How to Take Photos that Stand Out from the Crowd

How to Take Photos that Stand Out from the Crowd

I think this is a valuable piece of information to pass along to both newcomers to photography and the more experienced crowd…

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can provide which will immediately improve one’s photography and cause it to stand out from the countless other photos on the web, is to act unusual while taking the photos.

By Ryan Pendleton

If you’re standing upright, pointing your camera at obvious subjects, from obvious perspectives, at obvious times the day, the resulting photographs will be nothing more than…obvious.

Your photos will not differentiate themselves, as is the intentions of so many photographers. Everyone wants ‘different’ images that catch the public’s eye. But many do not take this into consideration while out with their camera. Many more do take it into consideration, but let the perception of passers-by impact their willingness to get into a unique position from which to gain an interesting perspective, to implement that prop that’ll make the photo fun and unique, or to point the lens toward subjects most people walk by without notice.

By Ryan Pendleton

Many of my best photos were taken with at least one (and sometimes several) person staring at me as if I were a closed-head injury patient who happened to find a DSLR lying on the side of the road. These stares are usually led by my wife…

If I’m receiving unusual looks due to my lying on the ground, using an unusual prop in public view, or pointing my camera at a seemingly boring object because I see photographic potential, I can usually rest assured that I’m on the right track.

By Ryan Pendleton

Unless an unusual opportunity presents itself, you can assume that a photograph which is easy to obtain has already been taken by numerous other photographers. But, if you have to get down on the ground to find a unique view of the subject, or if you are sticking your lens out of the window of a cab who’s driver is eying you down in the rear-view mirror, chances are you’ll come away with something unique.

By Ryan Pendleton

Aside from potentially gaining an advantage over the army of other photographers ‘on the street,’ you’ll also fundamentally alter the way you view the world. After paying attention to different scenes, lighting, perspectives, textures, etc. through years of trying to view things from a unique viewpoint, I’ve realized that this strategy has trained me to see the world through my own internal lens. Overall, I think this allows me to come back from visiting various parts of the world having truly experienced the uniqueness of each place.

By Ryan Pendleton

The next time you’re out with your camera, try the following:

1. First, take the shot you would normally take. Then, force yourself to take it from a drastically different perspective. This could be lying on the ground, climbing a nearby hill, or circling the subject for another alternative view.

2. Don’t be afraid to set up shop (tripod, camera, other gear) in busy places with lots of people watching you, wondering what you’re doing. Obviously, make sure you’re not breaking any rules or laws related to the location. But definitely don’t let odd looks from passers-by cause you to skip the shot. Just do it. When you get home and pull up the image on the computer, you’ll be happy you did.

3. Don’t quickly bounce from tourist-attraction to tourist-attraction while in a new location, as you’ll undoubtedly miss valuable shots in between. Pay attention to the doorways, the fence posts, the people, and everything in between. You might later realize your best photo of Paris isn’t of the Eiffel Tower, but is instead of the elderly man sipping espresso who you noticed on the way back to the hotel…

4. Be willing to act as your own subject, should the right situation arise. If you come across a picturesque situation which would be enhanced with a person in-frame, don’t hesitate to set up the tripod and become the actor in your own production. I assure you, you’ll find that you’re easier to direct than most potential subjects…

5. Finally, have fun. When you put down your guard and concentrate on having fun, instead of on acting normally in public, your shots will be impacted by that shift in thinking. Normal is boring. Unusual, is interesting…

By Ryan Pendleton


Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Ryan Pendleton is a semi-professional photographer, husband and father of two. His main passion is documenting his own growing family, although he also enjoys travel, night and self-portrait photography. Visit his website or 500px profile to see a selection of his work, and connect with him using the social links below.

Some Older Comments

  • Corte on Camera December 30, 2011 05:23 am

    Thank you I find this very inspiring and exciting to begin exploring

  • cj April 9, 2011 07:53 am

    I have recently been trying to take pictures from more interesting angles. My favorite one that I have shot fairly recently is this one.

  • Colleen April 9, 2011 05:25 am

    I always love reading about how photographers should lie on the ground for a different perspective. As an older photog, I can get down, but I can't always get up. ;-)

  • Ambition April 6, 2011 04:01 am

    Great article, Ryan! I love the photo of the man holding the umbrella. LOVE!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly Carmichael March 29, 2011 10:22 am

    Thanks for sharing this article Ryan!

    I have enjoyed making people scratch their heads trying to figure out what I am creating a photo of. I will often be seen lying on the ground in a group of people or have my camera hanging 12 feet in the air atop my monopod (careful if you try this!!!) all while trying to get "The Shot"

    I do agree, Make It Fun because when the fun is gone all you have are "Normal/Average" photographs that any grandpa could shoot from the hip.

  • Bryan Grant March 17, 2011 10:19 am

    great images.... very inspirational

  • casey March 15, 2011 11:41 pm

    Hi Darren,

    I am impressed with the first photo on how the lighting set up.Appreciate if can share.Thanks

  • Erik Kerstenbeck March 14, 2011 04:16 am


    Try some long exposures and then use an off camera flash to highlight a specific subject, like this shot in the desert at sunset!

    Painted Desert:

    regards, Erik

  • Lee March 14, 2011 03:57 am

    These stares are usually led by my wife…

    That was very funny ...nice sense of humor
    Very nice pictures too.

  • Tanya Rogers March 13, 2011 09:21 am

    Greatfull for the tips..... My husband is always asking,"what are you taking a picture of?" With that look of foolishness on his face.

  • pndltn March 13, 2011 08:26 am

    the guy under the umbrella is actually ryan, the author.

  • cjh March 12, 2011 08:03 pm

    What's the trick for the first shot? An on-camera flash pointed up?

  • rodferminphotos March 12, 2011 11:41 am

    I'm very much grateful for your on comments & suggested tips...I opened Chew's corner & agreed to her view/observarions especially on SB600 flash unit. More stunning photos from the rarest angles!!!

  • Maricel March 12, 2011 05:39 am

    Great post, I definitely need to get out of my comfort zone and take photos from different angles, go to different places, use my creativity. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • barb March 12, 2011 03:51 am

    Great post Ryan! Thanks for sharing...I will work on my creativity.

  • simon March 11, 2011 08:04 pm

    on the money my friend. exactly how I feel thanks for a great post. I will remember this when out with camera. be different, its more interesting

  • Subyello March 11, 2011 05:31 pm

    Though a nice post, with an interesting idea, I must say though easy to say it's difficult taking pictures of turist objects differently and making them interesting, and at the same time showing something. I find that I take a number of 'normal' tourist pictures of a place but than allow myself to take the more interesting/different pictures.

    I'd like to add, the picture with the wire, well it does not really show anything and it's not even interesting (to me at least), thus for me at least it shows there is a fine line between what is interesting to some, well will not be to others.

  • Michael Stagg | Maikeru Foto March 11, 2011 05:27 pm

    Your images are awesome! This post was awesome! Right now, I'm feeling pretty awesome because I do some of things you suggest; others are to practiced. Thanks for sharing! :D

  • Lorbie March 11, 2011 12:19 pm

    i love the umbrella man.. :D

    Black and white gives it more strength,.

    you have so much curiousity in you sir..


  • David Cann March 11, 2011 09:26 am

    Great article Ryan, thank you.

    One of my rules that I rarely break. If I visit a zoo, don't photograph the animals. By observing this rule I find amazing photo opportunities that are usually missed.

  • Everlong March 11, 2011 07:14 am

    Since I got a DSLR camera I've never been afraid of people thinking I'm weird because I'm laying down etc. I always tell myself, I've got a super camera and they probably think I'm a pro or artistic because I'm doing something outside of the box!

    Thanks for the interesting article.


  • Kent West March 11, 2011 06:27 am

    I couldn't agree more. They key to photography in my mind is to show people something they wouldn't normally see (could be done through perspective, angle, location, etc...).

  • rio h. March 11, 2011 04:50 am

    by the way, i love tip #3! i wholeheartedly agree that the small details around the bigger details can actually strike more hearts. this is the kind of stuff i am paying more attention to lately.. i love catching reactions more than what they are reacting from.

  • rio h. March 11, 2011 04:48 am

    i work in silicon valley, and there's not much around here that interests me to photograph, but i go out once in a while and take pictures of the ducks, geese, trees, leaves, rocks... the boring stuff..(but i have been able to get some nice photos from these!!)
    well one time i decided to go roadside and take pictures of the cars driving on the freeway on the other side of the road's fence. as i was setting up, a lone pickup truck drove by and whistled at me. that irked me a lot for some reason -- why does anyone feel the need to do that to someone simply taking pictures any way? i don't get that from people on foot whenever i shoot on a busy street, or from the grass areas where i shoot the boring stuff. i'm also very conscious when i'm shooting an event, mainly because i don't want to get in the audience's way at all. i do know that i have to not care about it all the time especially if a shot is worth blocking someone's view for a few seconds. (but i guess i just don't want anyone confronting me how they missed something because i stepped into their view either)

  • Mandi March 11, 2011 03:30 am

    Best article, hands down, that I've read on the site. Thanks to Ryan for this article!

  • JonSable March 11, 2011 02:57 am

    Digital Photography School - BAD!!!

    Please don't hotlink photos from other websites. I would have loved to have seen the photos in this article, but they're not on the DPS web server, they're hotlinked from and I (and probably others) can't see them due to cross-domain security settings.

    More importantly, a few months from now when Ryan decides to replace one of the pictures with a different one, your article will start to display a picture that may not have anything to do with the article.

    This article seems to have some great advice in it. My advice is to give it a proper web design so that people with high levels of Internet security can enjoy it too, the images will load more quickly, and you're not hijacking flikr's bandwidth.

  • Florida wedding videography March 11, 2011 12:25 am

    The saying is soo true! People look at me weird all the time while filming a good shot! You had some points that I had never thought about before... I will definitively take it to heart.

  • Othmane Bekkari March 10, 2011 11:21 pm

    Very good advices. One just has to make that mindshift that appearing weird is OK or, as we say in French "le ridicule ne tue pas". I have not been able to do that mindshift yet, but I will sure work hard to do it.

    Visit my website:

  • Iain March 10, 2011 09:30 pm

    Intersting ovservations. On the point of being worried by what passers by think, I often find that it can be a little daunting, but once you are looking through the lens you completely forget about others and start to focus on the shot itself.

    If you don't believe me, try it, pick the camera up, look through the viewfinder and stand still for a few seconds, you'll be amazed at how unconcerned with others you suddenly become!

  • Pichead (Ryan Pendleton) March 10, 2011 01:46 pm

    Jane (or anyone else), if you know the title of the book which features the umbrella photo on the cover, please post it here. I sold the image for a book cover, but wasn't given the name, author, or publisher info...

    Thanks for all the comments. They're appreciated!

  • Pndltn March 10, 2011 12:39 pm

    Jane, what's the title of the book with Ryan's photo as the cover?

  • Joe March 10, 2011 03:37 am

    Best articles and photos on this site in a long time.

  • jack March 10, 2011 02:37 am

    Fantastic post. Thank you for the tips. I am going to give them a go next time out.

  • Aberdeen Photographers March 9, 2011 10:46 pm

    Great tips, these are definitely things photographers should be doing with every shot they take.

  • Andreas - 16th Ave March 9, 2011 09:56 pm

    Pretty sure this is just what I needed! - I was out shooting a little bit yesterday, not planning to, but I bring my camera with me everywhere, and I felt like my shots were just .. 'shots' , nothing special about them, nothing that made them stand out, and I felt like I needed some inspiration and coming here and reading this post sure will help, because I think I let other people affect the way I was shooting, so I gotta try some of this out and then I for sure gotta get myself a tripod soon too! Thanks! :)

  • ArchiDEOS March 9, 2011 06:16 pm

    Nice try.. its very inspiring one..

    I just surf my old photos and i got this.


  • ArchiDEOS March 9, 2011 06:12 pm

    Hi.. Its very inspiring..

    i just surfing my old photos and i got this one..[eimg link='' title='Monster Hummer Wheel' url='']

  • ArchiDEOS March 9, 2011 05:58 pm

    Very informative for a beginners like me.. thank you very much..

    Hoping someday that i will shoot same photos too.. I just bougth my first dSLR cam-Canon EOS 7D..

    Great pics too... and more tips to come..

  • ArchiDEOS March 9, 2011 05:50 pm

    You've got it bro..Thanks..

    Very informative to a beginners like me.. Greats photo's too..I just had my first dSLR Camera (Canon EOS 7D) 5 months ago.

    Many thanks for the great info..more greats tips to come..

    Here one of my shoot while my Camera lying on the ground..

    [eimg link='' title='Boating the Horizon' url='']

  • Low F-stop March 9, 2011 02:21 pm

    Lighting a subject with an off camera flash under an umbrella is a fun trick and practical. Clients love it.

  • chew March 9, 2011 01:04 pm

    Very nice post. Many thanks. And that guy reading with an umbrella... it rocks man. =)

  • Trudy March 9, 2011 12:38 pm

    Nice post and the photographs within this post are so interesting, especially the first one.

    I like #4 on the list of things to try. Very rarely have I entered my own photographs while out, even when shooting for myself (obviously wouldn't when working for a client). I rarely even think to add myself to the scene but this is very clever...can make for some interesting photography.

  • Patsy Petersen March 9, 2011 12:06 pm

    Enjoyed reading this!!

  • Adrian March 9, 2011 11:32 am

    That was very inspiring! I like to see things in new perspectives too.
    This one was just starring at me in the face and the lighting was too good to pass up. Sometimes ideas work and others need to be rethought but in the process never delete your failures as you can learn from them.

  • Tracy Long March 9, 2011 08:52 am

    I often get strange looks as I position myself to take photos from unusual spots. It is worth the two second glance from a stranger, and I figure if they are really curious, then it's an opportunity to pass along a business card.

  • Pichead March 9, 2011 08:47 am

    "OK – if you see a chunky gal in Portland, OR laying on the sidewalk or trying to get back down from out of the tree, don’t laugh & point fingers!" - Awesome

  • DorkySister March 9, 2011 08:04 am

    OK - if you see a chunky gal in Portland, OR laying on the sidewalk or trying to get back down from out of the tree, don't laugh & point fingers!

  • Jane March 9, 2011 06:48 am

    Completely off topic but I was just given a book with your umbrella photo on the cover! And no it has nothing to do with photography

  • Chesney (aka. dEfyant) March 9, 2011 06:11 am

    Omgs... Not to be melodramatic or anything, but. (*contented sigh*) this article literally sent shivers throughout my entire body! ...I can relate to this so well.
    Thank you so much for printing this; and many more thanks to Ryan, a photographer I'd feel so incredibly honored to have the opportunity to meet one day!

    [eimg url='' title='imag0800.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='imag0807.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='imag0678.jpg']

  • günther pichler March 9, 2011 05:29 am

    wow, i love the first picture with the umbrella, it's really outstanding! :)

  • Raymond March 9, 2011 05:14 am

    Thank you Ryan for the insightful entry, I think sometimes when a photographer takes so many photos on a daily basis, one tend to take a certain shot at a certain perspective and style over and over again. It's great to remember that one should try to get out of that comfort zone every now and then :)

    Chan Raymond

  • Kat Landreth March 9, 2011 05:10 am

    Thanks so much for the post Ryan. I have a teacher that assigns "close up abstract" photos and he always says "if you're not on the ground you're not doing it right!"

    I think I get it...people looking at you funny is a sign that you're doing something they haven't seen before. Then people who see your pictures get the feeling of being on the ground, at weird angles without actually getting their knees dirty. Pretty cool.

    I knew I should ignore my tendency to be self conscious and just get the shot I was after. But I never put it together that people giving me funny looks might be a clue that I was on to something good.

    Thanks so much for this post!

  • Courtenay March 9, 2011 04:43 am

    Great guest post Ryan. I agree with a couple other comments that it can be difficult to feel comfortable taking photos in certain situations but believe that you have to try anyway. Nothing too dangerous to start out with though! :)

    I think you've got to try to escape your comfort zone if you want to become a better photographer. I briefly touched on that in a post for my new site:

    I've definitely taken some photos of unusual subjects and, especially when on family trips, get funny looks and comments if I'm down trying to get a shot a cool looking rock or something. But, again, if you don't try to get the shot you'll probably forget it was ever there when you leave and you may have missed out on a frame-worthy print.

  • UA March 9, 2011 04:42 am

    Nice text and pure gold in advices.

    However: "3. Don’t quickly bounce from tourist-attraction to tourist-attraction while in a new location, as you’ll undoubtedly miss valuable shots in between. Pay attention to the doorways, the fence posts, the people, and everything in between"

    Haven't we seen a bit too many doorway/fence post photos? Well, if you manage to make it interesting, OK. But this is something that people first think about as a nontypical photo from a "tourist photos" and they all do it. Including me. Add a pigeon or a seagul to the picture and it is "perfect" citytourist picture, which is thought to be different.

    Some akward theme for tourist photos is way more interesting and I have found this to be a great idea. You basically shoot the typical photos, but add just some sort wierd touch to them. For example, I have seen themes, where the person in the pictures had always jumped in the air on front of some tourist attraction. Or faced down on a bench (it is easy to find benches near tourist attractions) etc. innovate and do this to all of your tourist photos in one location and people will notice your collection for sure.

    One addition to the list: If you are not that much after memories from the tourist attraction, force yourself to use just one lense. For example, use 85mm primer with a crop sensor and you are forced to make more interesting pictures than with an allround zoom lense, which you will always zoom for the perfect composition.

  • Peter March 9, 2011 03:59 am

    This reminds me of when you give a small child his first camera. They run around taking pictures of anything and everything, no matter what it may be and from any angle. they are not really interested in the results of what they have taken only being interested in taking the pictures.
    The picture above of the tunnel with the side of the car, and the wire fencing, what possible interest is that to anyone, except perhaps that no one else has pictures like these in their albums.

  • Kiran March 9, 2011 03:33 am

    Truly appreciate all the points. I guess we ought to take photos in different angles and experiment the results. I've taken one while driving through a tunnel and it's amazing how the shot turned out here:

  • ScottC March 9, 2011 03:31 am

    Ryan I enjoyed viewing your photostream as well, the Amsterdam canals were an instant fav.

    Great write-up on perspectives. I've also found that simply trying something different, off the cuff, can result in something unique as well.

    I'm not into silhouettes that much, but took this photo from the only perspective possible knowing that's what it would be (at best), and was pleasantly surprised with the light in the result.

  • sakp March 9, 2011 02:57 am

    Great post. I have the same problem as Mei Teng, always self-conscious.

    I gained a lot of insight from this. Thanks!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck March 9, 2011 02:54 am


    Here is another shot taken at the San Diego Convention Center after a sudden rain. Here I captured the sunset reflected from these two unusual windows. The architecture is just astounding - busted by the No Tripod Police shortly after! I spent about 45 minutes just in this area looking for angles and waiting for the light.

    ...Going Up:

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer March 9, 2011 02:51 am

    Thanks Ryan for contributing to dPS and introducing your work. I just went through your photostream and really appreciate the detailed stories you write for each of your photographs. The stories, for me, really add to what is already an award winning photograph. If someone just tosses an image up on flickr, it has little impact no matter how great it is, but with a story behind it, I spend much more time in that person's photostream.

    I lived in Asia also, and was able to get a couple photographs published locally. This was one of girls in kimono:

    I went through the thinking process you describe above because there were literally hundreds of photographers just at the spot I was, and thousands more at other sites the same day all photographing Japenese girls on Coming of Age Day. I chose to concentrate on the kimono themselves, and the matching accessories hiding the girls' faces.

  • Lloyd Barnes March 9, 2011 02:49 am

    I love these ideas - great inspiration! Now I want to go out and see everything a new way :)

  • Scottie_the_Rebel March 9, 2011 02:40 am

    "Normal is boring. Unusual, is interesting…"
    I agree totally!
    I was shy at first, I did not like people looking at me when I was taking pictures. I would even hide my camera so I wouldn't attract attention to myself. It didn't take long before I found I really liked taking pictures with different views. At first I would go places that people would not be looking at me. I would lay on the ground, or point the camera at unusual angles. I liked the pictures I got, they were different then most I see. As I let others see my pictures I found the unusual ones were the ones people liked the most and talked about the most. Now I am not to scared to do whatever it takes to get a "unusual" picture.
    Yes, people look at me funny, I get called weird a lot, but I love the pictures I get. I was at a car show and I got way down on the ground and looked down the side of the car. As I got up a older man was looking at me funny and said "thats a different type of picture now isn't it" I showed him the picture on my camera. He looked at me and said "Wow, that is nice", as I walked away I looked back and he was down taking the same picture.
    Made me smile, I just help that man look at the world a little differently...

  • Erik Kerstenbeck March 9, 2011 02:37 am


    Great article about taking ones time and really looking for a unique shot. Coronado, California is loaded with Photographic opportunities, from the bridge to Hotel DelMar. I took this shot of a simple beach bench with a storey in mind of someone waiting for their loved one to come home from an over seas deployment - we see that a lot in San Diego as the big boats come and go.

    Waiting For You:

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  • Chris March 9, 2011 02:28 am

    I agree with mei teng. Sometimes the hardest part about taking a photo (especially of somebody on the street) is getting over the feelings of self conciousness.

  • doodles March 9, 2011 02:02 am

    I just love this...............thanks!!

  • JoaFarrington March 9, 2011 01:14 am

    I would agree with mei teng as well. I am new to digital photography myself. I look at this site regularly and am amazed and astonished at the different shots that are displayed and wish I can do the same. For me, not worring about what others are thinking I think is the key to real creativity.

    Thanks so much for the article!

  • Herr Olsen March 9, 2011 12:56 am

    I totally agree with the idea that "interesting" photos are those that are different from our normal visual perception.
    I actually blogged about this a couple of months ago:
    (It's in german and means something like "How to take an interesting photo".)

  • Mei Teng March 9, 2011 12:54 am

    "Many more do take it into consideration, but let the perception of passers-by impact their willingness to get into a unique position from which to gain an interesting perspective....."

    I have this problem as I tend to be very self conscious.....of people gawking or staring at me getting into awkward photographing positions.

  • Mike March 9, 2011 12:42 am

    Some good thoughts in there. I try to think about the different perspectives but forget a lot of the time, still kinda new at the photography thing. Good point about jumping from tourist spot to tourist spot. Thanks for these tips and reminders.

  • Martin March 9, 2011 12:35 am

    I totally agree and have always adopted this method. I like point 4. Never thought of doing that ............. I must try it :)