We already learned that super saturated color is not going to save a boring photo.
But how do we bury boring and evoke expressiveness? How do we give our imagery a chance to speak instead of mutter?
Where do those good photographs hide?
If we look at paintings that are considered pieces of mastery, we find that the subject of the work isn’t really all that sensational. I mean, look at Van Gogh’s works we admire. A starry night and silhouetted skyline. A vase of sunflowers. A flock of blackbirds wheeling over a wheat field. From the painting masters we can see that subject selection might not be the crux of an effective image. Many beautiful images have been made with content that was everyday and ordinary.
Every day we are surrounded by the ordinary. We rarely have the option of jetting off to an exotic location to photograph exciting subjects that somehow arrange themselves in pleasing harmonies when we point our lenses in their direction. How do we coax good photos from an ordinary life?
1. Change the vantage point.
I climbed the lighthouse and liked the compo better.
When you’re shooting, move around. Looking at something in a new way begins with a physical reference point, which is probably tied into the way you perceived things. If you moved from the vantage point that felt immediately comfortable, you’ll also be challenging the way you see. Sometimes the best discoveries are made when you take a risk by looking at something in a whole new way.
2. Wait for the right moment.
My guide said only 10 out of 365 days have great sunsets in that place.
Maybe today isn’t the right day for that shot you wanted. Rarely does a photographer have total control over a situation. Cultivate flexibility. This enables you to set aside your expectations and engage creatively with the subject. You can find beauty even when things don’t go the way you expected them to.
3. Look for shape, value, patterns, design.
You don’t have to walk around with your camera looking for the meaning of life. There are so many more things to love in an image. The way patterns form and repeat, the way light and dark blend and contrast, and the geometry of objects are just a few of the things that could become images.
Stuck at someone's house without a car, I found these forgotten old bottles in the backyard.
4. Use another technique.
Reinterpret the world in a way you haven’t tried. If you’ve never taken slow shutter images before, set up a session with a tripod and the camera on timer mode, and make some images you have never tried to make. The novelty and the learning you experience might spark some inspiration.
I don't do landscapes. But I did. It was a lot of fun.
5. Don’t leave until the magic happens.
It’s easy to give up when the photos don’t seem to hold any luster.
Stick with what you’re trying to do. Focus on composition, technique, perspective, time of day–change it up until the magic begins to happen.
The beach was cold, windy, crowded. But the sunset made it worth waiting.
There are no shortcuts to good photographs. There is only hard work, patience, perseverance, and commitment. And you can’t just Photoshop those things in.
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