Do you blog or post on social media? I’ve been trying to improve my photography for my articles. I’ve learned a lot by observing things around me. In fact, I think observation is one of the best ways to discover new things you like and want to improve upon. Whether it’s an article I’ve read or an image I’ve seen, I am always on the lookout for cool stuff. For example, if I see a photo that impresses or inspires me, I try and save it somehow. I save the image to my computer or I post it on social media.
In this article, I jot down a few thoughts on what you should do to avoid capturing boring images. Or, in other words, how to be a better hobby photographer!
Here are the 5 things you should consider for better photos of your hobbies and games:
- Lower your perspective
- Raise your perspective
- Get (really) close
- Embrace shadows
- Remove color
The best way to learn anything, including photography, is to do it. Go practice your art. Make a mess.
Continue reading below for more details!
Here are the 5 Ways to Avoid Boring Photography
1. Lower your perspective
Photography as a hobby is amazing for sharing your perspective of the world around you. There are many reasons why photography takes a new level with miniatures. Taking pictures of fun activities around your home, a game convention, or local get together is a great way to share what you’ve learned and achieved.
You don’t just take pictures of your work. You’re documenting a story. I know a professional photographer who tells stories with images from his travels around the world. Of course, all stories with life in them are personal adventures. Really, that’s it–stories are about adventure. They have a beginning, a climax, and a conclusion.
Do your photo capture a “story”? Can your viewer understand the narrative of your work?
As much as we take for granted the routine things we do everyday, even the fun activities, there is a little spark in all of it. That bit of discovery about the world around us, within ourselves, is something we lose as we grow-up.
Photography stops time.
But, your camera is more than a time machine.
(Oh, deep!) Let me explain.
No matter what you do, a photograph will never reveal that moment in perfect resolution as your mind’s eye first saw it.
In other words, a photograph sucks at capturing memories. Forget Kodak moments… And, for you videographer’s out there: same problem. No video or photo will capture what your eyes have already seen. Sure, you can document as a photojournalist to tell a better story for your “readers”. Take a look at my 5 tips at photographing better gaming battle reports.
So, my advice is to instead change where you place your camera’s lens.
Lower your camera’s viewpoint.
What do I mean?
If you’re painting miniatures and want to capture your work-in-progress (something I do quite frequently for this site), lower your camera to see through the eyes of your model’s scale. Pretend you’re their miniature size. Look at them that way. Get into the world of miniatures.
The process of getting a low perspective will also immerse your viewer into your work, your activity.
If you’re playing a game, play with how you might see things through a different place. Take your camera up high and point it straight down, as a bird would see your space from high above.
2. Raise your perspective
The world is your oyster. You own what you see. I started with photography through the need to write battle reports of my tabletop games.
Get up high with your perspective. Take your lens to new heights. By pointing your view downward, you are above the fray.
You give a viewer a safer way of seeing things.
Safer? Absolutely. In contrast to the “lower perspective”, you remove immersion. You take the viewer out of the action. We often wonder about how birds feel when they are flying above us. How the World to them may seem so small and insignificant.
Birds are free. And, you can evoke this feeling, too. Free yourself from the ground and get yourself high. Create images that remove you from the bounds of the Earth.
When you’re looking down from the sky (flying in an airplane or whatever), things on the ground become tiny, miniature. “The people look like ants…”, they say.
Well, with actual miniatures, this sense becomes even easier. You don’t need the thousand foot altitude. Your standing height should be enough.
Make sure you have good lighting for best results with your photography.
3. Get close
Okay, instead of going farther away.
Do the opposite.
Get in close with your camera. Put the lens right where the action is. Photograph the details. Everything counts!
To avoid boring photographs, see things differently than you normally would. It is a rare person who puts their face that close to any object in the world. I’m not saying you need microscopic close-ness. Just change up the view.
See differently. Make others do the same.
Most smartphones have built-in macro functionality. If you’re using a regular camera, consider getting an extension tube or a macro lens.
I find the best way to compose a photo, when you’re unsure what to focus on, is to merely fill your frame.
Stick your lens as close to your hobby subject as possible. Fill up whatever your viewfinder space you got. Then, when you upload your images, use a cropping tool and cut-out everything non-essential.
Sure, there’s the rule of thirds, and the compositional things you can do to make things more interesting. But, ultimately, when in doubt, show things that you might not normally see with your naked eyes.
4. Embrace shadows
Professional photographers hate bad light. And, when I mean professional photographers, I mean those that create images in commercial use, e.g., weddings and events, product photography, sports.
Bad light is any kind of light that distorts, dims, or removes clarity from the subject. Your photography lighting style is the key to making great images.
But, as a hobbyist or artist, we don’t care about the commercial viability of an image. We are looking for photos that are “interesting”.
Do you know what interesting is?
Interesting things surprise us.
We are attracted to subject matter that pops out at us. Or, subjects that make you think one thing, then laugh in your face.
Shadows are amazing for creating drama and mood. Shadows are the proxy of light slamming into impermeable objects.
A cast shadows has no real form. It is a virtual thing that you can’t pin. And, that is what makes them so interesting.
We call the kind of light that makes shadows pop, hard light.
I don’t have any real tricks or tips about making interesting photos with shadows. You kind of have to play around with your camera.
Look for dark shapes.
Embrace that darkness. All of that structure created by negative light will be something you simply have to discover.
(That’s part of the fun of photography)
Experiment with hard shadows and light. Don’t get scared off because the thing you think you should photograph isn’t well-lit. No, make something of whatever you have at hand.
I guess that’s a good lesson for life. Don’t avoid the dark parts; embrace them. Make the shadows a part of your story, your images. That, I think, is what makes things fascinating, interesting.
5. Remove color
I think a big mistake a lot of beginner artists make is trying too hard to fit their work into an idea. Sometimes, you have to play with your medium to learn what is truly on your mind.
Color is distracting. Unless you know what color does in an image, you can probably do without it.
Don’t believe me? The old Twilight Zone episodes are amazing because they are in black and white (source). Even, the reboot will be in black and white, because it creates the creepy atmosphere that color fails to reproduce.
Do you think Ansel Adams needed color to garner his renown with landscape photography? Or, Henri Cartier-Bresson?
If in doubt, make photos without color. Use only light and dark, contrast, to create images. It will force you to think about shapes and structure. All interesting photos have strong elements of structure.
Of course, I’m still learning.
But, for all intents, I find that the more I try and “see without color”, the more interesting my images become. If you have a camera or smart phone that lets you turn off color (black and white mode), see how you fair with your photography.
In this digital age, you can probably even take the same photos in color and b&w. This way, you can compare what you capture side-by-side.
I only show you a few examples of what I’ve gotten for hobby-related things here. But, if you surf around the site, you’ll find a lot more. Here’s some of my favorite black and whites (not gaming related).
Bonus: Tell a story
Take a series of images.
Like words, string a line of photos together to form a sentence.
Sometimes, it’s hard to make a single photo interesting. If you add some context through a series of photos strung together, you can create a comic book like experience for your viewers. Although, I’m not sure I succeeded 100% with my image-series above, but you get the idea.
I’ve found that sharing to social media doesn’t actually help much for learning how to improve.
Instead, the best way to learn is to observe. Slowly assimilate things into your work that you find interesting. Copy things. Replicate looks and styles that intrigue or evoke ideas or emotions in you.
Photography is like any other hobby-art. It takes a long time with a lot of practice to really see things, differently. The more you do it, the better you get.
And of course, the only way you know you’re getting better is looking back at your stuff (not other peoples’ work). One of the reasons I keep tons of photos stored (I don’t throw out many) is so that I can go back once in a while and see what I’ve done. This way, I can remind myself when I’m disheartened that I’ve already come a long way.
Anyway, I hope that this article was encouraging and informative, and maybe even challenging for you.
Ultimately, the key to avoid boring hobby photography is to have fun with the process.