Do you feel like you’ve gotten into a rut with your photography lately? It’s something we all go through. We like to take pictures a certain way, and we often fail to see all of the possibilities. The sad part is that there are so many different things you can do as a photographer. Try these out the next time you feel like you’re falling into the same old routine.
Modify the composition
Composition is the way your image is framed. It’s where you place your subject in relation to everything else you see. Most people start out by placing their subject right in the center of the frame. Eventually, they learn that they should place the subject in one of the corners of the frame or a place about 1/3 in from either the top, bottom, or sides of the frame. The "Rule Of Thirds"
As you improve your photography skills, you eventually learn that the rule of thirds isn’t always right either. Sometimes you can put your subject in the center of the frame. Sometimes you can place your subject at the top or bottom too. The only real way to know is to experiment with it and see what it looks like. Take the same shot and frame it in multiple ways.
Try zooming in or out
By zooming in or out, you change the main focus of the image. If you zoom out a little more, you can give your viewer a bigger sense of context. You can show the surroundings and how your subject relates to them. If you zoom in, you can get into the details and create a much more subtle image. Don't forget to try zooming right in as well. It’s all about the message you want to communicate. What’s more important, the subject or the surroundings? You make the call and decide what to include or exclude.
Remember to only zoom in or out to include full objects. Zooming out to include a part of a house doesn’t communicate nearly as much as zooming out to include the entire house. I say this with some degree of caution though. There are a few instances where you zooming out and including a part of someone’s face or some other hint can create subtlety in an image, and that’s very desirable.
Change up the lighting
The same image is hardly ever the same when you change up the lighting. If you have the equipment or the willpower to do this, I’d highly recommend it. Try taking the same picture at sunset. Try using off-camera studio lights and reflectors. All of these small touches make a difference. Photography is nothing more than painting with light. Change up the light, and you change everything.
Try to think as outside-of-the-box as you can. Try bringing in colored lights or gels. Consider purchasing a flash that you can bounce off the walls. There are so many possibilities with different lighting. I would say it’s the one thing the pros spend the most time adjusting and learning.
Consider a different perspective
People and things never look the same when viewed from above, below, faraway, up-close, or any variation of these. Each new perspective gives the photo a different theme for the viewer. People look more powerful when viewed from below. Similarly, they look more smaller/weaker when viewed from above.
The best way to experiment with alternate perspectives is to get the biggest range of focal lengths possible for your lenses. A telephoto lens creates a flattening effect, and a wide angle lens adds depth to an image. If you have two lenses that give you a range between 18mm and 200mm, you’re doing pretty well. If you can add in a macro lens for smaller things and a lens that goes up to 300mm, you’ll have a very wide range of options.
Experiment with different exposures
There is no such thing as the “right” exposure. It’s entirely a matter of taste, which is why you should always take the same photo with different aperture and shutter speed settings. Get one that’s a little brighter or darker than the last one. Also experiment with a faster shutter or slower shutter speed and a more open or closed aperture.
There is so much to toy around with here that you’ll never run out of things to try. Faster shutter speeds can freeze action. Slower shutter speeds can create interesting motion blur effects. Some images are meant to be brighter and others are meant to be darker. You’ll never really know until you try them all. That’s the only way to gain experience.
Add in-camera effects to your images
The same image can look a lot more interesting when you add in a few special effects. The easiest one to create is a motion blur. Try moving the camera with your subject as it crosses your camera’s line of sight, all while using a slower shutter speed. If you time it just right, it will appear as if the background is blurry while your subject remains perfectly still.
There are a lot of cool ones you can create at night. Try using a slower shutter speed in conjunction with your camera’s flash. It’s called slow-sync flash, and it makes for one of the coolest effects I’ve seen. It’s very similar to a motion blur, but much more colorful.
Break the rules!
The rules are sometimes the reason you got into your rut in the first place, and guess what, they’re made to be broken. I don’t always follow the rule of thirds. I don’t always get my exposure perfect, and sometimes I like to have a little grain in the shot. The next time you’re bored with an image, think of a rule and do your best to break it. If you don’t like the result, you haven’t lost anything. But if you’ve done something new and interesting, how awesome is that?
Every time I’m out there, I take pains to vary the images I’m taking. I know my subjects get kind of impatient with me, but it’s exactly what needs to get done. You can’t just settle for the same stuff over and over again. For every shot you setup, you need to try most of what I’ve listed here. If you do that, you’ll have plenty of shots to choose from.
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