digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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5 Photography Ideas for When There’s Nothing Interesting to Shoot

There's nothing interesting to photograph!

I heard that a lot on a few of the photo walks I've led over the years. Sometimes people would even want to leave and go home because they saw nothing that inspired them to take a photo. I find it's a common question from my students in my classes and from you – my valued readers – here on the site. So I wanted to give you a few tips for how to get the muse working for you and how to find photography ideas and subjects anywhere.

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This was taken in a back alley in my own city's downtown core – I found the juxtaposition between the delicate flowers and grungy graffiti appealing.

Photography ideas for when there's nothing interesting to shoot

Try a new technique
When you're traveling, or away from home, it's easier to find interesting subjects because everything is new. So if you're bored with your surroundings and can't go anywhere try a new technique you've never done before. When you're traveling is not the time to experiment, do that now in your free time. I'm sure there are tons of things you've been itching to try out and haven't had the time – well now you can do just that.
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Black and white with split tone applied in Lightroom.

Pick one and find some articles, books, or tutorials on that topic – then give it a go. Here are some ideas to get you started:

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HDR of 5 bracketed images combined.
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Panning in Cuba
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Silhouette on the beach
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Night photography with light painting in Drumheller during a workshop
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Macphun Tonality plugin I was playing with (future review to come soon) textures and borders.
Get really close – do some macro photography
Closeup or macro photography requires you to look at objects differently. Look for textures, cobwebs, patterns. Find an ordinary household item and really take a good look at it. A wooden spoon, a copper penny, an old shoe, even a doorknob can become an interesting subject when you approach it from the macro perspective.
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This boring old fire hydrant on the street corner:

Becomes far more about light, shadows and textures when you get closer.

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Remember the doorknob? Okay granted, I have interesting doorknobs in my house but you get the idea.
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Also in my own house – an antique passed down to me by my great aunt.
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Flowers and plants – always a great macro subject.
Look for the Light (and the shadows)
You've probably heard this before but in photography light is everything. However – you also need shadows too. The play between light and dark is what creates texture, mood, and depth. Go out shooting one day just looking at how the light falls on everything. Look for interesting shadows and photograph them.
Hint: if you're having trouble finding the light – look for shadows!

Look at the three images below and see if the shadows don't give away the location – where do you think these were taken?

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#1 – Big city – but where? You guess.
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#2 – Look at the architecture, does it give you a hint?
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#3 – This could be a number of locations but you know it's on the prairie somewhere right?

Sometimes less is more in photography and a subtle hint of your subject can tell a story, even more so than showing the entire object. So use tips #2 and #3 to get creative.

Go to a farm, zoo or farmers market
Even if you can't get away on a trip or vacation try something a bit more local. Farms that allow visitors, the zoo, or even an outdoor market are great photo opportunities. You might even find something tasty to take home to eat.

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Pick an unusual subject and photograph only that for a day
If you're having a hard time finding anything interesting in your area pick something so obscure you have to go looking for it. Something you would normally just pass by without a second thought.

In a photo walk class I ran a few years ago I asked the students to give themselves an assignment to pick one topic and go out and do the walk with that in mind. We brainstormed together and they each picked something – then they picked something for me. I said I'd shoot whatever they came up with and they picked – FEET.

They thought they'd stump me but I actually had a lot of fun with it. Here are some of my favourites from that day.

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I liked the flower tattoo, pink flip flops and the flower petal on the ground that all worked together.

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I love the opposite styles of footwear and drinks here.
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Always be careful when photographing any military personnel. Get permission first!

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The fact that the dog and the man were walking stride for stride caught my attention. Same foot forward even.
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Can you tell the story here?
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The contrasting footwear again stole my eye, the rolled up pants just added to the story.

Notice there are no faces in any of those feet shots. But I'd likely not have seen or taken any of those images without that assignment from my students. Give yourself a tough mission and head out and see if you're up to the task.

Looking for more photography ideas for things to shoot?
Creating Depth and Dimension in Your Photos: 4 Tips

Okay by now the wheels must be turning and you've gotten some ideas. It's time to get out and try them, no time like the present.


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