5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

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How to Take Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects - leaf in the snow

How do you take extraordinary photographs of ordinary subjects? Many photographers think that this is impossible. They think that the best photography requires far-flung locations or sweeping landscapes. Yet creating beautiful photographs of everyday things is not only possible, it’s easy!

In this tutorial, you will find five ways to make incredible photographs of ordinary subjects.

5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects - close up of a white flower

1. Change your angle

I’ll start with a simple but very useful trick, that is changing your camera angle. Many photographers often shoot from a standing position, and this can be a useful starting point.

Yet when faced with an ordinary subject, it’s important to change things up. Otherwise, you’ll get a boring image that anybody could have taken.

red leaves - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

I stood underneath the leaves to get this image.

Instead, you should be more creative. Try crouching down low, so that you’re shooting up at your subject. This will create a sense of drama and your subject will loom in the frame.

I often lie on the ground, especially when shooting wildlife. Getting down on this level, even with the most ordinary of subjects, will give your images a sense of intimacy and draw the viewer right in.

Another option is to shoot from up high. You can hold the camera above your head, and use the LCD to compose your photograph. Or you can find some way of elevating yourself by using a chair, a balcony, or some stairs.

succulent plant - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

Regardless of which method you use, by changing your angle, you’ll find that you can make even the most ordinary of subjects come to life.

2. Photograph in dramatic light

A second way to take extraordinary photographs is to use dramatic lighting. Dramatic lighting can significantly add to the feeling and mood of your images. Therefore, by using dramatic lighting, you can create powerful images of ordinary subjects.

How do you create dramatic lighting?

One of my favorite types of dramatic lighting is with direct backlight. By this, I am referring to situations where the sun is low in the sky and directly behind your subject.

tree bark backlit - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

The sun was setting just beside the tree in the background.

Make sure that the sun itself is not in the image. You can either hide the sun behind the subject or photograph so the sun is just out of the frame.

Direct backlighting can single-handedly save a lackluster image. It will make viewers stop in their tracks. They’ll be pulled in by the high contrast and the drama.

Try it. I guarantee that you’ll see huge improvements in your photographs.

3. Find abstract compositions

A third way of taking extraordinary photographs of ordinary subjects is to look carefully for abstract compositions.

Abstract compositions are ones that don’t view the subject merely as the subject. A good abstract image emphasizes lines, shapes, and colors over any identifiable real-world elements.

dandelion - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

Often, good abstract photographs can be made by zooming in close (perhaps with a macro lens). But you can take beautiful abstract photographs with any lens.

How?

The trick is to forget about the subject as you would normally think about it. Say you’re taking a picture of a rose. You must stop thinking about the rose as a flower. Start thinking about the rose in terms of its delicate lines, its solid color, and its curves.

rose abstract - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

Compose with these components in mind.

Even if your subject is completely ordinary, being able to find abstract compositions will do wonders for your photographs of the most mundane subjects.

4. Use creative photographic techniques

By “creative photographic techniques,” I’m referring to tricks that professional photographers employ.

These tricks will add a special touch to any photograph. By using these tricks, your everyday images will come to life.

snow and ice - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

I’ll share two with you today.

The first technique is called “freelensing.” It involves detaching the lens from your camera and holding it manually in front of the camera body.

By tilting the lens in different directions, you can change the area of the image that is in focus, resulting in some very creative effects.

I use this technique quite often when photographing nature.

red leaf on a tree - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

I used freelensing to capture this photograph of autumn leaves.

The second technique is called “intentional camera movement.” You simply set your shutter speed for a significant length of time (anywhere between 1/50th of a second and 2 seconds is a good place to start).

Then, once you’ve pressed the shutter button, you intentionally move the camera during the exposure. You might try panning from left to right. Or you can bring the camera downward. Really, you can use any kind of motion, the possibilities are endless!

This intentional camera movement technique will undoubtedly result in some stunning abstract images. So go ahead and experiment!

camera movement - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

5. Add a touch of editing

Some photographers often skip post-processing, thinking it unnecessary. But while you don’t have to edit your images, even subtle editing can be used to accentuate certain aspects of a photograph. Editing can make a photograph moody, colorful, or dramatic.

In short, a touch of editing can make your ordinary photographs extraordinary.

One of my favorite tricks for editing a photograph of an ordinary subject is simple. Convert it to black and white.

cute dog - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

I liked the color version of this pet photograph, but I loved the drama of the black and white.

That’s it. If you have Lightroom, go ahead and use one of their free presets.

What’s so special about black and white?

Black and white emphasizes the contrasting elements of a scene while stripping away all color. This makes your images far more artistic and dramatic.

By lightly editing your photographs, you can make them pop off the screen. You can make them come to life. You’ll create images that you’ll be proud of, even years later.

palm leaf backlighting - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

In Conclusion

By changing your angle, photographing in dramatic light, finding abstract compositions, using creative techniques, and by lightly editing your photographs, you’ll be able to take stunning images of even the most ordinary of subjects.

abstract of a leaf - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

So get out there and start shooting!

Have another tip for taking great photographs of ordinary subjects? Share it in the comments!

purple flower - 5 Ways to Make Extraordinary Photographs of Ordinary Subjects

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Jaymes Dempsey is a macro photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. To see more of Jaymes's work and read about his time in the field check out his website and blog or follow him on Facebook.

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