Shooting The Ordinary Things

We often strive to get the most extra-ordinary images; hence we go great lengths in hopes of obtaining the award winning, Nat-Geo worthy results. Many would travel to exotic locations for photo safaris and plan an elaborate photoshoot that would take a crew of dozens and weeks to execute. There is nothing wrong in doing the best you can to produce imagery beyond the normal expectations, but I also believe in finding beautiful things in the ordinary setting. Photography is storytelling, it is a medium to communicate your ideas, it is a way to express your emotions. You don't need to travel all the way to Iceland to do that. Sometimes, your best shots are right in front of you, you just have to see it. 

You should know your backyard the best. Knowing your location is the key to successful photography. Depending on the type of photography that you do, if you shoot people, street, urbanscape, architecture or documentary, then going around your own neighborhood to capture some images can surprise you on how many interesting subjects you can find. We don't see the uniqueness or beauty in those ordinary things because we see them so often and we want to shoot something different, something new and exciting. If you keep looking for new things to shoot all the time you will end up with nothing to shoot fairly quickly. On the other hand, if you revisit the same locations, shooting the same subjects, but do it differently each time and get different outcomes, you will never run out of things to shoot. 

How did the light shape the subject this time? Did the weather change, is the flat lighting affecting the mood of the scene? If you shoot at different times of the day, do you get different setup or people visiting the area? If you know the location well enough you can even time your execution to include several elements coming together creatively. If you change your standing position, go up to a higher ground, or find a spot at the corner for a wider view, I tell you, the possibilities are endless. Rather than going to a new location, or shooting new things all the time, explore different things and stretch your creative muscle more. 

For street photography, I have been shooting at the same locations in Kuala Lumpur for more than 10 years, and I have never gotten bored of them yet. Some friends will ask if I get tired of the same places, I replied - how can I be? I see different things to shoot each and every time I went out on those areas. Over a long duration of time, I have accumulated different images, a huge variety yet they were acquired from the same spot. 

My shooting style also has changed over time, the things that I enjoyed to shoot, I don't shoot any more, and I continuously find new ways to get my images. Some would argue there is only so much you can do but I disagree. If you are truly passionate about photography, you will know that your work isn't good enough, there is always that next best opportunity waiting to happen, and you want to be there at the right time and place to capture the once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Your best shot can happen just near you. You don't need to travel all around the world to find it. 

Travel is good to refresh the mind, to see and learn new things, but if you are in a new place, how well and you capture the images there? It takes time to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. Unless you have the luxury or opportunity to spend months or even years in one exact same spot, chances are you will take very ordinary looking images at such an extra-ordinary location, which defeats the purpose of finding great shots at exotic locations. Without knowing the subject and location that you are shooting; your photography cannot take on to the next level. It is stuck at "I am discovering new things phase".

I see many friends being so reluctant to shoot at places near them, the ordinary things do not excite them. The challenge is to push yourself to change the way you see things, find something worthy to shoot at your familiar locations, and use your familiarity to your advantage. I am sure you will realize that there are endless photo opportunities there waiting to happen. 

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  1. Robin,

    Your view on this is spot on, I could not agree more. THANK YOU!!!

  2. I entirely agree with you, Robin. And your photos are excellent!