What To Shoot When There’s Nothing To Shoot
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
(Hover your mouse pointer over the photos for notes.)
I am of the school of thought that in order to become a truly excellent photographer, one must practice every single day. If the camera is only brought out for special events or specific assignments, the photographer is relegated to the “occasional” category and cannot truly perfect their art.
This is something that I need to work on, myself. I’ll have a “good” week where it seems that the subjects just keep jumping in front of me, asking to be photographed. I’ll find myself with camera in hand nearly every day for a good stretch, then suddenly POOF. Inspiration dries up. Nothing “special” is happening. I’m not going anywhere new that would encourage me to bring the camera along. I’m stuck in a routine of surroundings, tasks, and environment while my camera sits idle on my desk.
There are just so many pictures that I can take of my cats, after all.
Personally, I am much more inspired by the natural world than the man-made world, which is a problem for my current circumstances. I live in the type of suburbia that defines the term, surrounded by asphalt and concrete, nine-to-five commitments and traffic. My home is abutted by a tiny yard, my day job ties me to a cubicle in a sea of cubicles, and any potential vistas are shrouded in smog. I find it very hard, some days, to be inspired enough to grab my camera.
So what do you shoot when there is, seemingly, nothing to shoot?
Go macro. An entirely new world is opened up when you zoom in on the details of ordinary things. Construct a mini light studio, wander around your house gathering items with interesting textures, and have some fun.
Shoot still lifes. Fill mason jars with marbles and give it some back-lighting – play with bokeh and lens flare. Arrange the implements of your meal-in-process with some artfully placed ingredients. Buy a bunch of flowers and experiment with different backdrops and lighting. Photograph a montage of your favorite possessions (I did a series of the “things I love” on my personal blog – one of which was the ceramic frog at the beginning of this post – and found the process of photographing and writing about each item to be very rewarding).
Play with gadgets. Sometimes inexpensive photography gadgets inspire creativity. Pick up one of these bokeh kits from Photojojo, or one of these lens adapters. Spend a wee bit more and get a Lensbaby. In using gadgets like these, you can take photos of ordinary objects, or photos of things that have been “photographed to death”, and put a new spin on them.
Document a “day in the life”. From the time that you wake up in the morning until you go to bed, have your camera in-hand as much as you can manage. Photograph the elements of your daily routine; brushing your teeth, making lunch, walking the dog, vegging on the couch. Sometimes you’ll find that just having the camera in your hands gives you the motivation and inspiration you need to break out of a photographic rut.
Edit what you already have. Sometimes I enjoy going back through my vast photographic archive, pulling out a handful of photos I haven’t seen in a while, and playing with them in Photoshop. I’ll edit from one extreme to another, practicing my subtlety as well as my ability to be outrageous. This is a good way to teach yourself new Photoshop techniques, as well.
Hold a self-portrait session. Set up a chair, a backdrop (even a solid-colored blanket), and a light or two. Set your camera up on a tripod and grab your remote shutter release. Experiment with angles, shadows, and poses. Get as comfortable with being in front of the camera as you are behind it. Barring that (I could never accomplish that level of comfort), at the very least have a better understanding of the requests you might make of your portrait subjects.
What are your suggestions for things to shoot when there’s nothing to shoot? Please share with us in the comments!
Photo credits (all): Tiffany Joyce. All photographs were taken during occasions when I was casting about for inspiration.
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