Just before we relocated to Norman, OK, my husband Dustin called a few local photographers to get a feel for the dynamics. Dustin asked one photographer where some good places in Norman were to take photos, and her reply was, “oh, there’s nowhere to take photos here. You have to go up to Oklahoma City.” We were a little disappointed, but mostly confused at her response. There have got to be places to shoot! We had visited for a few days some months before and loved what we saw.
Fast forward to over 2 years later, and besides wedding locations, we rarely go anywhere BUT Norman to shoot! There are gold mines all over the place, but you have to have eyes to see them.
Allow me to share just one example: since moving from a small office on Main Street to a storefront location closer to our home, we now have a few changes in scenery. Before, we could step out the back door to beautiful brick, grunge, and graffiti. Although we don’t have the variety of urban shooting (I’ll save that for another article), we have nearby fields. Here is a stretch of road along the 5-minute commute from our home to our office.
Pretty exciting, huh? Just follow me, and I promise you will start to see your surroundings differently.
I have driven by that stretch of road for 2 years without even giving it a second glance. However, when my bride asked for fields last week, I wanted to find somewhere close by. Now, put on your magic glasses and see if you can imagine turning this circled little spot:
You would think they’re standing in a romantic field of sunflowers, in the middle of the mountains. In reality, cars are whizzing past and a cop even stopped to see what we’re doing – he thought we were “up to something” because I had moved trash out of the way. Hilarious!
But you think, “how did you ever think to create that?” To tell you the truth, I learned about this in my junior year of high school. My good friend had her senior portraits done and I was captivated by her picture in a field of flowers. To my dismay the next year, as I got my senior pictures done at the same location, there were about 3 feet of flowers. Total.
Conclusion: you don’t need to hike into the mountains!
Here are 3 techniques to turn locations from “boring” into “beautiful”:
First, Step Closer
The closer you are to your subject, the more the background melts away. They could be standing in front of a dumpster, and it would still look beautiful because you don’t see it – it all blurs into fuzzyland.
Second, Layer It Up
If you take your camera sideways into some grouping — whether it’s flowers, or wheat field, or trees, or wooden crates — you create a sense that it goes on forever and your subject is enveloped in it. You give the grouping a greater presence than it has in real life. This takes the mood and energy that you can feel about something and make it a visual reality.
Third, Straight On
Shooting straight on to a seemingly boring location can bring out elements of design or repetition you didn’t see before. The layers of different foliage create different hues and values, which become more design elements than individual trees or weeds. Just like stepping closer can bring simplicity, stepping back can do the same. Choose one piece of the scenery and make sure you include (and not include) what will help your vision to generate that simplicity.
So there you have a few tools to start learning to use any type of location. Go for a drive and start to see your own stomping grounds in a new way!
Check out Fuel Your Photography for all kinds of great tips and articles!