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How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

Having spent the past several months traveling extensively to some pretty exciting places, coming back home to small-town suburbia was a rude awakening for me to say the least. I was so used to having interesting subjects – be it people, landscapes, flora and fauna – at my doorstep everyday. I didn’t have to think much about what I wanted to photograph, I could just step outside and find something new and interesting every time.

But once I got home and settled into my routine, I started to experience PW (photographer withdrawal). There really was nothing for me to photograph, right? How many times can I photograph the same bush, the same tree, the same pond and the same ducks?

You see being smack-dab in the middle of American suburbia, this is the extent of my daily views. But then I realized that there are some simple ways to make an uninteresting location a bit more interesting! Here are six tips to help you do that.

#1 Change the way you look at things

Sometimes it’s just about changing perspective. Literally. Let’s say you have pine trees in your neighborhood. Nothing fancy – simple pine trees that are quite abundant in most areas.

Have you ever tried to look at one through a macro lens? Maybe you can capture individual blades of pine needles. How does the tree look when it snows? Can you isolate the snow on the pine needles? How do pine cones look under a macro lens? All of these things provide a potential for interesting photographs. Just change your perspective a complete 360 from what you normally do!

Get in close

Try looking at the same boring thing with a new or different lens. A macro lens or even a close-up filter is a nice way to get up close and personal to an otherwise boring subject.

Pine Tree in ice rain winter - How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

The image on the left is the neighborhood pond in winter. Nothing exciting ever happens there. But this past winter we had an ice storm and the pine tree was covered in ice. It made for some interesting compositions and also very cool macro shots!

Try wide-angle

The opposite of close is to try something that encompasses the whole scene. Using a wide-angle or ultra-wide angle lens to change your perspective of the scene in front of you.

Pine Tree in ice - How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

Here I used a wider angle to try and encompass the whole extent of ice on the tree. I quite like how the ice is hanging off the branches. I almost got frostbite from being outside in this cold but quite worth the shot, don’t you think?

Get the details/textures

Textures are a wonderful way to look at the details in and around an object. The play of color, age and grain make for great abstract imagery.

How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

#2 Experiment with different light

Light is one of the most important elements in photography. Sometimes boring doesn’t have anything to do with the location, but with the quality of the light at the time that you are shooting. If you feel that what you have around you is really uninteresting, try photographing the scene or subject in lighting that is different from what you usually do.

Get your tripod out and try photographing at night with a flash or a long exposure (slow shutter speed) combined with some light painting. Try early morning or golden hour light when the light is softer and the shadows are longer. Or go completely against the norm and try photographing in the harsh midday sun and embrace the play of light and shadows.

How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

Sometimes when the light is just right, I don’t have a model handy, so my dog is the one who poses for me. I just loved the way he was sitting in the light basking in the warmth of the setting sun.

Portraits in shadows - How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

This was a little bit more staged but she just happened to be sitting there when the setting sun entered the house from the left. I positioned her a bit so she was half in the light and half in the shade. No props needed at all – just a willing model and looking for the right or different kind of light.

photos of the setting sun - How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

Sunsets and sunrises are perfect to spruce up your boring location. You just need get outside and photograph that great light!

#3 Simple special effects

This ties into the point above. Using simple tools like a tripod, off-camera flash, gels, etc., can add an element of interest and change to your otherwise boring images.

Some other ideas to try are motion-blur with a really low shutter speed and a fast-moving subject, intentionally missing focus to create an artistic image, panning while tracking a moving object, double exposures, free-lensing, etc.

double exposure photography - How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

I absolutely love double exposures. When all else fails and there is nothing of interest to photograph, I try to combine nature and portraits to create some cool double exposure effect. More often than not, my pet is the only willing and able model!!

How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

#4 Break photography composition rules

We all know the basic rules of compositions such as; the rule of thirds, filling the frame, cropping effectively without cutting body parts, using leading lines and shapes, symmetry and patterns, pay attention to the background, etc. But sometimes when you are not quite feeling motivated and inspired or when you are dealing with an uninteresting background, try breaking some or all these rules to add some interest and drama to your images.

Dramatic Light Food Photos - How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

Most food photographs are always in perfect light on perfect white backdrops. I decided to break some rules and photograph my morning smoothie in the hard afternoon light that was streaming through my kitchen window to get some shadows in the frame and also give a more imperfect look to the blackberries.

How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

I loved the way my neighbor’s tree burst into flowers over the spring. So after much coercion and bribing, my daughter agreed to pose – but she refused to look at the camera. So I covered her eyes, cropped off her arms and create a different kind of portrait with the florals that I loved.

#5 Try some street photography

Street photography is an interesting genre of photography because it involves people and people watching is always fun and entertaining, no matter where you are.

#6 Experiment in post-processing

If none of these ideas inspire you, try to create something fun and interesting in post-processing. My post-processing software of choice is Lightroom. Perhaps you want to try HDR processing for your images, or a black and white theme. You can also use selective blur, gradient filters, and other tools to try sprucing up your images to create something interesting and fun.

How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

If you have been following my work for a while, you know that my style is very light, bright and airy. My images are clean and give a sense of freshness even in my processing. The image on the left is more of my normal style. But for this article and also to show that experimenting with post-processing is another way to overcome boredom, I edited all the images in a more dark and moody style throughout.

How to Take Interesting Photos in Uninteresting Places

Left is how I would normally process this image, and the image on the right is just experimenting with darker, moodier tones. I quite like them both and spend hours playing around with editing styles for this article.

Your turn

I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing in terms of things to try and experiment with in your photography when you feel your location is uninteresting and boring. Remember, memorable images don’t always happen in cool, popular places – they happen when something simple or mundane tells an interesting story.

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Karthika Gupta
Karthika Gupta

is a culture, people and travel photographer, based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural, and her love for nature makes it way into most of her images. She also has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course, a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.

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