3 Ways to Stay Inspired in the Winter Months

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It is that time of the year again, the days have been shorter, the weather has been unpredictable, and staying inspired to shoot has had me wandering around looking for that excitement about photography.  Here are three things that have helped me recently to get back that inspiration to shoot.

1.  Look for a photography project
Five years ago I told myself that I was going to complete a Project 365 and shoot every day for a year.  I think that lasted until sometime in late January when I started wondering what made me decide to take that project on.  I switched it to a Project 52 which worked so much better for me at the time.  Then Courtney started talking about starting a new Project 365 on November 1st.  It had been years since the last time I tried and I found myself thinking, sure why not?

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The ideas for a photography project are really endless so don’t feel like you have to join in on a Project 365 or Project 52.  If you can come up with the theme or idea, then you can probably turn it into an inspiring project.

Have you tried to shoot portraits of strangers?

How about shooting a view out your front door every Monday for a year?

Maybe you want to start a project that has you included in the photo with your kids?

Food?

Macro?

Just shooting in black & white?

It can be nice to have a focus for what you are shooting & that focus (project) will help keep you shooting on days when you might rather leave the camera in the bag.

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2.  Print your photos
Just last weekend I had the chance to see an exhibit of Vivian Maier’s photography at a local gallery.  I heard about it on the last day it was going to be in town and just knew I had to see it. I have been thinking about voice & style in photography lately.  I have even made a few random sets on Flickr trying to look for patterns in my work among other things.  While I was looking at Vivian Maier’s images on the gallery wall, I could easily see the elements that help make up her style, for example, she is a master at framing her subjects and using light.  Hanging on the wall, grouped together in a way that strengthened the collection, the images were hung in sets like with all the self-portraits on one wall.  It was just the inspiration I needed to help me keep shooting even while I wait for those longer spring days.

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Going to the photo exhibit motivated me to order some prints of my own photos.  It was perfect timing when I received a 25% off prints coupon in my email box from MPix, and I decided that I would order every print that I currently had edited from 2013.  I know, it sounds really super impulsive.  And, it was.  But, it was also totally and completely worth it.  The box arrived on my door step today and much to my delight, my son was just as excited to see the prints as I was.

I had already decided to let go of expectations of perfection.  I decided I wasn’t going to focus on flaws, but instead I was going to focus on the moments & memories that were tangible in my hands.  We sat during dinner & flipped through the stacks of images talking about those moments.  My son was smiling and laughing while I was remembering.  There is something different about seeing the images in print instead of only on the computer screen.  It is a task that I now plan to do way more often.  I have almost finished creating a photo book for 2012 too.

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Along with the joy of reliving the moments in those photographs, I also realized something else tonight.  I realized that some of the images that I loved so much on the screen weren’t my favorites in print.  Plus, some of the images I had all but completely dismissed on the screen jumped out at me in print.  This is an aspect of printing that I didn’t expect so now I will be thinking about how I can use that information to improve my photography & my style.  I love the added bonus of learning from seeing the photos printed (can you tell it has been too long since I printed?).  Maybe I need to include more of those moments, lighting, colors or whatever element it is that made those printed images stand out to me in my Project 365 daily shooting.

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3.  Try something new
There have been multiple days since November 1st that I have wondered what on earth I would find to shoot that day. The fun side to wondering what I am going to shoot is that it has allowed me some freedom to try new things. I have tried several new things these last few months without worrying about whether the outcome is successful.

Last summer I read about free lensing and gave it a try. I didn’t have much success with it but left it on my photography list of techniques to try again someday.  That someday came this past week when I found myself getting home from work at dusk. I grabbed a vase of flowers, set them down outside, and pulled the lens off to try free lensing again. I didn’t shoot long that day, maybe 20 minutes but it was fun to try something new.

This can apply to editing as well as shooting. The winter months are a great time to watch some editing videos, learn a few new techniques and go back to older images to re-edit them (or maybe if you are like me just try to get through a little more of your back log of photos that need to be edited!).  Think of what you typically shoot, whether that is subject, time of day, or something else then pick something new.

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Find a new photography project, print some of your photos then try shooting something new…there is such a long list of things to choose from!  Enjoy the process of trying new things and getting outside your comfort zone to see what kind of surprises are out there!

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Photography Composition Series: Creating Balance & Symmetry

photography composition

The way you view the world helps shape the way you compose your images with your camera.  The details you choose to include (or leave out) when composing your images tell a story.  They tell the story through your own personal perspective.

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch
You can utilize compositional strategies to help strengthen your message to the viewer of your image.  There are so many compositional strategies to choose from like framing, creating movement, creating depth in your images and negative space.  Learning multiple compositional strategies will really enhance your images.

One of my personal favorites is using balance and symmetry within the frame.  I tend to be drawn to center focused compositions and images with negative space to offer balance to my main subject.  Looking for balance & symmetry in my environment provides stability and calm for the compositions in my images.

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

Using Symmetry to achieve balance in photography is a great way to show stability in a scene like with architectural images.  Symmetry is achieved when there is a mirror image (or close to a mirror type image by using elements of the same size/mass) on either side of the frame like in the building above.  This makes the center of the frame the main focal point.  Using Symmetry can make the image feel stagnant because of the lack of movement throughout the frame therefore the focal point needs to be interesting enough to gain and keep the viewer’s attention.  Using other techniques than symmetry to provide balance can offer more interesting images.

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

There are different ways to use elements in your photographs to provide balance like using color, contrasting tones, and visual weight.

In the below image the glass in the top left corner helps provide balance to the main subject (the quiche) in the bottom right corner.  I could have used negative space in the top left corner to balance the elements in the image but I wanted the additional detail of the drink to add to the story.  The image would be heavily weighted in the bottom corner without the drink & it may have seemed like something was missing.  The drink fills in that gap while also adding to the overall image.

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

When looking to add balance to your images it can be helpful to know what will draw the viewer’s eye first in the image then balance it with the opposite in tones (or color).  When you are shooting for black & white images, the eye is drawn to strong contrast.  For example, in the above image the subject has on dark clothes & there is a strong contrast in that area of the image.  Therefore the eye will go to the subject first.  The lighter area (weaker contrasted area) of the photo is the concrete and this large space helps to balance the darker area of the image where the subject is placed.  You can use this tip to draw the viewer to a certain object or subject by looking for the way the lights and darks contrast with each other.  The darker area will pop from the lighter area and even if it is a small portion of the frame it will draw the viewer in.

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch
Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

You can use color to create balance in an image too.  In the examples below, one image has the red/green color combo along with the red being used in opposite corners of the image.  This helps balance the image because the eye is drawn to the color red over the neutral color of the concrete.  Having the color in both sides of the image helps give equal weight to those elements and therefore provides balance.  You can see the same strategy illustrated in the image with the orange bike & the orange fire hydrant.  The colors hold equal weight in 2 parts of the image and stand out against the background of the frame.

Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch
Photography Composition:  Creating Balance and Symmetry via Click it Up a Notch

If you want to cause your viewer to feel uncomfortable or you want to illustrate tension though your imagery then purposefully creating an image that is out of balance is a great way to use this compositional strategy to meet your vision.  If an image isn’t drawing you in or seems flat then take a minute to analyze the composition of the image and ask yourself what isn’t working.  Look at the composition considering some of the basic rules and see if there is something out of balance.  Then you can move forward from there & try something new.  A different angle, emphasize a different element in the frame, choose another compositional strategy to use. 

How do you use the compositional strategies to enhance your images?

Read more in our Photography Composition Series:

- Creating Depth in Your Images
- 4 Types of Framing
- Negative Space
- Creating Movement in Your Images

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Lessons from Shooting Film

It seems like film is all the rage right now, trending everywhere you look from Facebook to forums to blog posts.  I figured with all the great resources out there this would be a great time to give film a try. Here is what I learned (with my disclaimer that I am very much a beginner with film & this is written from that point of view): Try more than one type of camera: Different cameras offer different experiences & different types of looks.  You may really love the way a toy ...continue reading

Canon Lens Comparison

One of my favorite things to look for when I am considering buying a new lens {or just wondering what else is out there} is to see comparisons between lenses. So, I thought it would be fun to do this exact thing with the lenses that I currently own. When I am asked what my favorite lens is my answer is usually the Canon 85 1.2L. It was my first L lens that I bought and for a few years it was the only lens I had other than the Canon 50 1.8 so I learned to use it for everything! Below the ...continue reading

5 Tips for Photographing Boys

Want to get those adorable boys in the photos too? Styling isn’t just for the girls.  Let me share some ways I get my own little guy dressed and cooperating with me. Follow these 5 tips for photographing boys. Tips for Photographing Boys 1. Let the boys pick the props by offering a choice of two or three things. Something that works well for me is to pick two or three things that I think will fit with the location then ask my son which one he wants to bring along for the shoot.  This way, he ...continue reading