Turning the Ordinary into Extraordinary
We all struggle for inspiration and creativity, and we - as human beings - tend to take so many things around us for granted. We might see, but not observe. We might glimpse, but not appreciate. And we go on and on trying to find some source of inspiration for ideas to make some new pictures, when the truth of the matter is it's all around us.
What Makes an Object Fit for a Photograph?
In the past, photography was only practiced by a few people who were considered to be professional and knew what they were doing. With the advancements in this medium, it has expanded to encompass all types of photographers from enthusiasts, to hobbyists and amateurs as well as professionals. You don't even have to have a camera anymore to take a photograph, your mobile phone probably has one.
Most photographers nowadays, professional or not, tend to shine in one area like landscape or studio or wildlife or documentary photography and the like, as these probably were the most popular in the early beginnings of this tradition and were the pillars on which this form of art came to be.
But more and more photographers are making it big out there not because they're following what's common or considered acceptable, but by following their own bliss and leaving their own print on their body of work.
You don't really have to limit yourself to any subject matter though, for the beauty definitely is in the eye of the beholder. And what is even more important is that you take the less travelled road, broaden your horizons, enrich your creativity.
Of course, I am definitely not suggesting that portrait or landscape or other well-established disciplines of photography are not important or appreciated, but I am saying that the mundane out there, if treated in a special way, can very well be rewarding also.
Turning the Ordinary into Extra-ordinary
Almost any object has the potential of making a stunning photograph. The trick is to look at everything around you with fresh new eyes and to stop over-looking bits and pieces here and there just because they have always been... well, bits and pieces here and there.
In addition to that, you have to treat your object with special care in terms of composition, lighting, style, technique so that you actually produce an image that is in the end worth looking at. Even more care should be sought with subjects that are already compelling by nature such as silky blue waterfalls or soft purple dusk skies.
After all, it is not just photographers that tend to take everyday details for granted, but almost everyone out there (including the viewers of your work). We all live in the same world, a fast paced one, and unless you have a good reason to slow down and appreciate something, chances are you most probably won't.
To make the impact even greater on the viewer, try shooting very basic subjects the high degree of detail that the main focus of the photograph. These kinds of photos work best with higher resolution images especially when printed out large.
Photo by Giovanni Orlando
No more than an old filthy toilet seat could from inside look like an abandoned building. The light, perspective, and black and white treatment really do wonders to this plain old view that many might not even think to photograph, let alone treat specially and bring out all these fine details and stunning effects to light with a very thoughtful and beautiful end result.
Photo by Giovanni Orlando
Another fine monochrome by Giovanni Orlando of a very basic, everyday kind of subject, yet the photograph is beautifully presented with a superb choice of depth-of-field, admirable simplicity, great tones and wood texture, and to top it all up a great black and white conversion which emphasizes and magnifies every little detail.
Photo by PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast
Miniature breads, rolls and croissants on a cooling tray. Nothing fancy really, except the photo is very elegant, soft, and delicious. The use of soft lighting and the orange-brownish pastries against the lovely light blue background just make it happen. Simple, elegant, and yummy!
Photo by Kat...
Simple and soft. Lovely colors and subtle grain make this one a hit. Just a hat and some flowers, but the arrangement and natural diffused lighting keep it very basic yet very indulging.
Photo by Hartwig HKD
The ordinary made extraordinary. Here we definitely have a great use of the gray scale from those beautiful glittery highlights coming from the left and falling on the table and the edges of the plates, all the way to stark dark blacks. Evokes feelings of silence, stillness and mindfulness.
Photo by Pierluigi Riccio
Just a coke but the composition, combination of colors and their saturation and that wonderful reflection turns this photo of an ordinary subject into a huge hit... a top shot.
Tips for turning the mundane into beautiful
Here are a few things you can do to produce photos like the ones above!
Observe like you never did before
Obviously first and foremost, you need to change the way you see the world and everything around you. Everything might be a candidate for a striking photograph. So take your time and look at any potential object as if you were looking at it for the first time. Observe it from different directions and play with different perspectives.
Go back to the basics
Successful photos rely on order, and the main elements that bring order in a composition are: line, shape, form, texture, pattern, and color. Every photograph, intentionally or not, contains one or more of these elements. The basic elements of design.
Colors, and how they're arranged, can either make or break a shot. Different colors can send out different messages, and paying attention to color and its emotional messages and meanings is an important step towards photographic maturity.
On the color wheel above, any two colors on opposite sides of the wheel are called complementary colors. If you use a filter of a specific color you will darken (or emphasize) its complementary color on the wheel, while lightening that same color. These pairs complement and intensify one another when put together.
Shoot details to create interest
Although the natural tendency is to shoot your entire subject, shooting tightly cropped details can sometimes lead to the creation of captivating photos as well bringing out something new to your audience and inviting them to look closer and investigate your work.
When shooting details, be aware of the fact that you can shoot an increasing level of detail, too. For example, you can shoot just part of a tree with an interesting shape, such as a specific interesting looking branch, just a few leaves, a single leaf, or even part of a leaf that has an interesting layout of lines or patterns.
Look for contrast
Contrast is basically the difference in visual properties that make an object (or its representation in an image) distinguishable from other objects within the same field of view.
Contrast stresses the differences between graphic elements in an image; be its contrast in color, shape, texture, tone, luminosity, etc. This results in a huge impact of having the contrasting elements reinforce each other making a photograph (or any visual piece of art for that matter) more interesting.
Contrast need not be limited to color, it can be found all around us and represented in so many ways. Contrasting elements making up a photograph could be as simple as: large vs. small, bright vs. dark, subtle vs. bold, still vs. moving, sharp vs. blurred and on and on.
Keep it simple
To simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. This means that the more simple, clean, and free of clutter your compositions are, the more your main subject of interest will shine. Having many unnecessary elements in a shot can throw viewers of your image off track, having their eyes wonder back and forth within your frame looking for something to settle upon.
Simplicity IS the ultimate sophistication. As Albert Einstein put it: any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
When you feel you are out of subjects to photograph, when your creativity is not longer there, or you are feeling uninspired, just remember that the little things count. If you got the talent and are willing to put it to practice, miracles can happen.
When you adopt this kind of attitude and general outlook on life, you will always be able to come up with new and exciting projects to work on and inspiration will be all around you.