It seems everyone’s a photographer now (and that’s kind of awesome) but I gotta be honest… not everyone is an interesting photographer. The good news is that photography isn’t a field of magic secrets and you don’t have to sacrifice any animals to make better pictures. I’ll be speaking at New Media Expo in January about photography tips for blogging and social media, and I wanted to offer up some quick suggestions how to inject more creativity into your photos.
- Get close – And when you think you’re close enough, get closer. We see too many snapshots from a very wide angle and the interesting subject is only a small bit of the scene. Very few photos have been ruined by moving closer to the subject.
- Crop Creatively – Most cameras make images with a 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio (the ratio of the long side to the short side of the image) and 1:1 ratios have taken off since Instagram became popular, but don’t hestitate to crop a photo into different dimensions. Have a wide, short subject? Make a wide panaorama. Something tall and skinny? Make a tall and skinny photo (this one might fit well alongside a blog post).
- Find the Light – Sure, you could get all fancy and use speedlights or other external lighting specifically for photography, but odds are that most of the photos you’re creating are happening under either natural outdoor light or the ambient light indoors. Look at that light. Look at the angles. Look where the light is hard and casting harsh shadows vs. where it’s soft and diffused. Move around. Place your subject where the light is better when you can. As a specific example, if there’s a window (not directly facing the sun) you’ll often find nice light coming through that window and nearby would be a great place for an indoor portrait.
- Fly High or Get Down – Far too many photographs suffer from “six foot guy with a camera to his eye” syndrome. They’re created in the most natural way as someone simply holds the camera up to their face and clicks the shutter. As a result, photos offen suffer from this similarity and lack of variance in perspective. Try something new… get down on the ground and shoot upward. Find a vantage point that’s up above the crowd. I’ve been known to bring a 6’ stepladder with me on some photo trips… it’s fascinating how just a few extra feet really change one’s ability to make a compelling image. Even without extra gear, holding your camera above your head can be a great way to change things up.
- Look for Reflections – I live near Portland, which means that a puddle of standing water is a frequent sight. Puddles aren’t the only option of course; great reflections can be made in lakes, fountains, or other bodies of water. Smooth water can make for some interesting straightforward reflections, but a rippled surface can also make for some interesting (although more abstract) patterns, especially at night.
- Leave Part of the Subject Out of the Frame – Most photos include the entire subject in the frame, but what if you left some of it out for a bit of mystery or to get your reader thinking a bit. Sure, you could write about a popular board game and include a photo of the game board… but what if, instead, you included a photo that only consisted of part of a recognizable game piece?
- Blur on Purpose – No, you probably don’t want to go out and create all of your photos blurry, but selective blur can be an interesting effect. Want to show motion as cars or people move by quickly? Put your camera on shutter priority mode (or use an iPhone app like Slow Shutter Cam) and set it to 1/2 or 1 second duration and see what results you get. Experiment.
These tips are a sampling of the sorts of things I’ll speak about in my Photography Tips for New Media session I’ll be leading at 2:15pm on the first day of NMX (Sunday, January 6th). In addition to the creative aspects, I’ll offer an overview of basic exposure and lighting, as well as a few things to keep in mind when shooting specifically for your blog or social media. I hope to see you at NMX!