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Are you looking to create more artistic photos? Do you feel like your photos need a bit of an upgrade?
You’re not alone.
This type of struggle is one that most photographers feel at one point or another. I’ve felt it myself, which is why I developed several methods for increasing the artistry in my own photography.
And I’m going to share these methods with you today.
So if you’re looking to add a level of creative and artistic flair to your photos, keep reading.
Creating more artistic photos can start by changing up your compositions.
Because here’s the thing:
After doing photography for a bit, you start to fall into compositional patterns. You’ll take the same type of photo, over and over again. You may not even realize it.
So in order to take things to the next level…
…you should make a strong effort to break free of your compositional patterns.
For instance, a minimalistic photographer might take a single plant and place it down at the very top or bottom of the frame, while the rest of the scene stays primarily white:
Minimalism is great, and one of the things I love most about it is how it feels so different from normal compositional techniques. Once you start thinking minimalist, your whole outlook can change.
And your photos will start to look far more artistic.
If you’re looking to increase the artistry in your photos, ask yourself:
How am I doing with color?
Because color is one of the most neglected aspects of photography, despite its important role in most photos.
Color adds contrast, creates harmony and disharmony, and evokes different moods.
(All in a wonderfully subtle way!)
Now, one aspect of improving the use of color in your photography involves looking for interesting color combinations when out shooting.
But you can also make changes after you’ve finished your photoshoots.
More specifically, split toning will allow you to add a bit of mood and contrast to your photos.
Here’s a photo with a bit of split toning to deepen the yellow highlights and the green shadows:
Basically, a split tone just involves putting one color cast in the highlights of your photo and one color cast in the shadows of your photo. Cold shadows and warm highlights are pretty common, so you could easily go with a blue/yellow split-tone combination. But you should also experiment with other possibilities to make things as artistic (and interesting!) as possible.
Note that pretty much every RAW photo editor offers split toning in one form or another. So no matter your preferred post-processing software, you’ll be able to add some color!
This is one of my personal favorites for making photos more artistic:
Bringing down that depth of field.
Now, to create a shallow depth of field look, you’ll need to use a lens with a wide maximum aperture (something in the area of f/1.2 to f/2.8 is best). You’ll also want a lens of at least 50mm, and you’ll want to get close to your subject, if possible. The closer you are to your subject, the better the soft-focus effect.
Note that it can be difficult to focus when working at such a wide aperture. So you may need to switch your lens over to manual, in order to ensure you nail focus every time.
To add additional interest, you might try positioning a light source in the background, so that you can create cool bokeh, like this:
I’d also recommend thinking about your subject a bit differently. Don’t envision the subject as a single entity; instead, look for shapes and lines that you can use for a more powerful composition. That way, you’ll be able to use the soft-focus effect for more artistic, abstract-style images.
If you’re the type of person who likes to get out and practice photography, you may grumble at this suggestion. After all, practice makes perfect, right?
But it’s important to realize that it’s hard to know what perfect would mean…
…if you haven’t ever seen it.
That’s why I urge you to look at the work of photographers you admire. Do it all the time. If you like, you can simply look at photographers in your favorite genres.
Or you can expand your horizons, looking for photographers in many different areas.
(In fact, I like to look at work that’s not in my areas of interest; I find that it gives me fresh ideas that would’ve never occurred to me if I’d stuck to my preferred genres.)
When you look at photography that you like, ask yourself:
What is it that makes this work special? What is it that makes it so artistic?
Then come up with some ideas for incorporating that level of artistry into your own work. Don’t copy blindly, but try to pull out bits and pieces of wisdom that you can use to enhance your own photos.
For instance, if you notice that a photographer likes to shoot from a low angle, start shooting from a low angle yourself.
If you notice that a photographer loves to juxtapose two contrasting subjects, try juxtaposing some contrasting subjects yourself.
Just give it a try. My guess is that you’ll notice improvements in your own photos pretty quickly.
And then you won’t want to stop looking at other photos!
Here’s a final, practical tip for creating more artistic photos:
Use creatively long shutter speeds.
For instance, photograph moving a flower, but drop the shutter speed way down, so you get a cool blur effect.
And then move your camera around, even as you’re taking the photo. That’ll give you an even more interesting abstract:
Personally, I love doing handheld abstracts with long shutter speeds. Sure, they take a lot of experimentation, but they’re also very liberating. And they’re great for situations where the light is too low to get sharp shots handheld and you don’t want to use a tripod.
Now, to pull off this type of abstract image, you’ll need to put your camera in Manual mode (or Shutter Priority) and drop the shutter speed until it reaches 1/10s to 1s (or longer). Then, as you hit the shutter button, move your camera. I’d recommend aligning the movement with compositional elements in your scene (e.g., if there are trees in the scene, move the camera along the tree trunks).
You’ll end up with some very artistic blurs!
Hopefully, you now know a few easy ways to make your photos more artistic.
After all, capturing artistic photos doesn’t have to be hard…
…it just involves changing things up!
So try some of the ideas I’ve suggested, and see how things go. I bet you’ll like the result!
Do you have ideas for creating more artistic photos? Share them in the comments!