A common mistake by outdoor photographers when shooting on the street or in the field is to begin popping off photos upon arriving at a destination for fear of losing a fleeting moment or great light. The problem with this common approach is that it often results in common images.
The tutorial below from the popular Street View YouTube channel explains why slowing down and carefully exploring a location often enables you to discover and capture compelling images that stand out from the crowd. This often happens because a thoughtful approach often reveals a unique vantage point from which to shoot that differs from the standard eye-level approach.
Instructor Rupert Vandervell is an accomplished British pro specializing in fine-art street photography, so this episode concentrates on that particular genre. But the tips he provides work just as well to create interest with other types of images you shoot outdoors.
Vandervell puts it likes this: “If you slow down and take your time you’ll be able to experiment with unusual viewpoints and determine which is your favorite before deciding on a composition.” He adds that this strategy also applies to scenes that initially look a bit dull.
Yet, when you explore shooting from a different vantage point or camera position, like low to the ground or up high, you’ll likely create images that are far more engaging. Vandervell provides several great examples of how doing this results in more compelling photos than a scene suggested at first.
He begins with a rather uninspiring photo he captured during a photo walk in Prague on a gloomy day. In this instance he changed his position, shooting low to the ground, to capture a far better shot than his original dull image that didn’t make the grade.
Another compelling example is a photo Vandervell made of a man climbing a staircase. Rather than taking the conventional approach of composing the scene to reveal his subject’s full form, he waited until the top half of the man’s body disappeared behind the zig-zagging stairs—thereby composing the shot so all you see is the subject from his feet to his waist. This resulted in an unusual and far more interesting shot.
As he explains, his goal for this photo “was to juxtapose the legs and their shapes with the geometry and rigidity of the rest of the scene.” This conceptual technique really delivered the goods and is a perfect example of how thinking a bit differently can turn a ho-hum photo into a winner.
Vandervell uses several other amazing photos to illustrate how to capture really impressive photos “when there’s nothing to shoot.” As you’ll see, there are various possibilities for doing this by including objects or unusual light patterns to accentuate a scene. As an aside, we think you’ll agree that shooting in monochrome is perfect for these types of dynamic images.
There’s much more to learn on Vandervell’s popular YouTube channel and in a related tutorial we posted recently that demonstrates why creating depth is a powerful pro technique for outdoor photographs with greater impact.