When we spend a significant amount of time in one given city, our vision dulls. We grow used to the same landscapes, the same rhythm of life, the same city layout and all of the sudden, it seems like there’s absolutely nothing to photograph anymore. Sound familiar?
One way to get out of this rut, which is quite a popular move, is to literally get out of the city and travel. Traveling gives photographers a fresh perspective but one of the things you have to learn early on is that even the mundane can appear beautiful. All you have to do is learn to adapt your vision to notice new sights with a shift in perspective. Turns out, there’s no need to travel far to unleash your creativity.
There’s a common piece of advice – change the way you look at things. Easier said than done, isn’t it? Finding beauty in the mundane is an actual skill, one that can be applied to change your perspective of the city you live in and alter your vision for when you travel as well. We’ll look at different street photography tips that will help you make the most of a seemingly ‘boring’ location.
Get intentionally lost in a city
The first experiment that is going to force you to look at sights differently is to get lost in a city. Wander around and know that you always have Google maps to count on to get you safely back home. One of the wonders of this exercise is that you will immediately feel like you’re in a new place, even if you’re wondering around your home city.
Unfamiliar landscapes are a creative opportunity. If you want a fresh pair of eyes, put yourself in a situation where you’re forced to see landscapes in a new light. Force yourself into unknown territory, has there been a place you’ve been earning to explore? Go there!
Focus on 1 thing or theme
Photographers have their ‘comfort zones’, and photograph according to their interest and popular themes. Change your workflow, and you’ll change the way you look at things. Pick an aspect in city life that interests you, something you don’t usually photograph and roam around the city looking for it.
You might be wondering why it’s so important to step out of this comfort zone, and the reason is very simple, you shift your vision by doing something out of the ordinary. Choose some theme to focus on and go with it. Any city has jewels if you just learn to pay attention.
Focus on something recurring, like architectural elements, details, people, street life, textures, reflections and the like – you’re programming your brain to look for patterns. This exercise also helps take you out of your comfort zone. When you’re focusing on a detail, you’re shifting your attention to look for recurring patterns.
Can’t find an angle? Get down or go high
This exercise requires a little bit of research. If things are looking dull close up, you can add some drama to your shots by going wide or getting down for a new vantage point. Research if there are any rooftops where you can find the perfect angle for a wide shot or as an alternative, explore the city from a worm’s eye view.
Blue and golden hours
If the city still looks dull, plan your photoshoots ahead and shoot during the blue or the golden hour. Sometimes lighting alone can be a form of inspiration. If you combine this with some of the other exercises, you’ll likely come back with a collection of truly unique photographs shot in a somewhat bland location.
As the sun drops below the horizon, night lights alter cities. Everything looks different. Add some light trails from moving objects and there’s your recipe for an unexpected photograph. Blue hours is usually 15-30 minutes after the sun has set, and golden hour in the evening is the last hour of light before the sun sets.
Go back to classics – black and white
If landscapes don’t inspire you, look at the everchanging motion of the city. Focus on the people instead. To add a more artistic flare to a project like this, shoot in black and white. When you’re determined to get excellent black and white shots, you focus more on lighting as it’s your #1 priority. Read more tips on black and white photography for beginners in our earlier article.
Photographing people as they go about their day can be unfamiliar territory for some of you. But getting in the habit of shooting street style photographs can actually help you in your creative endeavors. When photographing landscapes, you have a lot of time to stop, focus, plan and shoot. Street photography is a little more unexpected, and more often than not, accidental shots become gems in your portfolio.
Focus on telling a story
Whatever town you end up in, it has a history and there are stories waiting to be told. Embrace this. Learn to look and notice little details that make the city so lively or maybe the opposite of it. The point of all these exercises is to adjust your vision and become equipped with a new skill that will help you find the extraordinary in the most mundane places and situations.
If there’s anything to take away from this, is that you should always focus on telling a story. When you’re determined to do so, one photograph becomes two, two become four and before you know it, here comes a brand new series you’re proud of.
Wherever you are, remember that there is always beauty even in the mundane. By practicing and implementing new ideas, you’re giving yourself permission to take creativity to the next level. Embrace the unknown, zoom in out of details, and don’t be afraid to explore new places and experiment with styles.
At the end of the day, producing more original images with new points of view is never about your gear. The best gear you have is the one you have on you. Shifting your vision to focus on new things is what ultimately will help you truly make the most of the city you’ve grown so used to. Before you know it, you’ll realize there’s no such thing as a ‘boring’ location.
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