The 16 Most Photogenic Everyday Objects

The 16 Most Photogenic Everyday Objects


by James Maher

You know how some people are just photogenic.  No matter what the lighting is or if they are all sweaty from the gym, they are still going to look damn good.

Well the same goes for certain objects and structures.  I am such a sucker for things like water towers, lampposts, and fire escapes, and so I thought I would create a list of my 16 favorite things to include in photographs.  These objects won’t always make a photo, but when included they will almost always make the scene more photogenic.

What are yours?

1. Cigarettes

Bad for your health, great for your photos.

Jerry Delakas

2.  Colorful shoes.

Especially when contrasted with dirty backgrounds.

Polka Dots and Pink Shoes, Subway.

3.  Old Patterned Walls and Wallpaper

An easy way to add an element of pattern and design into your photograph.

Razed Building

4.  Glowing Screens

It’s a good thing those glowing cellphone and iPad screens look good in photos, because unfortunately they are becoming hard to avoid these days.

25 People, 21 Screens

5.  Tunnels

The old frame within a frame.

Couple in Snowstorm, Central Park.

6.  Umbrellas

Particularly the translucent and colorful kind when lit from behind.

Green Umbrella

7.  Ladders and Fire Escapes

Turn them on their side and to an angle to create an illusion.

Escher Fire Escape

8.  Water Towers

Even better when you tint them and add some colorful frames.

Colored Water Towers

9.  Fire Hydrants

Gowanus Fire Hydrant

10. Advertisements that mimic or contrast with real life.

The Road to a Bright Future

11.  Glowing Lampposts

My favorite.

Glowing Lamppost

12.  Phonebooths

Quickly becoming antiquated.  Catch them before they all disappear.

Two Generatins, Phonebooth and iPad

13. Phone Lines

Especially when they are in the middle of nowhere.

Telephone Pole

14.  Old Doors.

Old Door

15.  Windows with Silhouettes.

Greek Protests

16.  Wet Cobblestone

Textures of Greece

Learn more about Street Photography in James Maher’s eBook The Essentials of Street Photography (currently 25% off at SnapnDeals).

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James Maher is a professional photographer based in New York, whose primary passion is documenting the personalities and stories of the city. If you are planning a trip to NYC, he is offering his new guide free to DPS readers, titled The New York Photographer's Travel Guide. James also runs New York Photography Tours and Street Photography Workshops and is the author of the e-book, The Essentials of Street Photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Tim June 6, 2013 07:54 pm

    I loved your photos -- great stuff.

    They really stand out and are different than a lot of the "ordinary objects" photos I've been looking at.

  • Sue Reddel October 30, 2012 03:30 am

    Love this post - thanks for sharing. Sometimes we forget to look at the simple things and that is definitely a miss. This is a great thought-starter on how to look at things a bit differently.

  • Anna October 25, 2012 06:41 am

    I love shooting my models on wet pavement, we found this nice motorcycle standing there so I had her sit on it just to capture a few shots! The wet pavement was a stunner, it brought great contrast!

  • Justin Donie October 21, 2012 10:50 am

    I agree with the notion that it's a different list of favorite everyday things for everyone. Personal and cultural triggers are very subjective, and what pushes one person's buttons may leave another flat. The cool notion here is to explore your own favorite everyday things list, photographically. It's a great idea for a project. I wonder if I can stop at 16 ...

  • John B. October 21, 2012 08:10 am

    @ Omitade: If you zoom in on the 'smoking' picture, you will see that the word is "Bigger." While looking at the photo, hold down your left Ctrl key and then tap the numeric keyboard plus sign a few times until you can see it enlarged.

  • John B. October 21, 2012 02:56 am

    I have recently taken to shooting derelict dwellings. There are plenty of them in our rural area.

  • Omitade October 20, 2012 09:35 am

    I like the composition of your photos a lot except for the smoking one. It actually says "nigger" across the front of the magazine. There must be other photos of smokers in the world. Since the topic was not political commentary, I think that it is inappropriate for this context.

  • Zain Abdullah October 19, 2012 02:33 pm

    Hi James,

    Thanks again for sharing the invaluable tips and as usual companied by great sample pictures.

    If you ask me to add another ordinary things but photogenic to photograph my answer is mannequin...

    Do take a look at my photos of mannequins below:

  • rd October 19, 2012 01:43 pm

    Now - I'd like to know what sells of your "most photogenic".

  • Muthalib October 19, 2012 11:24 am

    Hi, James.
    I like this article and the photo.
    Thanks for sharing. I'm not a photographer, but like other people I enjoy reading and looking at this kind of post.

  • Jamie October 19, 2012 08:44 am

    I love these! My favorite is the wet cobblestone. I think the most photogenic place is the beach. It always looks good in photos. :)

  • Carol October 19, 2012 07:21 am

    Such a creative idea! It leads down many paths - and I'm off to make my own list. I'm excited to find out what it is that catches my eye/mind/camera. Thank you.

  • Jay October 19, 2012 06:56 am

    Great post! Looking for these (and others) keep the creativity flowing.

  • Geoff Naylor October 19, 2012 05:50 am

    Old doors are my softspot James. Where I live everything's (too) neat and tidy, so I usually have to wait for holidays or trips to come across interesting examples.

  • Pramod October 19, 2012 04:56 am

    Nice topic & very nice interaction.

  • James Maher October 19, 2012 03:20 am

    Jenn that comment made me happy.

    Leny, completely - this post is a lot about home. Everyone's list of 16 is completely different.

  • James Maher October 19, 2012 03:16 am

    Bicycles! Yes, forgot about those. :)

  • Leny Cato October 19, 2012 03:12 am

    I agree with the main article, but also think that a love for the place you call 'home' is necessary. A sense of it's history and peoples place in it today....

  • Jenn October 19, 2012 02:44 am

    Fantastic list!
    I just want to hug this list, it needs to end with brown paper packages tied up with string!

  • Chris October 19, 2012 02:01 am

    Stila - cool shot. I'm surprised someone didn't object as you were probably taking a picture of a security camera taking a picture of you!

  • Richard Haas October 19, 2012 01:47 am

    Great list! I'm surprised you didn't include bicycles, my favorite.

  • Tom October 18, 2012 12:17 am

    I like the glowing lamppost - especially with either wet or fresh snow conditions.

  • Andy Keeble October 17, 2012 07:54 am

    Some of these really opened my eyes! Taking these examples makes me realise how much there is to do!


  • James Maher October 17, 2012 01:44 am

    It's interesting that for every different place and person there is probably a completely different list of 16 things. I like the elephant comment because where I live that is the furthest thing from an everyday objects, but maybe in some places they're as common as water towers are where I live.

  • Jubi October 17, 2012 12:58 am

    wow very good tips i like it...

  • Stila October 16, 2012 11:01 pm

    Very inspiring post, I do like to photograph many of the things mentioned!
    My favourite object is reflecting surfaces... especially when they're spheric.

    [eimg link='' title='DAY 22' url='']

  • Adesse October 16, 2012 12:21 pm


  • Mei Teng October 16, 2012 12:00 pm

    Wow...I didn't think water towers are interesting objects to photograph. Love the images and the colourful photo frames. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Some of my favourite everyday objects are textures (urban decay), old doors or windows, old collectibles.

  • Scottc October 16, 2012 09:40 am

    There are many everyday objects that can be great subjects, this article is the tip of an iceburg.

  • Brian Fuller October 16, 2012 03:45 am

    Like it. Unfortunately, 90% of these things are not present within 10 miles of my house.


  • Andi October 16, 2012 01:39 am

    Phone lines aren't usually too interesting. However, POWER lines (which is what's pictured above) are. ;)

  • Barry E. Warren October 15, 2012 12:58 pm

    Nice post.. Gave me some new idea's.

  • Jai Catalano October 15, 2012 09:54 am

    How about men with women hands?

  • Steve October 15, 2012 04:30 am


  • Michael Legacy October 15, 2012 03:19 am

    I love these photos, they are beautiful. And they gave me some great ideas. I had an old photo I took of a fire escape and I took the advice given here. Thank you.

  • Devang Gargieya October 15, 2012 03:14 am

    Beautiful objectives and examples....very nice !!!

  • Mridula October 15, 2012 02:53 am

    Wow for half of these I would not have noticed!