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Make the Ordinary Look Extraordinary – Photography Challenge

Each month here on Digital Photo Mentor I offer up a new photography challenge. You may have seen challenges on other sites, but mine are a little different. These challenges are not merely a theme to shoot, they push you outside your comfort zone, they may be hard and uncomfortable and you may want to quit.

But the idea is that if you really want to take your photography to the next level – you have to do something different than you're doing now. Only by trying new things, and doing that which is hard, will you advance. So – are you ready for this month's challenge?

Make the ordinary look extraordinary

It's relatively easy to take photos of things which are beautiful and inherently interesting like sunsets, puppies, children, flowers, etc. But to photograph everyday, ordinary, boring things – and make them look interesting, and aesthetically pleasing to the viewer, is a bit harder.

A fish-eye lens add an odd distortion to things.
A fish-eye lens add an odd distortion to things.
An organ in an old church at night with some light painting becomes a spooky subject.
An organ in an old church at night with some light painting becomes a spooky subject.
Motion blur added by moving the camera during the exposure.
Motion blur added by moving the camera during the exposure.

Last month's challenge – be one with your tripod

Last time around I urged you to use your tripod for everything you shoot, for an entire month. Here's what some of you had to say about the experience:

  • Eugene Shuler said: This challenge caused me to become familiar with the new tripod and more comfortable with using it. In the past, I only used the tripod for night shots and landscape shots. Now, however, I am quit comfortable with using it for portrait shots as well. It only took two or three sessions to attain that level of comfort. The greatest improvement I've noticed is better focus with less blur than before. In the future, I will have no problem making sure my tripod is with me whenever and wherever I am photographing. Referencing your challenge title, “I am now one with my tripod.”
  • Kim Passmore said: I went to Montreal a few weeks ago. I did a lot of outdoor daytime shooting and ALL my shots were taken on my tripod except for some panoramic skyline shots and some ground level shots of the snow. And of course all my indoor shots were on my tripod as well. I found that my shots were all tack sharp, and looked so much better than if I had done them hand held, and because it takes time to set up the tripod shot, I found that I spent a lot more time choosing my composition and framing of my shots. I can notice a definite improvement in the quality of my photos now.
  • Mary James noted: I had not used a tripod until recently so for me it is a huge challenge. Initially I found it very awkward but I am surprised how quickly one adapts. I still feel rather conspicuous when using and haven't done any portrai shots yet. Once tripod is set up I do find it feels better having hands free and engaging with subject of interest on a different level. 
  • Mary again (this is a good one to take notice of for everyone): Ah, the tripod … don't go out without it! On a recent brief trip to Sydney I made sure the tripod was packed, BUT then felt that being out about with visitors didn't quite lend itself to carrying it around with me – big mistake. They would not have been bothered in the least, so I was really giving way to my own anxieties of being too conspicuous.

And the winner is . . .

Congratulations to Mary for being selected from the eligible entries! Your prize is on its way to your email inbox now. Thanks everyone, as always, for participating and being willing to try new and challenging things.

Details for this month's challenge

ordinary to extraordinary photography challenge
Try black and white, and a shallow depth of field.
ordinary to extraordinary photography challenge
Get close to capture fine details (notice the spider web?) and try black and white.
ordinary-extraordinary-750px-03
Shoot in black and white, and try some light painting in the dark.

Finding ordinary things shouldn't be all that hard – look around the room you're in now, what do you see: books, papers, shoes, DVDs, tissue, plants, furniture, etc? The challenge here will be how to photograph these things to make them look more appealing and interesting. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Try macro photography and get some close-ups of little details. Things sometimes look completely different at that level. Read: The Ultimate Guide – Macro Photography for more tips on that.
  • Do some special effects like maybe light painting, or motion blur.
  • Use different qualities of light: try hard light, then switch to soft light.
  • Shoot from a funky camera angle: down low, up high, through something, put the object on a piece of glass and shoot from underneath it. Angles which we don't normally see in our daily lives are instantly more interesting than images shot at eye level.
  • Use shallow depth of field and add some bokeh in the background.
  • Shoot it in black and white or convert it using your favorite processing software.
  • Photograph it at night, or in the dark with a spotlight or flashlight.
  • Shoot for texturemake sure the light enhances the texture of the object.
  • Go ultra wide with a fish-eye lens if you have one (or you can borrow or rent one for a day).
  • Make a silhouette by backlighting the object if it has an interesting shape.
ordinary-extraordinary-750px-10
Try macro photography.
ordinary-extraordinary-750px-14
Macro and a shallow depth of field makes this make-up sponge seem like it's from another world.
I love antiques and have a few old relics around my house that look great close-up.
I love antiques and have a few old relics around my house that look great close-up.

This is a doorknob in my house.
This is a doorknob in my house.

My cat likes to hide in the window and I captured just her eye behind the leaf using my smartphone.
My cat likes to hide in the window and I captured just her eye behind the leaf using my smartphone.
Photograph your morning coffee and snack.
Photograph your morning coffee and snack. I added extra grain here to give it an old film photography look.
A camera bag close-up (this one was actually taken at WPPI, I don't own this bag).
A camera bag close-up (this one was actually taken at WPPI, I don't own this bag).

To be eligible to win the prize:

In order to participate in this challenge and be eligible for this prize you need to:

  1. Take a photo of something ordinary and boring, and make it look exciting.
  2. Tell us what the object is (if you nailed #1 above we may not even be able to tell from your image) and what you did to make it look different. Did you employ one or more of the ideas mentioned above? Something else? Do tell us your technique!
  3. Upload your photo and shooting info by the cut-off date of April 3rd, 2016 (11:59 pm EST or UTC-5)

You may post more than one photo, and do this as many times as you like over the month. The more you practice the better you'll get at it, like anything.

Photograph for texture.
Photograph for texture.
Use a really wide aperture and create some bokeh. This is a plastic ornament.
Use a really wide aperture and create some bokeh. This is a plastic ornament.
This could be a week in your yard, but photographed using reverse lens macro it becomes visually more interesting.
This could be a week in your yard, but photographed using reverse lens macro it becomes visually more interesting.

Prize

A $50 Amazon gift card to buy yourself a photography book of your choice, so you can continue your journey and keep learning.

Cheers,
Darlene-1-250x130.png


Digital Photo Mentor is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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