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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Break Free From Your Comfort Zone


Familiarity can hamper creativity. If your photos have been feeling bland lately, it may be time to push yourself into some uncharted territory.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Try adding artificial light to illuminate the foreground. Nikon Speedlight SB-900; Canon Speedlite 580EX; Litepanels Croma LED.
Embrace Your Flaws
We're taught early on to avoid technical flaws. Flare from the sun is bad, insufficient depth of field or bad focus is a no-no, avoid over- or underexposing your images. Look at the work of the best photographers, however, and you may notice that they often creatively embrace these "flaws," turning them instead into artistic strengths.

Here's something to consider: The limitations of our equipment are, in part, what make photography unique as an art form. Simply put, our cameras and lenses don't see the world quite the same way that our eyes and brains do, and this is a good thing—our goal as artists is to show people the world in a way that's different from what they're used to seeing. Although in recent years, many new digital techniques such as high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging, focus stacking and other photo-editing tools have made it easier to get around the technical limitations of camera equipment, we need to remember that these limitations also make photography singular and special. While I have nothing against these techniques and use them often, it's important to keep in mind that technical limitations of equipment can and should be used creatively, and can lead to some interesting and unique photo opportunities.

For example, I enjoy making "underexposed" images that are dramatic and moody, with just a hint of light piercing the gloom. Another favorite technique of mine is to use lens flare creatively. Often, I'll include the sun within the picture frame, especially when using a wide-angle lens. Small apertures on a wide-angle lens will create a "starburst" effect as a result of flare. Flare also can be used creatively when photographing wildlife, imparting a warm, low-contrast look to the image. Many photographers also artistically use shallow focus and depth of field, and intentional overexposure to produce what are known as high-key images. When technical limitations arise, think creatively and find a way to use them to your advantage.

F/8 And Be There
There's an old saying, "ƒ/8 and be there," which essentially means that being on the scene is paramount. If you want to break free from your comfort zone, you need to throw your all into shooting when on location, and don't settle for merely "good enough." You don't need to dedicate your entire life to photography to get great results, but when you do manage to find some time in your busy schedule to get out in the field, don't waste any of it—be there, as much as you can, and reap the rewards of persistence. If you're not behind the viewfinder as much as possible, you're going to miss out on a lot of great images. When in the field, constantly immerse yourself in the photographic process; you'll be amazed at what you turn up.

Ian Plant is a full-time professional nature photographer, writer and adventurer. His work appears in numerous magazines, books and calendars, and he writes a regular blog at www.outdoorphotographer.com. He's also the author of a number of ebooks and digital-processing video tutorials. See more of his work at www.ianplant.com.


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