How to take Beautiful Images in an Uninteresting LocationSep 08, 2020
Summer will soon come to an end. Fall is in the air up here in Canada, where I live. School routines have begun, whether it’s online or in the classroom, as have extracurricular activities, albeit all are looking different this year under the pandemic influence. With the return to the home environment, the creative spark inherent in summer adventure has been lost. The question now is, how can we interestingly use our everyday spaces? Below are a few tips to take with you through the upcoming months as you spend more time in your familiar and sometimes uninteresting environments.
1. Shoot from above-bird's eye view
As parents, our most common view of observing our children is from above. Shooting from above your subject can be an enduring perspective that evokes feelings of tender caring and love. This viewpoint also helps isolate details and can create a more interesting image, even in the most uninteresting location.
Remember that you don't always have to shoot top down for a bird's eye perspective. A slight overhead view is a compelling viewpoint in which you can create an interesting image in an uninteresting location. Shooting from different overhead angles will also create variety in a single setting.
When capturing images from a bird’s eye viewpoint, try focusing on a single detail like an eye, the top of the head or details you adore. If little fingers are engaged in activity within the frame, then focus on that moment, cropping out some or most of the top of the head. These are all useful focal points for the bird's eye view perspective.
ISO 100, 50mm, f2.8, 1/1600SS
2. Focus in on details
One of the easiest ways in which to create an interesting image in an uninteresting location is to isolate detail. Details can be compelling enough to hold attention within an entire frame.
When capturing details, use a wide aperture like f2.8 as this will create a thin line of focus and draw your viewer’s attention into what is interesting. It is, however, necessary in such images to make sure that your depth of field is adequate for what you want to be in focus. A fantastic tool for determining your focal plane with your choice in aperture is a depth of field calculator. Many free applications can be downloaded onto your smartphone that will help you determine what your focal plane is given your chosen aperture and distance from your subject.
ISO 400, 200mm, f3.2, 1/400SS
3. Use blur to your advantage
Humans are most drawn to focus within an image. Blurring out uninteresting areas within your image and allowing the focus to fall on what is most important can help create a more interesting picture in a location that is not all that dynamic.
There are many different ways in which you can infuse blur into an image. You can use a specialty lens like a Lensbaby or Tilt-shift lens. You can try freelensing with one of the lenses you already own. (To learn more about how to freelens see this article). You can also use an object like a flower, feather, piece of glass, coloured paper, blanket, wall or even a piece of furniture to create a blur in your frame, isolating what is interesting. Don’t be afraid to think outside of your norm and take creative risks here. These risks will undoubtedly result in your learning and growth as a photographer.
ISO 200, 35mm, f3.2, 1/800SS
4. Pull your subject close to a small light source
One of my favourite ways in which to create interest in an uninteresting location is to pull my subject close to a small light source. Small light sources allow for beautiful dramatic light to fall across my subject, which draws attention away from and darkening all that is uninteresting. The image below was taken in my daughter's bathroom, which is an uninteresting location.
This type of light also works well for a black and white conversion, so don’t be afraid to consider this as a possible option when it comes to post-processing.
ISO 1250, 35mm, f1.8, 1.250SS
5. Edit out distractions in post-processing
Post-processing tweaks are an excellent way in which to create more interesting images. In Lightroom, uninteresting or distracting elements can be cloned out using the spot removal tool. In Photoshop, my favourite post-processing tools for making my photos more interesting are the spot healing brush tool and clone stamp tool. I also like the option of adding a creative overlay and masking it into an image. (To see how I use overlays and masks, see this video).
In the image below, I thought the poppy on the right side of the frame was a bit distracting. Cloning out the poppy draws more attention to my subject, creating more visual interest. As a side note, this image was taken alongside a major roadway—a less than spectacular location.
ISO 200, 200mm, f3.2, 1/400SS
Next time you look around your every day and feel uninspired with what can sometimes become uninteresting, be sure to reference the tips in this article. There are many different ways bland locations can be made more interesting. As a photographer, it's great to practise finding the beauty within what appears to be mundane. There's magic hiding everywhere!