I advise photographers to stick by the rules of composition and exposure to make successful photographs. But there is another valuable lesson that I don’t always discuss with photographers, and that is to experiment with their equipment and the photography they are producing and that subject came up during a discussion with a photographer that stopped by my shop last week. His lament was “everyone’s a photographer now days and most of what I see (I think he was talking about the city he lived in) is pretty much the same…and I feel like I am just one of that crowd.”
I suggested trying to do photography in a different way, and to disregard advice from others and begin a personal exploration of creating and experimenting with photography to make something totally new and different from what is most comfortable. Push the envelope and, in doing that, become more aware of what you are capable of doing, as well as what the equipment you own is capable of doing.
The famous photographer Ansel Adams once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”. I think that we might take the time to do just that. Consider alternative and unique perspectives when photographing a new subject and try different camera techniques and try equipment you haven’t tried before.
That might be as simple as trying to shoot only from a tripod for a time period. If you don’t have own a tripod, borrow one, and make a commitment to use it for every photograph you take for the next month. Some times you’ll hate it, sometimes you’ll love it; but the outcome will be learning to “make pictures” in a different way.
Or perhaps, and maybe more difficult, select something that wouldn’t normally be considered a subject. Use your camera to really photograph it and try angles that make people wonder if you have lost your mind. The opinion as to whether the photographs are successful will be yours, since the only opinion that really counts is yours when you have crawled through the dirt and photographed that flagpole from its base looking straight up through the flowers around it as a black crow flies overhead.
Try to be expressive with your photography. When you photograph something think about getting rid of anything that complicates it. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Go for a minimalist effect. I remember a photojournalist in the 1970’s telling me that the words he thought of before photographing a subject was “tighten up”.
Try a different way of photography and using light. See what happens when the color balance is absolutely wrong, or the lighting produces unusual colors and you photograph just the oddly colored items. One might carefully observe the lighting and wait. Wait until it affects a subject in an interesting, and maybe better yet, in an incredible way. Waiting for the light takes patience and that could mean waiting an hour, an afternoon, or all day for the light to become what a photographer wants when looking for something different.
Experimental photographs “made” from these efforts will have us thinking outside the box and when others view photos so different from what we normally produce it is they who probably won’t understand. That’s a good thing because our objective to be different will have been achieved, and most importantly, we will have learned something new about photography.
One of the outstanding features of digital cameras is how delightfully easy and helpful they can be when experimenting. The only real cost for to try something completely different with a digital camera is the time and effort. Look at your images on a computer screen and decide if each worked for you or not. I expect the result will not be boring and you will have learned more about, not only, how your camera works and responds, as well as any other equipment you tried for the first time, and you will likely have learned more about light, shadow, composition, and exposure.
You might well develop a way of photography that starts with the question, “How can I photograph my subject in such a way that makes it different?”
My website is at www.enmanscamera.com