You can take a great photo anywhere. No, really. Field, junk yard, basement or parking lot--every place has a photo hidden in it somewhere. Your job as a photographer is to look at each new location as you would see it through your viewfinder. When you're in that basement, find the beautiful, broken down chair sitting in a dusty sunbeam. Zoom in on a length of twisted wire in that overgrown field or record the coming and going of feet in that parking lot.
Stuck for ideas? Here are a five surprising locations for your photo sessions. View these places with an eye for the unusual and try shooting from different angles, isolating backgrounds and zooming in on the interesting features that most people overlook.
A quick note before we get started: don't do anything dangerous or illegal in the name of taking a great photo. Some potentially good locations are off limits to photographers, and for good reason. There are plenty of amazing, safe ways you can capture a great image without putting yourself (or God-forbid, your camera) at risk.
One of the most difficult things you can do as a photographer is find a fabulous image in your own home. Why? Because to those of us who live there, our homes are boring. We've seen it all before, dozens of times a day and a bazillion times over the course of our occupancy in that building. But finding the unique and interesting in the ordinary is an exercise that every photographer can benefit from, and your house is a great place to start.
When searching out a great photo inside your own home, start at the windows. Notice where the light falls, and how it highlights or reflects off of certain objects. Now think about the angles and perspectives that you've never viewed your own home from. Try photographing your children's feet under the dinner table, for example, or shoot your dog from the hardwood floors looking up. Finally, think about your favorite pastimes while you're at home. Do you spend a lot of time reading? Sewing? Driving RC cars? Experiment with a few different perspectives on those things that interest you the most, such as a pile of scrap fabric or the dirty fender of an RC car.
Basements, attics, garages and sheds
Once again, you don't have to go far to find some unique photo opportunities. Any place where you keep things is a potential photo studio. Look in your own attic or basement for interesting arrangements of boxes, dusty old books or items that have been infiltrated by spiders, termites or other pests. Water damage in those not-so-weatherproof sheds can also make for interesting images. And there is always something tragically beautiful about those long forgotten, half-discarded, permanently filed away items. Find those objects and photograph them where they lay, or try rearranging some things to see if you can make interesting patterns or groupings.
Malls, boardwalks and city sidewalks
Alas, train and subway stations used to be great places to take photos, but in our terrorism-sensitive world many cities around the world have banned photographers from taking photos in such locations. But any place where people gather is a potential stalking ground for great pictures. People waiting for a table at a restaurant, window shopping or simply walking from place to place will often display a broad spectrum of different emotions, from impatience and boredom to happy anticipation. Spend an afternoon people-watching at one of these people-heavy locations and there's no way you won't come out without at least a handful of great shots. Hint: A slow shutter speed and a tripod will help you capture the motion of people as they come and go.
Photographing random people can be a bit challenging, though, and sometimes awkward, so be prepared for a possible confrontation if that burly guy with the mean-looking dog decides he doesn't like having his picture taken. It's better to be open, friendly and chatty with the people around you than to hide and take photos from the shadows. The former will allow you a natural opportunity to ask permission before photographing someone you find interesting, while the latter will make you look like a weird stalker.
You will almost always need to get permission to photograph an abandoned building--from the inside, anyway. And abandoned buildings can be dangerous places, so step carefully and use good judgment whenever you take photos at this type of location. Once inside, an abandoned building will offer great opportunities to photograph texture (such as weathered wood and peeling paint). You can also use your camera to explore space--an empty, dilapidated room has its own special kind of beauty, and depending on the location of the building you may even get a few shots of nature juxtaposed against collapsing walls or broken windows.
Abandoned buildings, by their nature, don't have electricity--so they are often dark places. Depending on the extent of the decay, you may or may not have the luxury of natural light, so when planning your shoot be sure to bring a tripod and a flashlight. Try using the flashlight as a lighting source and see if you can get any interesting shots that way, but otherwise use long exposures to capture the texture and unique beauty of the place. Avoid your flash at all cost--you don't want ugly shadows and washed out walls to degrade your subject in a less-than-wonderful way.
Don't forget to shoot from a broad range of perspectives; focus on the architecture as well as on some of the discarded junk that might be lying around. Shoot from a wide angle and then zoom in, and be aware of your aperture. All these tips will give you a variety of images to choose from when the shoot is over.
Parking structures and busy streets
Moving vehicles often make for beautiful photographs. A slow shutter speed on a heavily traveled street at dusk will give you one of those great images of light and motion that you've probably seen in photography collections. Combining a foreground of meandering people with a background of moving cars can also make for interesting shots. As always, try to find an unusual perspective, such as a reflection in the shiny hubcap of a sports car. Try mounting your camera on a tripod and panning with the movement of a vehicle, which will appear to "freeze" the car in place while capturing a motion blur on the background. This technique takes some practice but is worth the effort once you learn how to do it correctly.
Parking structures themselves can provide for some interesting architecture and unique lighting situations. Make sure you bring a tripod to these locations, since most parking garages are poorly lit and will usually require a longer exposure. Don't neglect the stairwells, corners and views from inside looking out, and experiment with both day and nighttime shots.
You can find great photo opportunities almost anywhere you go, so try taking some pictures in these five locations, then think about the many other places you can go to find unusual images. Pictures are everywhere, but if you're not looking for them you're likely to miss out. For that reason alone, it's worth having at least a portable camera with you every time you step outside your house (and maybe even while you're inside it, too).
Tags: location, indoor photography, shutter speed, tripod
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