Making the everyday magical in your photography can often seem like a daunting challenge, but with a little shift in perspective, some technical tips, and a bit of creative inspiration, you can turn "normal" into "extraordinary."
Looking at things with different perspectives is a key to making the everyday extraordinary. The proverbial "stop and smell the roses" expression isn't for nothing. It really can change your average day into something exceptional when you slow down, calm your mind, and see the details in life. Looking towards the small elements, the nuances, you can see true beauty.
When the large picture becomes clouded and full of chaos or appears dull, take a moment to slow down and find beauty in the details with the following helpful tips.
How do we find ourselves in the normal? Start by seeking out authentic moments. Once you become an observer and allow life to happen around you, you can begin to see extraordinary things. There is no need to force this. The more relaxed and aware you can become, the more creative and beautiful your images will become.
Creating a practice of visual isolation will help you to enhance your photography skills. Narrowing in on a scene, a pattern, a color, or illustrating a detail can bring strong interest to your visual work. When one focuses on the details then the ordinary becomes something more. Practicing some simple exercises to open and shift your visual perspective is the best start. Even the most notable artists, musicians, and writers use daily meditations or journaling to offer them a new glimpse into the ordinary or mundane. As the quote goes, "Love is in the details."
- Write for 15 minutes at the start of each day for a month about anything at all. Just the exercise of putting pen to paper will begin to open up your senses and allow for your thoughts to come through. You might discover that you have subconscious ideas that your conscious mind wasn't connected to.
- Read a daily poem. Even if you think that you don't like poetry, try this. Many poets find beauty in the ordinary and this is an excellent way to get yourself into a rhythm of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Some poets to look to are William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, and Sylvia Plath.
- Spend 5-15 minutes sitting still, breathing deeply focusing on a single point or one word, clearing your mind. Many people call this meditation. The act of clearing your mind through deep breathing and intentional focus can help to bring new ideas into your space.
- Go for a walk. Walk the same path that you have walked many times before but set your goal to look for specific themes each time. The first day spend your walk listening to the sounds you hear. Do you hear birds, cars, trains? Are there bells in the distance? The second walk, spend your time noticing all of the different types of foliage around you. Do the trees flower? Do the flowers have scent? The third walk, begin to notice the birds, and insects. The fourth walk, notice the changing texture of the ground beneath your feet. And so on...
Naturally, one can find excitement or beauty in a faraway land, or on an adventure away from home, but making the everyday extraordinary can take a bit of imagination and creativity.
If you aren't exploring the pyramids of Egypt or the rain forests of Costa Rica, for example, how do you find excitement and interest for your imagery in your "normal" life?
Juxtaposition in storytelling is a creative way to pull a story out of the everyday. Where you place your subject in relation to their surroundings can be enough to add interest, create tension, or comfort your viewer. If you photograph a person on a bridge for example, where on the bridge are they standing? Is the subject of your image standing comfortably on the side of the bridge gazing at the sunset? This is an expected story of a vacation or something romantic. However, if you move that subject and now they stand on the side-rails of the bridge the story shifts to something altogether different and ultimately distressing to the viewer. Are they a jumper? Same bridge, same person, different story.
Now take that same bridge and the same subject and dress them in dark clothing with a flashlight. Photograph this scene in the dark of night with only headlights shining towards them. You have added even more tension to the scene. What is that character doing? Did they commit a crime? Are they running from the police? You have now suggested three entirely different plot lines using only slight shifts in your image.
A simple way to bring interest to a mundane scene is to use a variety of different lenses to create the image. If you ordinarily use a zoom lens, like the 70mm-200mm, try using a wider angle lens like 11mm-24mm. A simple shift in perspective can truly change an image for the better and make it more interesting.
Get very very close to your subject with a wide angle lens, or use a long lens and get very very far away. A simple shift of your distance in relation to your subject can dramatically change how your image appears. Try photographing the same subject with a variety of lenses and see what image you prefer. Example: The 70-200mm lens can create an illusion of compression. If you are using a full-frame camera and photographing a busy street, and normally use a wide lens, like a 24mm, try photographing this with a zoom lens at the longest point and see the difference. The street will look much more crowded with the long lens due to compression.
Get high or get low. If you normally shoot at standing height, then see what the world looks like from ground height. Conversely, get out a ladder and see what the world looks like from a higher vantage point. This easy shift in perspective can create a complete change in the look of your photograph. Just the act of photographing something from an angle or height that others normally do not see can make something very normal look incredible. You can always take an image both ways and then compare them side by side to really see the impact that shifting your position can make in your photograph.