experiment
I can’t even tell you how many pictures I’ve taken that have impressed me in the most unexpected ways. Most of the time, the photos I thought were going to be good, weren’t and the one I sort of haphazardly took, were. I always find it fascinating when that happens. I suspect it may be because I take greater risks with shots I don’t care that much about. This may be the reason I was such a terrible photographer back in the days of film. I cared far too much about each and every photo I took. They were terrible.
When experimenting with photography, you’ll need to take tons of photos. You’ll need to learn from both the successes and failures. You’ll need to ask for opinions from others and when you do, listen intently. Much can be revealed by learning the interests of others and discovering what appeals to them in certain photographs.
Where You Are is Where the Action Is
You need to get used to being the center of the universe. You are the action. Where you live is where everyone wants to be. You need to show them everything about what makes you and your location so great. Good photographers can take compelling photos of giant sailboats that are owned by the most wealthy people on the planet. They can also capture fantastic images of the inner city where folks aren’t nearly as wealthy. It makes no difference where you are from, what type of economic situation you are currently in or how many times you’ve seen the same old thing in your apartment, house or camper. The fact of the matter is, no one else lives exactly like you do and we all want to see what you’ve got to show us. Even taking a picture of someone brushing their teeth in the right lighting at the right angle can be inspiring.
Try New Photographic Styles & Techniques
Okay, I know you’ve taken the same picture of that flower that sits outside your front door a million times, but have you tried moving the flower and panning the camera so there’s action in the shot? Have you converted it to black and white? Have you taken the same photo with multiple exposures and then formed an HDR image from it? Have you taken it with unique lighting or at night? Have you picked the flower, held it in your hand and then taken a picture of it. Have you taken a photo of someone else holding it? There’s a lot you can do with a flower and there’s absolutely no reason to think the creative prospects are limited in any which way. Imaging taking a photo of that flower at high noon and then imagine taking a photo of that same flower at midnight while you prop a flashlight up underneath it, so the petals are illuminated. You get my point here. And don’t let photographic techniques hold you back. There’s an entire world of opportunity inside of Adobe Photoshop to take advantage of as well. The sky’s the limit.
Get In Real Close
There’s an entire world living right under our noses that hardly anyone ever notices. There’s a reason macro-photography is so wildly popular. Macro-photographers show us things we’d never likely see otherwise. In our cases though, we don’t need to go full macro. All we need to do is take photos of things closer than we normally would. Flowers are huge around here. The closer, the better, in my opinion. I’ve seem lots of pictures of insects and cobwebs. I love chipped paint. Anything antique looks better close up. Stained glass. Old machinery. You get the idea. Basically, my advice is to walk up to any ordinary object and examine it closely. If you can find something interesting about it that someone else might be curious about, set it up and photograph it. Then, follow my advice in the previous section and add some extra flair to it.
It’s In the Shadows
Have you ever noticed how lighting and shadows instantly add feeling to a scene? I can remember back when I was a kid, the afternoon sunlight would stream through the front window of the house I grew up in. I used to sit on the couch and just watch that sunlight change throughout the afternoon. I found it mesmerizing. Imagine bottling that feeling in a photograph and displaying it for others to see. Just remember, creative shadows and lighting can be found almost anywhere. Something as simple as a pull cord that’s hanging from an old window shade can look great in a photo. A chandelier hanging in the sunlight. A person walking down the road can cast all different types of shadows. You need to pay attention to these things. These are the great photos people love to talk about and share with others.
Pick a Venue
Sometimes, you need a chance of scenery. What we like to do is pick a new town in our local area to visit and to go there and enjoy the photo ops. New villages and towns offer so much, but there are other areas that can as well. Going for a drive on a new road, visiting a botanical garden, a zoo or an aquarium. Even retail stores when they’re decorated for the holidays. I always say that we should let others decorate for us and that we’ll take them up on all that effort and take pictures of their genius. Even the grocery store can keep a curious photographer busy for weeks. Think about what each aisle of the grocery store has to offer. The wine aisle, the bins with all those nuts in the them. The produce section. I mean, it’s endless.
Focus On a Specific Subject
This is a good one. It’s sometimes helpful for you, as a photographer, to stay focused on a very specific type of subject for an allotted amount of time and to shoot only that type of subject. What this does is it blocks the noise from so many other areas or objects that might be distracting and will funnel you towards success. Good photography not only comes from taking risks, it also comes from focus and determination. So, if you think kitchenware is the subject of the day, start with your own kitchen, then visit a store down in town that sells kitchen supplies and then visit a restaurant for lunch or dinner. That’s called topical photography.
Don’t even get me going on musical instruments. If you’ve got a music store near you, you really need to stop by with your camera in hand. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you get there.
Tips For Visiting a Scene at Night
I got going on the entire topic of thinking of new photography ideas and tips for spicing up current photography because I was thinking of visiting someplace new at night. Someplace random, but someplace I knew would host some great photographic opportunity. Since I still want to talk about that, I’ll dedicate this last section to offering you some ideas I had about how to make any such trip a success.
So here’s the scenario. You decide to jump in your car one night to visit downtown. Or perhaps the beach. Or maybe a park or other area you know where people are going to be. What do you do? How do you go about grabbing those shots you came for? Here are some helpful hints.
1. Look for things that naturally catch your eye. If they catch your eye, they’ll cat others’ as well. Reflections, movement, activity, lighting, water, moonlight, the stars.
2. People make it more interesting. Whatever it is you think is interesting will be made exponentially more interesting by adding people to the scene. Even if you don’t like people in your shots, try taking some with people in them. Life adds life to photography. It adds a warmth and connection to the viewers of your photos.
3. Create silhouettes. Night photography is perfect for creating silhouettes for just about anything. And as you may already know, silhouettes are extremely popular and can create that profound shot you’re looking for. Think about object some as those binoculars you might find at the grand canyon or a camera standing on a tripod. Or perhaps, even people standing somewhere. Silhouettes of all these things are wildly imaginative.
4. You may need manual focus. If you’ve ever taken shots in the dark or low light before, you know that the auto-focus on your camera can cause issues. The best way to deal with this is to use manual focus. Decide that you’re going to stay put for a moment or two, focus your camera on the scene and take a nice round of photos. Then you can repeat those steps. Personally, I wouldn’t trust auto-focus at night. Just remember to bring your glasses if you wear them because you’ll need them. A flashlight too.
5. Aperture priority can help. If you have the right lens that offers a large aperture, use it. It can help get the light to the sensor that you need. Cameras love light and when you’re dealing with a scene that has movement in it, you’ll likely need a faster shutter speed. In this case, you’ll need to control that aperture size.
6. Reduce the exposure. I’ve taken night shots that look like they were taken during the day. Cameras like to absorb light like a sponge. If this isn’t the look you’re going for, be sure to check each photo on the LCD screen on the back of your camera and take advantage of your camera’s exposure compensation as necessary.
7. Take continuous photos. Set your camera to its continuous shooting mode because chances are, the individual shots you take at night aren’t going to be perfect. There’s a lot you can do with multiple shots of the same subject (by combining them in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop) and you may find the diamond in the rough this way.
8. Use people as props. Sometimes, the people around you doing things at night are more interesting than the scene itself. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself and asking if you can take pictures of them doing whatever it is they’re doing. Just be sure to capture the more action oriented activities. Night shots of people can open up an entirely new world of photography for you.
Wow, that was a lot. Okay, I think that’s good for now. My fingers are getting tired from all this typing.
I hope I gave you some good ideas in today’s post in regards to coming up with ideas for your next photo shoot and for how to handle some situations at night. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them for me in the comment section down below. Thanks for reading!