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You’ve been taking photos for quite a while now but suddenly you notice your shots are looking a bit the similar. Same locations, same light, same style, same subjects.
Yes, you can travel to new places once in a blue moon, but you itch to get out with your camera all the time taking inspiring shots.
You want to create something new and individual but there is always that nagging feeling that everything’s been done.
Yes, friends and family love what you do, but you want to make an impression on your peers. Maybe even enter a competition or two.
Well, you can break out of the same old same old ruth, here’s how. Just borrow a little style from other artists – they’ve been making images for thousands of years and are well practiced at bringing in the new.
Warhol is famous for his multi-image saturated color artwork such as his portrait of Marilyn Monroe and his Campbell’s soup cans. There is little depth created and the work is all about the surface patterns.
For this first steal you need a straight forward head and shoulders shot against a plain background. There are dozens of videos on YouTube that show you the process for creating pop art, which is quite straight forward, even for a novice at photo manipulation. Choose colors to suit your decor or mood. It’s a lot of fun scrolling through the hues and selecting the color combinations that grab you.
Mark Rothko’s paintings are often a field of just one color. They are full of texture, light and shade and nuances of hue and tone. Completely abstract, they still encompass a gamut of emotions from calm reassurance to dark solemnity. Other works include bands of color or two juxtaposed fields.
For this style, try photographing a field full of texture and color such as rapeseed in golden hour light for a picture full of joy. A windswept, sandy beach or a derelict urban factory wall make great subjects to try.
You could create bands of color with long exposures and intentional motion blur smoothing out features that may distract from the visual idea.
The field of orange ephemeral leaves here is offset with the solid green of the tree for changes in texture and color. This would be a good subject for the motion blur technique.
Famed for his impossible changes of perspective and tessellating patterns, Escher also looked at the natural world capturing unusual, thought provoking views. One of those was a woodcut of tire tracks holding a puddle reflecting trees. It’s one of those pictures where you do a double take. This isn’t the same as including reflections in rain covered streets, it’s more about capturing another world where the rest of the scene is merely background.
This example is a small pool in a beech wood. There is just enough “right way up” detail to explain the view point but not enough to change the subject.
The work of the Impressionists is hugely popular, full of light and sparkle. This was achieved by placing complementary colors such as orange and blue next to each other. Your eyes mix the colors and create a myriad of tones that seem to dance across the surface.
You can recreate this effect by looking out for natural occurrences of complementary colors such as these orange and gold leaves against a blue sky. Overexposing the shot slightly helps to give the high key and luminance you need for this to work well.
Rembrandt was a master of Chiaroscuro, the use of deep changes in tone from dark to light adding drama and mood. He mostly used this style for portraits, his brightly lit figures coming out of a deep dark background.
It’s a lovely technique you can use on your portraits, as Rembrandt did, using a dark room and a simple light source such as a lantern. You could also use this style to add a different dimension to still life or macro subjects such as this ox eye daisy.
In this case the background was in shadow behind the flower and a reflector was used to direct more light onto the bloom itself. A little tweaking with Photoshop increased the depth of the darks.
Blocks of pure color carefully arranged and separated by black lines of a grid were Mondrian’s stock in trade.
To replicate this style, you could look out for grid patterns occurring in the environment, such as different color fields separated by stone walls, paintwork in urban decay, windows in office or apartment blocks, and reflections on water surfaces. You could even set up a still life on a black table using found textures and colors.
In this photo, the initial attraction was the colored reflections, the duckling was a happy accident!
These are currently hugely popular across creative fields from adult coloring books to crochet.
This is a great style to use to organize still life subjects containing lots of small items in a cohesive structure. It can be most enjoyable and therapeutic to create the mandala in the first place. You then have the added bonus of the photo opportunity at the end.
This photo used a selection of fruit, leaves, and nuts on a slate table mat background. Nothing went to waste in this one.
You could try autumn leaves, sea shells on the sand, sweets, or mixed media. Get the family to join in for some creative bonding.
So now it’s over to you. You can take some of these ideas and maybe some of your own inspired by this article and run with them. It’s time to get out with your camera and look around with an artist’s, as well as a photographer’s eye. Good luck, happy shooting, and please come and share your results in the comments below.
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