As photographers we photograph the people and things we love. We want to stop time with the click of the shutter so that we can capture a moment before it is lost. Many of us focus on photographing our family in our home, where we are every day.
But, there is value in photographing your neighborhood and your city too. Just like our kids grow in the blink of an eye, our surroundings change quickly too. The places where we live shape our lives and who we are as people. Documenting the neighborhood and cities we live in is an important part of our story that shouldn’t be missed. Think about how fun it is to look through the snapshots of your own childhood and see how places have changed.
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It is easy to assume that what we see in our own lives every day is the same as what other people see or experience but that isn’t true. It is important to document our lives outside of our homes too including how our children experience the world, (if we have children). Buildings and homes get torn down when they are no longer useful to us, the landscape of our street changes as trees grow or get cut down, there are seasonal differences to our world as the year goes on too that are worth photographing. Here are a few ways you can incorporate photographing your neighborhood or city into your shooting.
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No.01Photograph the same view once a month
This can be as simple as stepping outside your front door. If you take a photo once a month of the same place you can put them together at the end of the year as a project. You will be able to see all the seasonal (and any other) changes that happened throughout the year. Are there flowers that only bloom once a year? How does the light change based on the seasons? Is your grass green all year?
If you want to push yourself a little more then this could be a fun family project if there is a park or place your family loves to hang out that you can document over a year. Choose one day each month to photograph your family outing to the same location and watch how it changes over the year.
This isn’t a view I see every month but it is a view I see every summer. It’s fun to see how it changes year to year and to make sure to document one of our favorite places to spend time in the hot weather.
No.02Take a walk around your neighborhood or city
Find a new neighborhood to explore and park the car so you can walk around. Try to get photographs of the whole environment like with a wide angle lens like the Canon 16-35mm 2.8 or focus just on the details, maybe even with a macro lens like the Canon 100mm 2.8L.
This is a great way to try to capture the personality of a place. You can also walk around your neighborhood where you live and look for new ways to see it. Try to go out at different times of the day to see how the light changes. Maybe you will find a new favorite time to photograph the kids playing in the street or see something you haven’t noticed before.
If you live in the suburbs try to get to the downtown area, if you live in a downtown area try to get to a park or somewhere that is visually different.
I love historic buildings and the stories they tell us about the past. It is inspiring to see them still standing so I make a point to photograph them when I can. It’s easy to imagine how they may have looked in their prior years and I also like seeing how they blend, or don’t blend, into the current environments.
No.03Pick a theme to photograph
Choosing themes is a great way to improve your photography skills while giving you focus for clicking the shutter. As you explore your neighborhood and city, look for themes like a scavenger hunt. Here are some ideas:
Look for a color
Photograph modern or historic architecture
People watch & try street photography
Go out at noon or at dusk
Try slow shutter speed to photograph cars at sunset
Photograph animals (like pets out for walks or sitting in windows)
Watch the light and photograph it (shadows, dappled light, sunflare)
This is an image from my front yard. On any random day there are bikes and scooters and nerf guns in the yard and this is a scene I want to remember. I think I initially took this photo because I was searching for things for a red theme but looking at it now a few years later it is important for other reasons. So regardless of the initial motivation (like maybe shooting with a theme in mind) these every day photos of where you live hold importance.
The main goal is to take notice of where you live and how that shapes your life, your story, your family’s journey. Think about your memories of your house growing up and the other places that had an impact on you then try to capture a piece of that for yourself now through your photography.