BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
joy e. GLENN


I know one gets to be a better photographer by taking lots of pictures. I seem to be in a rut where I just take "straight on" photos. I would like to know what you creative people are thinking when you try to find a shot? What is your thought process? How can you see things that other people cannot? Your advice would be great! Thanks! JOY

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9/6/2006 11:49:42 AM

Bob Fately   Joy, I imagine that lots of imaginative folks will end up responding here, so I will humbly offer up some thoughts and then get to see what other people write...

In a way, I think you've answered (at least partially) your own question. You describe your technique as taking "straight up" photos - so may I suggest that you take a moment to experiment with different perspectives and angles of view?

That is, say you're in front of an interesting building. Certainly the "straight on" approach would be to stand across the street and take a shot of it. Bu you might find it interesting to kneel (or lay down!) on the sidewalk in front of the building, or at the corner, to achieve a different point of view. Even laying flat on your back and looking up at the building should be tried (well, maybe not if it's raining).

Likewise, you could try to capture the "essence" or "nature" of he building by capturing only a small feature in a close-up shot.

To the degree that you have other lenses to work with, a wide angle (or super-wide angle) lens could give an interesting view of that same boring old building - particularly from the ground level or from a position very close to the corner or the bannister on the stairs or whatever.

The point is, sometimes it helps a lot to break away from the "just stand there and shoot" approach and just look at your subject from a different point of view.

If you shoot digital, then indeed take as many shots as you can - later you can review them on the computer at your leisure to decide what looks seems most artistic or pleasant to you. And all without the associated costs of processing film. If you shoot film, then maybe you won't be as willing to take hundreds of shots of that same stupid building, but you can still view the subject from all those different points of view and get a sense of what you like.

Color can be another differentiator - if you, say, carried around a pair of bright red baby booties you could put them on the steps of the building. If the building is beige then that touch of color for contrast can make for some interesting possiblities.

Anyway, them's my thoughts - I hope they help...

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9/6/2006 4:11:05 PM

joy e. GLENN   Thanks so much for your reply! You put a lot of time and effort in that and I appreciate that so much! I read somewhere that one should give themselves an assignment of shooting 100 photos in say 1 hour. (digital of course) looking at things, shapes, lines, color without naming tham and therefore putting a judgement on them. For example, "oh that's a spider,I dont like them so I'll pass on that shot.
Its kind of like looking at the world as if you were an alien and didnt know what anything was. I thought that was a very interesting approach to see the world more creatively. Any feedback out there or ideas?

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9/6/2006 8:33:47 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Hey Joy, I have a good buddy that is an amazing landscape and cityscape photographer. I don't see anything he sees but in an effort to learn we do a photo challenge that is pretty fun. In San Francisco we both get 30-50 photos taken during a 1 hour period and the person that takes the best single photo gets dinner free. The person with the best overall photos gets free drinks...I've never won a free dinner but have earned free drinks once and believe me when I say...I can put them down. I have taken photos from the same spot and see the subject matter so differently than him that it surprises both of us. he will see shadows and see angles I don't but working with him opens my eyes and forces me to become more creative....or leave SF with an empty wallet.
Currently I'm in the 3rd week of working with a Very well known photographer by the name of Mike Brochu. His specialty is Maxim FHM style photography but he plays with light to make his photos POP. So another great way to improve quickly is to mentor with an incredibly talented photographer. We're heading to Vegas to show a Custom Porsche and photograph 4 models before he heads back to New Hampshire but the amount of information I've gained by working with him was amazing.

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9/7/2006 12:30:09 AM

joy e. GLENN   THAT'S A great idea and a fun way to spend an afternoon!

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9/7/2006 1:26:11 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/15/2004
  Hi Joy,

I took a course here at BP, "Joy of Digital Photography" and the instructor gave us the assignment of picking a color, any color, then go for a walk and photograph all objects with that color.

It was winter, and I went for a walk in the woods with the color RED! I redefined my subject to be "shades" of red and was very surprised at what I found. We had to shoot our color subject from different angles, views, etc.

Not a bad idea when you want to shoot, but are creatively stuck.


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9/7/2006 8:34:34 AM

Jagadeesh Andrew Owens   Go shoot something that takes you out of your comfort zone. If you're Baptist, attend a service at your local Jewish temple, if you're white, go to a predominately Black, Hispanic, or other ethnic part of town, if you're shy or an introvert, go up to strangers (armed with short form model releases) and do full frame portraits with a non-telephoto lens. We always have to push ourselves as artists and photographers, and I find getting out of my comfort zone a d@mn good jump start to a creative streak.

Sipho Eish
Artistic & Photographic Monolith

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9/7/2006 8:47:14 AM

Jason R. Fortenbacher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2006
  Boy do I know what you mean, Joy!

When I first started shooting aircraft about four years ago all of my pictures would have been perfect "3-view" type images-- you know, head-on, side profile, top profile, etc.

But I got very bored.

One thing I did to stop this was purposfully NOT taking those pictures. I picked up my camera with the sole intent to change things up a bit. I work at a local airport as a line-person and can be found almost any time laying on the ground under an airplane, cleaning all the grease/oil off of it. One day a light-bulb illuminated and I grabbed my camera and learned a great lesson.

Don't be afraid to get dirty! I've found that you can obtain some extremely incredible pictures while laying on your belly!! haha I've also climbed on top of our 10,000 gallon fuel tanks to take pictures looking DOWON on the airplanes. It may sound silly, but I try to think of how different creatures would see things... how would a bug see it? How would a bird see it? Bat? Humm.. perhaps not that one.

And speaking of getting out of your comfort zone, I did 2 things for the very first time last weekend. Shot people, and houses!! haha

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9/12/2006 1:17:22 AM

Josh Henderson 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/30/2007
  In experimentation, there is no failure, only discovery.

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3/31/2007 7:15:54 PM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  If you see something is someone's gallery that gets your attention, send them a message and ask. It might be something as simple as using a graduated neuteal density filter, or getting really low. When I shoot, I always try to get "the shot" that no one else has tried. I have very mixed results, but the challenge is worth it.

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3/31/2007 9:51:16 PM

Hi Joy,

you already said it: "I seem to be in a rut where I just take "'straight on' photos". And "How can you see things that other people cannot?".

Simple: don't take "'straight on' photos", and look at things in a different way other people do.

So, to 'see' different photos you need different perspectives. Try shooting up, down, or sideways along number of objects in the image (play with the DoF; tripod required).
Try the same things squatting down as low as you can go, or climb on top of something and shoot from there.
Experiment with wide angle, as wide as you can. Or with telephoto: get as close as you can.
Try tracking/panning moving subjects (you'll need slow shutter speeds like 1/10th, 1/15th, or 1/30th!).
Use fill-flash outside in the daytime. With longer shutter speeds you get lighter backgrounds. With shorter shutter speeds you get darker backgrounds. Combine with DoF control.

So on, so forth.

Want 'different' photos? Then don't do what everybody else is doing.

Have fun!

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4/1/2007 6:12:00 AM

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