As photographers, our shooting toolboxes quickly become sorted into our favourite tools, and those we rarely bother using. As we refine our knowledge of the craft, so too do we refine our favourite techniques.
Often, we find ourselves left with a few fail-safes that sneak into nearly every composition we architect. And of course! With as much practice as these favourites get, why wouldn’t they be the best? Why shouldn’t they be used to flex our skills for the Gram?
While a streamlined, organized feed may offer a visually-appealing sales pitch to our audience, I’d argue that the most fun aspect of our shared art form is how easy it can be to try new techniques that other photographers might prefer. Here are three techniques I like to keep in my brain to spice up my shots.
A shot with a dutch angle is one with a noticeably shifted frame, placing the horizon at a diagonal. If you know me, you know I quite possibly have an obsession with these. Or rather, definitely have an obsession with these.
Often, a dutch angle will add more tension or drama to a shot. In cinema, they’re used very frequently in horror genres to show that something supernatural - or just very wrong - is happening. In photography, a saucy dutch angle can give the subject a weird extra feeling of importance, or a little edge.
I like to throw these into my shots to play with the height levels of my subjects, to add a little flair to an otherwise static shot, or just to evoke a unique vibe that a lateral horizon would have missed.
Our worlds are very frequently surrounded by shapes. With a keen eye for leading lines, these shapes can be used to make a subject pop against their background, or even to create a frame around them in the foreground. These are things I try to keep in mind when composing shots.
How do the lines in this frame show off or hide my subject? Are my eyes being pulled places that aren’t important for the composition? Is there anything in my surroundings with a big shape that I can use to narrow out the unimportant stuff?
Shapes and colours and lines are all-powerful elements of design to consider in composition, but taking the time to carefully articulate each of them is not a luxury we often have. A quick search for an arch, or circular hole, or even a handrail can tick many of these boxes at once. Three birds, one stone.
When I got started in photography, I was very determined to do everything I could to avoid shooting the super cliche pictures that only a “beginner” would take. It took a very long time to realize that the cliche shots were taken so frequently for a reason.
Sure, there may be hundreds of thousands of pictures of dog noses with a shallow depth of field to blur out the body, but they make for captivating and endearing pictures! Who doesn’t love a good pet photo?
The important part is to find a way to make your dog nose pic stand out from all the others. This can come from a funky background that makes an interesting colour palette with the colours of the dog, or some unique leading lines to frame your pet. Maybe it’s a clever take on a classic location that gives bite to the bark of your dog nose photo, so to speak.
Ultimately, we’re all capturing light with our own fancy boxes. The more different ways we can be comfortable in doing that, the more emotion and neat aesthetics we can load into our photos. So learn things. Pick up tricks. And most of all, keep shooting.
Written and Photographed by @photosbygavin