Articles Tagged with: australian photography

Stand Out From The Crowd

When we see an image that has been made over-and-over again, what does it tell us about the photographer who took it? If you’re struggling to find your own voice with your image-making, this is for you.

Whether we like it or not, we are all influenced by what we see and experience. We cannot fail to see a certain pose, bold landscape line, lighting effect or composition without becoming influenced by it in our work to a certain degree. At the same time, we all want our images to be unique in their own right, and portray our own take on the world.

The challenge is that these two elements often don’t work well together. When we get the balance wrong, we can become trapped in a cycle of simply repeating our influences in our work. But when the balance is right, we can accept and embrace our influences, while at the same time using them as stepping stones to find our own unique path. It’s not always easy, but remember that this is a challenge faced not just by photographers, but by all creatives to varying degrees, and the key is to use your understanding of this relationship to your advantage.

Personally, I strongly believe that every artist should strive for uniqueness in their craft no matter how challenging it may seem – as it is always far more satisfying to do this than create imitations of what’s come before. If you feel that your work is becoming stagnant or you don’t have the balance right then these pieces of advice will help lift your game and hopefully reward you with photographs that you can call your ‘own’.

Think outside the box

The first step to originality is to start thinking outside the box, or ‘beyond the box’ as some say. As creatives we should be mindful of our thoughts as these do have an effect on our work, which is why it’s important to think differently in order to stand out from the masses.

This could be achieved by getting away from life’s typical routines, fostering creativity from a fresh perspective. A lot of creative thinkers do this, and it’s one of the easiest and probably most powerful ways towards originality as an artist. It might be that you just need time away from your usual day-to-day life for something bold and original to come to mind. The key is to keep the brain active, but try not to let it become stagnant in your new environment either as this will have the opposite effect.

Travel photography can be extremely beneficial when starting to develop your own unique style, as it gives you a fresh eyes and creates a deep inquisitiveness inside which often leads to new discoveries, plus you see epic places while you’re at it.


Life experience

Similar to thinking outside the box, life experience is definitely a huge part of originality and one of the reasons we create. Emotions, passion, a dream, a memory in time or passing encounter are all part of self-discovery, and should be embraced especially from a photographic point of view. People may have similar life experiences or desires, but no one has the exact same experiences, which makes for unique creativity.

Shoot the things close to you, shoot from within, and you’ll notice your images will start to look and feel more unique. Ask yourself questions about yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you angry? What are your fears and passions? No one else knows you like you know yourself, and there is no other you. All of these things make you who you are, and are totally original.

Embrace these traits and use them to your advantage to start making more emotive and expressive images.


Pursue passion

Passion fuels the fire, so ignite those passions by following them. Start a personal project to document what makes you passionate. Perhaps you’re a passionate environmentalist, so go out and photograph the landscape in a way that best represents what it is you want to communicate to a greater audience.

It’s not only about ticking off bucket-list destinations, perfecting composition or anything of the kind. The key is to discover a new fire in an existing passion, which will in turn help achieve uniqueness in your photography. I love to travel abroad, so I make sure I have at least one big overseas trip each year. When I’m outside my comfort zone, I begin to discover new passions I never knew existed. The best way to be original is keep the passion alive.


Minimize social media use

Social media is great for finding influences, but it also has its disadvantages. All you have to do is look on Instagram, and you’ll notice trends in imagery. I suggest spending less time online viewing other people’s pictures, and more time focusing on your own work. Just like in an effective composition, good photographers know that less is always more.

I noticed when I was spending a lot of time on Instagram my images started to resemble the work of those photographers I was almost ‘religiously’ following. Once I stopped following or viewing their works as often, I noticed a shift in my vision which allowed my own style to emerge.


Tell stories

Stories are integral to human culture and storytelling is timeless.To put your photography into a larger context is a great way to be original, especially if it’s personal. If we consider storytelling as art, then there really are no boundaries.

Using your photography to communicate your vision in this way can be rewarding and help you produce more compelling and focussed work. There are no rules on how or what story to document, and you could even create a fictional story if you wish. The important thing is you finish what you start and tell a story that you’re passionate about. Captioning your photos is a great way to structure your storytelling, and will help the viewer understand the context.


Read more

Having the latest and greatest technology may motivate you to shoot more, but it generally won’t help with originality, which is why I suggest you spend your precious money on books. Whether it’s photographic books, biographies, or even poetry and fiction, reading expands our minds and will help you create and understand your own photography.

I like to take notes and write them down while reading. Come up with new ideas from what you read and apply it practically to your photography. This will make you more creative, giving you the knowledge to pursue your craft in a new light, giving you an advantage and a greater understanding of what you are trying to express through visuals.

Putting aside the technical aspects of photography, creativity is the force that will drive you to photograph. Don’t allow the technical aspects of photography to take control of what makes a special and memorable picture. If you focus solely on photography, your work will most definitely become stagnant or boring, so put down the camera for a bit and pick up a book. Learn something new, pick up the camera and then you’ll be able to share something new.


Shoot with feeling

The best advice I was given from another photographer was to shoot what it feels like, not what it looks like. Be more emotive in your vision, and photograph feelings and emotions instead of focusing just on the visuals of the image.

Perhaps you’re going through a rough patch in life, so go out and photograph your feelings. Are you in a dark and gloomy mood? That’s fine; show it in your pictures. Don’t just stick to one particular ‘look’ with your photography. Trends come and go, but emotion will remain strong and captivate an audience more than a simple trendsetting image.

I know when I’m feeling good, I’ll tend to shoot things that make me happy, and when I’m feeling frustrated or angry, I’ll often photograph things that irritate me. Sometimes when I’m feeling confused or uninspired to shoot, I’ll head out and photograph the simplest of subjects. For example, photographing a reflection through a window or on the river, a plain wall or simple colours, anything that portrays your mindset. Remember, less is more, so use your feelings to your advantage to create something different.


How to Capture Movement on the Street

Long exposure photography has become very popular over the past decade, particularly among landscape and astro photographers looking to to add a more surreal mood to their pictures. However, this is doesn’t mean that long exposures are limited to those specific areas of photography. With street photography, people often people think of the ‘typical’ black and white, static and candid captures that freeze the action. This may be popular, but it’s also great to break the mould and apply some creative uses of slower shutter speeds. After all, street photography is about anticipating and capturing a moment before it’s gone, which often requires the photographer to react within a split second of a moment unfolding in order to grab the moment. Adding a slower shutter speed shutter can help add drama to street photographs, in fact there are many different times when a longer exposure may be beneficial in bringing out the essence of a street moment.

Here are my seven tips to inspire and hopefully give aspiring photographers some insight into how they can add a sense of motion to provoke their street shots.


PRE-VISUALISE 

Just like all types of photography it’s important to have some kind of image pre-visualised in your mind in order to best understand what it is you are trying to communicate. This could be as simple as deciding on a location, time of day, subject matter or even how you want your viewer to feel when they view your image. By pre-visualising your shots you’ll be able to work out what length of shutter speed is required to more accurately capture the image you have in your mind. For example, if you want to capture a sense of motion as someone passes by your camera, you will probably need to be side-on so that when the subject passes through your frame you can track or pan with them to grab your shot. You’ll also be able to determine what length exposure will work best depending on the available light.


EXPERIMENT

Experimentation is the key to learning new things in photography, and it should be something you do from time-to-time. Not only will it help you stay passionate, the more you experiment, the more opportunities you will discover. Long-exposure street photography is a great example of this kind of experimentation.
Go out shooting during the early hours of the morning or late afternoon on dusk when the light is low. Adjust your camera settings to increase or decrease the amount of light on your sensor. Take a mental note of what settings are favourable for the ambient light. Your shutter speed might be too long for the image you want to capture; as a result you may need to increase the sensitivity of the sensor by boosting the ISO, wait for a time when there is more light, or add light to the scene artificially.

LIGHT AND MOVEMENT

Choosing the right conditions is paramount when shooting longer exposures. Just as you need to pick a scene that includes some movement if you want to introduce movement blur to a long-exposure landscape, the same applies on the street. For example, long-exposure landscapes typically have elements that a slower shutter can blur, such as dappled clouds blowing in the wind or water flowing down a stream. Static subjects don’t work. The same goes for street scenes – if you don’t have the right amount of movement on the street, a slow shutter will not give you the effect you’re after. Busy crowds and streets are always interesting with slower shutter speeds. By slowing your exposure you are able to add a sense of motion and isolate certain elements in the scene, which can be extremely useful in focusing attention on certain parts of a frame. Shooting on an overcast day, early morning or afternoon is often the best time because the light is not intense – that means you can drop your shutter speed down significantly. You may also want to invest in some neutral density filters (ND filters) to aid in increasing your exposure time for the desired effect when the light is brighter or more direct. Again, the key is experimenting with settings and different situations to find out what works best.


ANTICIPATE THE EXPOSURE

This is a basic technique that street photographers use regardless of whether they are shooting long shutter speeds. The only difference, and one thing to remember when you start using slower exposures, is that you have less time in-between shots due to the shutter speed remaining open for longer. This is why it’s a good practice to be alert and time the shot to capture the most interesting moment. It’s a fairly basic practice but it’s worth perfecting to heighten your photography opportunities on the street.


PRACTISE PANNING

In short, panning is a technique applied by moving your camera to track a moving subject. Done right, you’ll end up with a nice sharp subject and a blurred background. Sometimes, getting the best results is down to sheer luck, but like anything you can improve your ‘hit rate’ the more you practise. Either way it’s fun to do and a fantastic way of giving a shot a feeling of movement and speed. It can be particularly useful when trying to photograph fast moving subjects like cars, cyclists and other moving objects.

Try different shutter speeds to see what gives the best results. There are a number of factors that can make or break a good panning shot including the speed of the subject, your position relative to the subject, the lighting and, of course, the shutter speed. First, you need to activate your camera’s auto-focus function and half-press the shutter button to lock it onto your subject. Once locked, aim your camera and pan with the moving subject. The key is to allow the pan to continue after you’ve fully pressed the shutter. It’s often hit and miss, so don’t get too frustrated if you don’t nail it straight away. Keep practising and you’ll soon work out a formula that works for you. It’s also important to note that it’s much easier to pan and track a moving subject if the subject is on a relatively straight path. If a car is moving in a straight line then it’s likely it will continue in the same direction, where as if your subject is moving side to side you may find it difficult to predict the movements. I’ve found the best place to practice panning is on busy intersections where there is high traffic that will give you more chances to grab that perfect shot. Keep practising until you work out a rhythm.


ZOOM AS YOU SHOOT

Another great effect for creating a sense of motion is to add a slight zoom blur, also known as “zoom burst”. It’s fairly easy to do and can give some incredibly dynamic results. Zoom can be added either by adjusting the zoom on your lens or, if you are using a prime lens, by travelling on a moving vehicle while shooting with a slow shutter speed. I’ve found anywhere between 1/15s and a couple of seconds is usually long enough to achieve a nice clean zoom effect. The result gives subjects increasing radial blur around the edges of the frame, while the centre appears sharp or less blurred. It’s a great way of drawing attention to a specific element within an image to make the viewer feel as if they are moving through time.


SHAKE IT UP

Camera shake is often frowned upon, but it can be desirable in some cases. Intentional camera-shake can induce an artistic and unique feel to an image, especially on the street when there’s a lot of clutter around. An exposure between 1/30s and one second is usually enough time to give a nice blurred effect while handholding the camera. This effect will allow you to have complete creative freedom to move around and paint motion with your camera during the exposure. Just as with panning, it will require a few attempts to master but when perfected your images will stand out from the crowd.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

This article was originally written for and published in the March issue of Australian Photography magazine.


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