Editor’s note: This month only – Use the code december5 at checkout to buy the 5 Steps to Using Lenses Creatively and 5 Steps to Better Photos Of Kids ebooks for just $5! Click the links to learn more. Thanks for reading, Andrew.
If your photos fail to excite you, let alone anybody else, it’s hard to keep your interest in photography. You’ll get much more enjoyment out of it when you start making more interesting photos. Other people will appreciate your work more too. It’s time to stop making boring photos!
1. Photograph people
Photographing people is a great way to make your photos more interesting.
Photos give us an insight into how other people live. Whether they live in the same town or half-way around the world, we see the differences – and similarities – between them and us.
That’s what makes portraits so interesting.
Below you can see portraits I made of a friend (left) and a man I met in Delhi, India (right). It’s interesting to see them together because they show two different ways of life.
In this pandemic affected year it’s harder than ever to make portraits of strangers, but you can start with friends and family. If you have kids, use your camera to document their childhood.
If you snap away with your phone your photos will look like everybody else’s. To get better results you need to put more thought and care into it. It’s more difficult, but the results are worth the effort.
To make good photos of kids you need to think about the environment.
To make the photos below of my son Alex we took him to a nearby historical home. The large gardens gave him room to run around and it was easy to find good backgrounds.
I used a 23mm lens (APS-C) to help capture the environment and we planned the clothes we wanted him to wear.
2. Get more involved
Whatever subject matter excites you, get more involved with it.
If you’re into food photography, for example, then don’t just take snapshots of your lunch with your phone.
Start using your cooking and baking skills to create delicious looking food. Buy plates, cups and cutlery that look good in food photos (charity shops are a great source). Take more time to set your photos up. Pay attention to background, lighting and composition.
The same idea applies to other types of photography.
If landscape photography is your thing, then go out and explore more. Get to know your local area better. Stop chasing the iconic images that you’ve seen on Instagram. Find landscapes or environments that are more personal to you.
Or, imagine that you’re traveling somewhere new and see somebody doing something interesting. It’s tempting to take a candid photo, then move on.
But how about a different way of working? Does the person look approachable? Are they doing something that interests you? Go ahead and start a conversation. It could go nowhere, or you may have an interesting chat and learn something new. And you never know, it may open up an opportunity to make some better, more interesting photos.
That’s exactly what I did when I saw a blacksmith at work. I asked her if I could make some photos (and send the best ones to her). She agreed and you can see the result below.
It’s difficult at the moment, I know, but something to think about when things get back to normal.
3. Stay with the subject matter
Once you’ve found the subject matter that interests you, it’s time to be patient and go deep. Explore. Become a specialist in what interests you.
Setting themes and projects helps a lot with this.
A theme is an idea that links a series of photos. A simple example is color. Let’s say you go out for the day and photograph everything you see that’s blue. By the end of the day you’d have an interesting set of photos.
A photography project is deeper. Some last years. I’ve started one photographing the local coast in non-obvious ways (I touched on this in the previous point). I avoid anything you could say is iconic or a landmark.
Here are some of the photos I’ve made so far.
4. Experiment with interesting techniques
The final idea is to experiment with new techniques and equipment.
I follow the work of Devon based landscape photographer Neil Burnell. He uses Intentional Camera Movement techniques to create painterly images. It’s inspiring and interesting, and the results are very good. You can check them out here.
You can also experiment with equipment, especially lenses.
Lensbaby make a series of optics that can bring new ways of seeing to your photography. I made the photo below with the Lensbaby Edge 50 optic.
Inexpensive vintage lenses like the Helios 58mm f2 (known for its swirly bokeh) are a great way to experiment with something new.
Fisheye and ultra-wide angle lenses help open up a different perspective. I bought a Samyang (known as Rokinon in some parts of the world) 8mm fisheye lens a few months ago.
I’m using it to photograph my son Alex. That might seem odd. But my idea is that the perspective reflects the way a two year old sees the world. To him, everything seems bigger than it does to adults. The way the fisheye lens pushes the horizon way captures this in a photo. And if you get him in the middle of the frame, distortion is minimal. It’s an interesting idea that’s turning into a fun theme!
The Creative Photographer
Learn how to be a more creative, productive and artistic photographer with our popular ebook The Creative Photographer.