It’s estimated that over two billion photos are uploaded to the internet every day. We are deluged with images. So if you’re a photographer looking to stand out from the crowd, then going to the same iconic locations, framing up and shooting the same compositions, and looking to emulate the great images you might find from skilled photographers is not what you should do.
You need to dare to be different with your photography – by making the shot in a way people haven’t seen before. If the reaction you want is “Wow!” rather than “Meh,” you need to mix it up.
Where’d you shoot that?
I belong to a camera club, and we routinely show our images for review and critique. Something I hear too often when a great photo is displayed is, “Where’d you shoot that?”
I guess it’s a fair question. But I’m always concerned that the person asking it is thinking: If I go there, get the same light, perhaps use the same camera settings, and shoot from the same spot, I could make a great photo, too!”
But why would you want to be a copycat?
Sure, we all like to go to the iconic spots, but why not try to make a shot that is different and uniquely yours, one that stands out from the crowd?
To be seen, don’t be one of the “herd.”
Go where others don’t
I just got back from a trip to Yellowstone National Park. While I was there, I wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, a very iconic spot and a natural wonder well worth seeing.
Upon reaching the overlook, I had to wait to even get to the edge as dozens of tourists took turns at the rail, shooting with their cellphone cameras, posing for selfies, even asking photographers like me, who were carrying obviously more sophisticated camera gear, if we’d snap their group photo with their cellphone.
I get it: They wanted a photographic souvenir of being at the Grand Prismatic Spring, a shot they could post on social media to share with their friends.
That’s fine, but what about you? Are you a serious photographer looking to make artistic photographs? Or are you a tourist looking for a snapshot?
Sure, I wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. And yes, I took my camera and made a shot.
In fact, I’ve photographed next to other photographers at similar iconic locations. How could you not photograph the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, or the Sydney Opera House in Australia (the list goes on)?
So hit the iconic spots, make the usual shot, and check it off your bucket list.
But then find ways to change things up. Go to the lesser-known spots and make some photographs others won’t have considered – images that are uniquely yours.
But how do you make shots that don’t look like the tens of thousands taken by others?
Let’s explore that.
Seek a new perspective
Amateur photographers almost never use tripods. So they often raise their camera to their eye and shoot from a standing position.
Hence, the great majority of their shots are from a five- to six-foot, eye-level height, even when the subject suggests that something else might be better.
A shot of a small child is typically made looking down on the subject, as is a picture of a flower or some other shorter subject. If shooting with a standard digital camera, the great majority of images will be in landscape mode; if shooting with a phone, most shots will be in portrait mode. Little – if any – thought is given to rotating the camera to best suit the subject. The subject will typically be placed dead-center in the frame, so that if the photo is a portrait, then there is an excessive amount of headroom. This type of photographer has never heard of the rule of thirds.
We expect student photographers to be a little better, right? They might shoot with a tripod. Yet I have been to plenty of photo workshops where the photographers are lined up like gunners in a firing squad, cameras on tripods but at that same eye-level height, all trained on the same iconic subject. How much different will their shots be? Maybe they ought to just buy a postcard in the gift shop.
“Sometimes, to stand out, you need to sit down.”
Anthony T. Hincks
I’m not sure of the context in which Mr. Hincks was speaking when he authored this quote. But appropriating it so that it applies to photographers, you need to consider various perspectives to better suit your subject and create images that bring new interpretations and compositions. Get up, get down, shoot from a bird’s-eye perspective or a worm’s-eye perspective. Shoot through objects that create natural frames. Try some point-of-view (POV) shots.
There are lots of things to try in order to explore new looks and create interest, excitement, and mood in your photos.
As a photographer, I expect you are more of a visual learner, so here are some shots to help communicate these concepts:
Dare to be different with your photos: the next step
People might call me names, but as a photographer, there’s one name I hope never applies: Snapshooter. I consider a snapshooter to be the photographer who sees something that catches their attention, raises the camera to their eye, and takes a snapshot. That is the person who gives no thought to composition, angle, perspective, subject, storytelling, or concept. They don’t understand camera controls, exposure, depth of field, or ways to use the camera as a tool to communicate their vision. They probably don’t even grasp the concept of a vision. They don’t take the time to consider what they might do to make their photographs better or different. Can they even communicate what they are trying to say with their images?
But that’s not you, right? You have come to a place called the Digital Photography School, presumably as a person looking to learn how to make better images.
So I challenge you: Dare to be different with your photos. Make photographs that are intentionally creative, unique, tell a story, and show the viewer something in a way they may not have seen it before.
“You walk like others? You talk like others? You think like others? Then the world doesn’t need you, because others are already abundant in the world! Be original!”
Mehmet Murat ildan