BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Jaymes R. Stuart
 

What If There's Nothing to Shoot?


It's really nice to see spectacular scenics of mountains and rainforests and exotic places.

But I live in the dullest little part of the dullest little town on earth. Nobody would be interested in anything that goes on here.

What do I shoot?


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12/11/2001 4:15:10 AM

 
Jim Miotke
BetterPhoto Member
BetterPhotoJim.com
Owner, BetterPhoto.com, Inc.
  Hi Jaymes,

That's a good question. Here is an excerpt from an upcoming project I am working on. Hopefully, this will help:

"Look at pictures in magazines, photo galleries on the Web, or stock photography catalogs to get good ideas of the subjects you would most enjoy shooting. If you like looking at pictures of animals, for example, the odds are high that you will feel inspired and excited when trying to photograph pets or wildlife. If you most enjoy leafing through People or Bride magazines, perhaps you would like to shoot portraits and weddings. To test the waters, ask a friend to model for you so you can see firsthand how much you enjoy photographing people.

Stock photography catalogs are thick booklets filled to the brim with images. Advertisers systematically peruse these catalogs to find the photos that will best illustrate their magazine ads, billboards, and the like. Even if you don't plan to become a professional stock photographer, these catalogs offer a great wealth of subject ideas. If you know someone in the publishing or advertising industries, ask him or her if you can borrow a few of these booklets.

As you look through these magazines and catalogs, ask yourself why each photo interests you and how you might try to go about shooting the same subject in your own way. Make a list of potential places, people, or things that you would like to try shooting. Then pick one subject from the list and begin practicing with your camera...

The bottom line on figuring out what to photograph is this: don't let other's ideas of what one should shoot influence you. Do whatever it takes to get out shooting, regardless of what you think you should photograph. The key is finding subjects that inspire you to take the camera out, whether on a walk in the sunshine, a ride in your car, or a visit to a museum.


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12/13/2001 1:14:40 PM

 
Denise Miotke
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/1/1996
  If the landscape around your hometown is dull, I would not try to force myself to find beauty there.

Instead, I would turn my attention in the opposite direction and focus all my efforts to find beauty in another subject. For instance, I might get out my macro lens and try to photograph things like tiny ladybugs against beautiful flowers. Or I might set up a still-life kind of shot, one in a studio of some sort. There are some excellent examples of this in the November contest winners. I particularily like June Marie's Fruit Candies shot.

Lastly, I might try to photography people at work in my dull town. Catching a natural expression of a person is gold no matter where you shoot it. In fact, dull backgrounds may even make people shots better.

Hope this helps and I'm excited to see what you end up shooting.


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12/13/2001 4:15:21 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Jaymes,
Did an inventory of the large prints that won awards this year. Half were done either in my home or in my yard less than 10 feet from the front door. Another was in a relative's yard. None of them contain any elements outside of the home or yard. There is nothing that special or unusual about my home or yard. A "stock" realty photograph would show nothing more than a typical suburban house on a typical suburban street. It's very ordinary as a whole, but in its smaller parts there is another world to explore.

The things we are most familiar with often look the most mundane but they're not. It is our familiarity that is deceptive and it requires looking at the very familiar world differently. Seize opportunity with unusual lighting (especially at dawn or or sunset), or with unusual weather (frost, dew, snow, etc.) This requires looking at times other than mid-day. Examine and study shapes, material textures and colors, and do it under different lighting conditions. Examine and study things from a completely different point of view and perspective. How does a bee see a flower? How does a dog or cat or a small child see the world around them?

I also live in what some think is one of the most boring regions of the country, nothing but corn fields, and I couldn't disagree with them more. There may or may not be exotic sculptures and breathtaking panoramic landscapes may be rare. What is interesting may be only a piece of something small.

A fundamental principle of photography:
Film does not record subjects and objects. It records light, the light reflected or radiated by subjects and objects.

While your town may seem dull and boring, I guarantee the light radiated or reflected by objects in it is not, and that's what you should look for.

-- John


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12/14/2001 1:16:00 AM

 
Phil Penne   Opals are among the most beautiful stones imaginable, yet they are mined in some of the most harsh, wasted, unforgiving places on earth. Gems are where you find them - go with what you've got. Take photographs that will convey to people the boredom that is your town. Some incredible shots have been taken of ghost towns, empty factories, rusted out cars, and weathered fence posts. The challenge is to look past the boring veneer and find the hidden photograph.


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12/14/2001 9:16:59 AM

 
Shirley D. Cross-Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2001
Contact Shirley
Shirley's Gallery
  Hi Jaymes,

All of the above suggestions are excellent. Personally, when the weather is bad here (and I live in a VERY scenic place,) I either shoot people, or set up table top items. The possibilities are endless. I've done still life photos of some very strange things and ended up with beautiful photos. There are all kinds of experiments to do with different kinds of lighting, colored gels over your lights, filters, for both still life and people photos. Let your imagination go wild, and don't be afraid to be totally unconventional! Check out some of my photos at www.pixiport.com.

Shirley D. Cross


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12/14/2001 6:07:20 PM

 
Jaymes R. Stuart  
 
  Big Wet Snowfall
Big Wet Snowfall
A big wet snowfall.
© Jaymes R. Stuart
 
 
Thank you all for your comments.

I took your advice to heart and shot this image early this morning outside my house, with an Olympus C3000 and a polarizing filter.

The image is straight out of the camera with no Photoshopping.

If it doesn't appear here, I haven't understood the Upload Image Option and I'll go back and do it again.

Jaymes


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12/18/2001 2:03:56 AM

 
Phil Penne   There ya' go! Nice shot - the polarizer was a good idea. Might want to try a few snow shots without it, to see how it affects the shimmer of the snow - you might be pleasently surprised. Looks on you're well on your way to some successful opal mining!


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12/18/2001 8:09:56 AM

 
Shirley D. Cross-Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2001
Contact Shirley
Shirley's Gallery
  This photo is lovely, Jaymes!
Shirley


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12/18/2001 4:48:58 PM

 
 Vasko   Hey dude,
Awesome shot! Use Nature to your advantage. Trust me, nothing is "duller" than a city with one season, Los Angeles.

People like to see shots that remind them of home and coziness, and nature shots do just that, they keep us in touch with "the inner beast", for the lack of a better phrase. Combine what everybody has been advising you and take macro shots of nature if nothing else comes to mind. Just remember to keep things simple and everything will be all right!

Good luck shooting and if you are able to produce more photos like the one you are showing us here, trust me, you have nothing to worry about.

Rock on,
Vasko


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12/18/2001 5:50:06 PM

 
Jaymes R. Stuart  
 
  Season's Greetings
Season's Greetings
See above
© Jaymes R. Stuart
 
 
Thanks to everyone. Here's something for you all...and remember, it's the thought that counts ;-)


Jaymes


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12/19/2001 2:35:07 AM

 
doug Nelson   I'm gonna try this myself:
Interview a WWII vet (they're leaving us every day), and ask him if you can take a few pictures of him. Tape his recollections, if you can. You'll have gotten practice and a good portrait or two, and some day his family will treasure the photos and tape of his voice.


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12/19/2001 1:59:52 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  A bit off the original topic, but Doug hints at an imporatant aspect of portraiture: connecting with the subject. The good portraitist spends some time with subjects to know them better and for the subjects to know the photographer better. The world-class ones sometimes spend days with a subject for a handful of world-class photographs (they get paid large sums for it).

Not every portraitist can spend days with a subject, nor can everyone afford it, but it also points to the importance the relationship of photographer, equipment *and* subject have in making a portrait. If the photographer and subject(s) are accustomed to each others' presence, the images captured on film become more natural looking. The photographer's task becomes easier knowing more about the subjects' reactions and behaviors.

-- John


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12/19/2001 5:11:26 PM

 
Carolyn Whiteside   When I am having difficulty finding something to photograph I just start looking at the boring things around me through the camera lens - move in, out, and try different angles. It is amazing what the camera sees that you don't by seeing the "whole picture".


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12/22/2001 2:00:45 PM

 
Douglas Albert M
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/12/2002
  Everyone with a camera has something to shoot. I am not near pro by any means, but a short walk, or a short drive in my own little city of Belleville Ontario has lead me more to the creative side of what to shoot. Many times I go out with my camera, (Minolta Dimage5) without any plans or definition on what to shoot, and BANGO! there's something of interest. let's look at the big picture here!!!
You say you are in the most boringest part of the world, WOW, what an opportunity for graet photos!!! Boring is good, just find the right boring! You must have flowers, trees, maybe some water, parks, comunity events, rocks, mountins, mines, or something which when you get home from a day of shooting you can say - I really like this picture!! Who can say what you like and what we like???


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5/28/2002 11:59:53 PM

 
Leo Enriquez   Photography is art, and art is everywhere!...You just need to have an eye for it!...

Have you seen when the movie directors or cameramen to make a little square or frame with their fingers and hands like a view finder and see thru it?...They are looking for a shot!...A nice one!...


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7/28/2002 2:19:15 AM

 
Carol Engstrom
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2002
carolsphotoimpressions.com
  I've gotten into the habit of looking around wherever I am and finding something that would be a great picture. I like to do this when I am stuck in a line at the bank, sitting in the freeway in traffic etc. Sometimes it takes a little imagination because things do seem dull, but I have always been able to come up with something that made me want to get my camera out. For instance at my bank which really is a drab place--not much light, decorated in browns--you get the idea. But, I did find some really interesting repeating patterns, and then there are always people and expressions. I find something new every time I get stuck in a line there.


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8/26/2002 2:03:23 PM

 
Carol Engstrom
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2002
carolsphotoimpressions.com
  PS I love the snow picture.


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8/26/2002 2:05:11 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  I like to pretend like I am commissioned by a large company for an ad campaign. I do not know what the campaign is trying to convey, I am just told to take pictures of the product in various ways.

So, I'll take a bottle of gin, say, cut a lime. Have a clear glass of ice water (supposedly gin) on a table, with some sort of background, or with the background out of focus.

It's fun to see what you can do with the things around you.


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11/4/2003 3:32:14 PM

 
Steve A. Stephens   are you looking at your town with new eye's?...look at it as if it was the first time you've ever been there and look at it thru the lense!!..this will give you new excitement...and try it with different lenses..not just the whole thing but little pieces...


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12/1/2003 6:27:19 PM

 
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