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Have you ever found yourself with your camera in a place where there is nothing interesting to photograph? The quality of light is poor or the surroundings are boring? You go home with an empty memory card and full of self doubt. Well, that happens to every photographer, but it can be easily turned into a journey of new discoveries.
Friends say that I have the ability to find something interesting to shoot everywhere I go, no matter the light or the surroundings. I am never bored when I am with my camera! I love the challenge of photographing an ordinary object and try to make it look interesting. I may be only experimenting with composition and depth of field, but isn’t it through such exercises that we learn and grow the most in our craft?
While recently following the work of a few photographers who just completed their first 365 photo-a-day adventure, I noticed a pattern. Clearly, their plan was to capture something exciting for every day, not for a moment thinking ordinary household items might fit the bill. However, to maintain that daily photographic commitment, each photographer eventually needed to become resourceful enough to see the extraordinary in the mundane. It is at this stage that I always see them take a big step forward in their work. It’s as though they suddenly get the urge – and the confidence – to experiment, and this teaches them to see the ordinary world around them with new eyes.
Try this exercise. Look around your house for something ordinary to shoot. Better yet, open a kitchen drawer and take out any object. Now using just one lens, shoot it from different angles and depths of field. Then let some direct sunlight shine through it or bounce a flash on colored paper. This exercise can be done anywhere in your house. Now take your camera outside. Walk down the street, stop randomly and look around. Pick an object, study it from different perspectives and then shoot. Play with shadows and light. Get down on the ground or shoot from above. The sky is the limit! If you enjoy working in the digital darkroom, let your creative juices flow. Add filters. Play with those sliders. The camera you use doesn’t matter. This is all about vision – your vision! And have fun!
You may surprise yourself by how much you “accidentally” learn from this exercise, so I encourage you to do this often. Mostly, you will also get to know your camera and its capabilities better, which will prepare you for the time when you need to shoot something really important for yourself or a client.
The next time you visit a modern art museum, notice how often ordinary household items are incorporated into the art. They are used all the time and in any medium. Soon, you will see the extraordinary in the ordinary!
I will end this article with a quote from Vincent Laforet’s book Visual Stories. This resonates with me because it describes perfectly how I strive to live every day I spend with my camera. “Images are happening around you every second. You can photograph anything in a million different ways, but what I always try to remember is to photograph something as if I’ve discovered it for the first time. And if I have photographed it before, I find a way to see it as I’ve never seen it before.”
We learn from each other, so please share your stories and ideas with the dPS community in the comment section below.