Hello everyone, today I bring forth something I believe you will enjoy and value very much – an ultimate guide to unique photography. Beyond your average information of ISO, shutter speed, lighting, and such, I want to bring forth something you cannot usually find. There are a few secret fundamentals to photography, to getting shots like mine and better. Look at every single amazing photographer in magazines and on TV, and they all have a series of things in common. This guide will be of great assistance to you through these tips:
1. Pick a Subject with Expression
All possible subjects, whether human or a rock, have expressions. An expression is more than just their facial appearance. To me, a “photography expression” is how that subject in relation to their environment, and how it all fits together. Your scene is a puzzle, you must make sure it fits together in a peculiar way. Not perfectly, perfect puzzles are much too generic.
Example: There is a young girl dressed in rags, weeping eyes, staring up at you with a tilted, grimy head, dark hair wrapping her pity, starved frame. That is an amazing subject, but here is where the “expression” part comes into play making it even better. The girl sits in the center of a mall’s floor, bustling people frantically around, seldom taking a second glance. These people are dressed in denim and satin, hundreds of mall bags cutting the circulation off of their wrists as they go about their lives. This makes a great scene a thousand times better – you can capture the girl’s life in the middle of a bustling mall of people. A comparison, does it not make the scene that much better? And why is that? Well, it is a puzzle that does not fit. You seldom see haggled girls in a mall, whether fantasizing of that red prom dress in change for her gray drab or sitting abandoned, hungry. Take your pic, just remember, great photos don’t fit with the expression or impression.
2. Step into the Subject’s Life
All subjects have lives, of course. Whether inanimate or full of harmony and energy, they all find a pattern to their lifespan. As a photographer, you must step into their shoes, look out of their eyes and see the life from a new perspective. If a creature or human, how must they feel looking out at you, and the world? If inanimate put a personality on the subject, and do the same.
Example: Imagine a single gray, unnoticed rock in the middle of a perfectly sandy white beach in California. Once you give that rock a personality, would it be outgoing for being unique, or self-conscious? At ease? Even homeless? You might laugh now, but trust me, beautiful things can happen when you put stories and images together. It will help you with the next part, and with picking what angle to capture that personality.
3. Become your Subject’s Counterpart
Being a counterpart for your subject is key. So step out of those shoes too big or small for your feet, and stand across from your subject. Get to eye-level, look straight into their faces, smile, and get a feel for what you now see. You saw the world through their eyes, now see with your own. What features do they have? What is the environment? What do you believe will happen? Are they a unique enough of a puzzle once put together? If you gave this image to a writer who has never been to the scene, can they write a novel off of it? That last one is vitally important – like I said, words and pictures when combined make the world go around. The image must speak to its viewer, and a speak more than a thousand words. It has to tell a lifetime of possibilities, secrets, and untold stories. The thing with writing off of pictures is that it can be anything, inaccurate or perfect as a pen mark. It is up to you, as the photographer, to choose what clarity of the story you give to the viewer.
Example: Again, we visit the young, grimy girl in the mall, although now she has two small fingers pressed against the window of a beautiful prom shop. From her perspective, you see a gorgeous red gown, flowing down the mannequin’s ankles, dazzling in the spotlight. As you enter the store, you view the girl from the opposite side, and her face becomes visible. Having never seen her, you would have simply believed she was separated from her parents, maybe dirty from the muddy wet roads outside. But as you stand next to the dress, you see sunken in eyes, chapped lips, and bruised the skin. Her steel-blue eyes stare now right at you, too tired to show any reaction besides a twinkle. She spins in her gray garb, then points at the dress. It breaks your heart to realize she will never touch such a thing, a Cinderella whose story never got told. It is in this moment you decide to capture the girl’s life in a single picture, now having seen from both her perspective and yours.
4. Hear their Story
Finally, I feel it is extremely important to hear the subject’s story. No, not everything or person can talk, but you still have the ability to hear their lives, or in the least, see it. Capturing the story really helps you, as a photographer, feel more connected to the subject than say a news anchor whose job is to not be biased or show emotion. They might have emotions inside for it, but seldom would they feel, know and breathe the story. Forget momentarily your job of capturing the image, and just talk. Or, if the subject is unable to communicate – such as being inanimate – then sit next to the object and look around. You might never know the back story, like how that rock got there, but you can picture it all. This will settle your heart, put your mind at ease, just breathing the air they breathe, sitting next to the subject you, just seconds before, captured for life.
Example: Let us visit the girl once again, still standing dazzled by the gown. After you capture the shot of her twirls and the dress, you step out of the store and crouch by her side. With a soft voice, you ask where her parents are. She replies, “Mommy went to fight the monsters, and daddy never returned.” It is in this moment, you realize her mother is – or was – a soldier, and her father probably abandoned his family. With a single question, you feel more connected to the child, and continue to speak to her. You make the child feel comfortable, telling her small jokes, or even saying you can see little dragons or angels following her every night. She smiles, a single front tooth missing, and points at the red dress again, saying she wants to feel like a princess. You then go forth, telling her she is a princess, and even adding a few stories of your own. You connect to the child and find help to get her to a safe place. Afterward, instead of capturing the picture and walking away, you changed her life, and in turn, your own changed for the better.
Final Note: I do hope you enjoyed these tips and examples very much. I brought them forth from my own experience, and what I have observed from others better than myself. Might you find yourself in front of a parentless child, fantasizing of royalty, or a single rock in a beach? Perhaps, but it is your story you will create. No matter what, no two photographers, if they follow these tips, will ever capture the same expression, nor leave the same impression. I do believe you can make a change, for a camera is the most powerful object we have created, for it captures and retells stories a thousand times over. So pick up your camera, set long ago on the bench, dusty from misuse, and find a story worth telling. And do you wish to show your piece to the rest of us? Then feel free to submit and I will create an entire blog post around your piece(s). I hope to see you capturing the world in images!
*Also, for those who may be wondering, unless I otherwise specify, the images I have been using are from Pixabay, a website with CC0 Public Domain images. Again, I might specify otherwise if received from a website, or my own.