Using Your Surroundings As Your Subject

When we look at photographs of scenes, we tend to be so fascinated because we've either never been there or we haven't seen it in that particular way. We're naturally curious with what the rest of the world looks like, and the next best thing to travelling to other places is to look at pictures of them instead.

Sometimes we are so used to our surroundings that we don't really notice it anymore. Our streets, the crowds, the buildings, all these are neither ugly nor exciting, they just exist and we pass them by without really seeing them. If a foreigner visits your neighborhood and starts making 'ooh' and 'ahh' sounds at the giant trees you pass by everyday on the way to work, you probably might roll your eyes in amusement at their interest. But that's the thing, it's time for you to notice the world around you again, from the stunning graffiti on the old school walls to the street children playing at the fish market. Make it your personal mission to capture the heart and soul of your own environment.

Here are some ideas to guide you as you look around your surroundings for potential subjects:

The hidden city – look at postcards of your town or city or try typing your city name in online search engines and you will find shots that seem to look similar to one another. These shots are mostly of tourist spots and landmarks so they are pretty and inviting. However, there are parts of your city that might not look so attractive but are probably more interesting. Forget about shooting that famous statue at the middle of the city park. Go instead to the markets and the side streets, to the nooks and crannies where no tourist would venture.

Seasons – the seasons make for fantastic photo opportunities. The same scene can appear drastically changed when shot during the four different seasons in the year. Lush, green fields in summer can turn to red-gold hills in autumn then transform white storybook landscapes in winter.

No seasons? No problem – not all countries have seasons. Tropical countries, for example, just have rainy and hot weather, dry spells or humid months. Show the dry, intense heat in your photos, capture the hundreds of little rain puddles covering the street potholes. Don't be afraid to take shots of not so pretty scenes because your shots will show honesty and truth and that is what matters.

Local Culture – each city has its own unique local culture. There are certain customs and beliefs that are not followed anywhere else in the world. Some of them are not even practiced elsewhere in the same country. What makes your town special, such as its history and traditions, is also what will make your photographs unique.

Architecture – infrastructure varies from place to place and the geography and history of an area can affect the design of a building or a structure. Look around your neighborhood and try to take in the sights of the structures. Is there a castle? A futuristic dome? A nipa hut? The ruins of a mansion? All these would make great subjects. Architecture is full of shapes and these also often make fantastic subjects.

People – your environment would not be complete without people, from crowds gathering at the local church for Sunday Mass to the tired night security guard rubbing his face as he sits on a park bench. You can capture fleeting moments of interaction between two strangers that tell an entire story in your photo.

As you start taking photos of your surroundings, watch out for the next article on street photography for more ideas.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 11:00 am and is filed under Articles, Miscellaneous, Photo Inspiration, Photography Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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