When searching for non-human subjects to photograph, I’m not usually drawn to the same objects or scenes that others may find appealing. Rather, I’m more attracted to the ordinary - things other photographers might never consider shooting. What I love photographing is the nondescript, the unremarkable, the plain. Things lacking visual appeal. It’s with these sorts of subjects that I can apply my trade, which is trying to make the commonplace interesting. I do this by playing with subject positioning, camera placement, camera angle, focal length selection, depth-of-field, lighting, and, sometimes, prop placement. I’ll also be considering what post-production changes to apply later on. I find this kind of photography far more appealing and challenging (in a good way) than merely recording the pretty things I come across.
Let me address that last point for a moment. I’m certainly not criticizing photographers, amateurs or professionals, who enjoy shooting sunsets, architecture, animals in the wild – the visually stunning items that easily catch the eye. I understand the appeal. But for me, it’s being able to take something most people would consider not worth shooting and coming up, hopefully, with a quality photograph.
I think many photographers don’t consider the possibilities of photographing the ordinary. They don’t realize the wonderful images that can result. That certainly makes sense if they’ve never done this type of shooting before.
For me, this shooting process involves two general steps:
After a while, the photographer will become more comfortable with this process – both with selecting the subjects and using the camera to mold them into appealing photographs. Then, instead of avoiding the mundane, they’ll be embracing it, knowing they have the ability to transform their subjects into wonderful images. It’s really a satisfying feeling, coming up with quality photographs that started with something very ordinary.
Here are some images I believe demonstrate this:
I sometimes wonder if those tasked with installing utility objects, such as these metal pipes, are aware of the beauty they’re creating. I’m intrigued by the straightness of the pipes and the angles produced by the various fittings (the joints that hold the pipes together). The brick background adds an interesting uniformity, color, and background to the pipes. I thought shooting straight-on would best show the pipes’ relationship to one another as well as emphasize the strong horizontal and vertical elements in the image. And then there’s this odd thing. The two diagonal pipes in the middle, bottom of the frame remind me of a person’s lower legs as he/she walks to the right.
I was wandering through a college cafeteria when I spotted this basket of apples. With nothing but the dark silver enclosure and the gray surrounding the apples, their roundness and saturated color really make them pop. I arranged the apples to my liking and darkened the edges of the picture in post-production.
I’ve come across many clotheslines in my wanderings, but none as perfect as this one. That’s because of the following elements: nothing in the background to pull the viewer’s attention away from the subject; colorful clothes with no distracting logos or printing on them; interesting arrangement of shirts and pants; lots of empty sky, helping to highlight the clothing. Furthermore, I like the balance created by having the clothes toward the left side and most of the empty lines toward the right side.
It’s important to keep one’s head up when wandering. Realizing these poles and crane could produce an engrossing photo, I searched for a spot to stand where all the elements would be visible - none being blocked by another. I was lucky that the poles, from my perspective, were all different heights, making them more interesting than if they had not been. Additionally, I was fortunate having beautiful soft and fluffy clouds as a backdrop.
This was shot from a city sidewalk through the window of a clothing store. It was the weird finger positioning of the right hand as well as the unnatural positioning of both hands that caught my attention.
Finding The Shot
Focus And Blur
Lighting The Subject