The Photo Frosh: Finding a Subject

I’ve said before that I’m a total newbie when it comes to photography. Part of my job is to coordinate MPEX’s classes, and I’ve already learned more than I’d ever known about photography. At least, I know more about how a camera works, and the sorts of things you have to take into consideration when snapping a photo.

However, there are other challenges besides ones that are technical in nature that always arise in photography. For a Photo Frosh like myself, those challenges can be as simple as: What the heck do I even take a picture of?

Lately, I’ve been trying to practice taking photos as much as possible. The best way to take better photos, as I’ve been told, is to practice, practice, practice. One day, I was sitting around, my Canon Rebel T3 equipped with a EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Type II lens in hand, wanting to take some pictures. The problem was that I was seriously have problems finding anything to shoot.

A few days ago I read this article at LightStalking about going on a “local photo safari” and finding interesting subjects to shoot even when you’ve lived somewhere for years and you may think there’s nothing left to capture.

The idea is to make photos happen. As the author states in the article:

Consider this for a moment. The world around us changes not just on a daily basis, but minute by minute. The sun moves, the clouds gather, your organized neighbor THROWS his yellow hose onto its holder rather than coiling it because he’s in a hurry.

I’d highly suggest reading the article for some good tips on how to make photos happen, with visual examples.

This made me try to think a bit creatively with what I had at home.

There wasn’t a whole lot of subject matter in my empty apartment, if you can believe it or not. I didn’t have any people to photograph, and that was severely limiting what I could do with my camera. However, I did have a stuffed animal.

I tried to photograph the bear in a few different ways. The problem was making the subject seem dynamic, especially without any studio lighting. Then I noticed the halo effect the ceiling light was creating, so I held the subject up to the light with one hand and snapped this photo with the other hand. It ended up being a pretty cool photo!

Later, I went outside. I’ve been to Schiller Park a bunch of times already. It was a nice night and a lot of people were out for a free showing of The Complete Work of Shakespeare (Abridged) but, as a new photographer, I was too timid to ask to take anyone’s picture (something that I’m trying to get over). That didn’t leave a whole lot for me to work with. However, there was the statue of Friedrich Shchiller who was already conveniently striking a pose.

I wasn’t too thrilled with this first photo. It was too far away, and it made Schiller look too much like a shadow. So I started walking around him, snapping photos like an oddball tourist obsessed with a somewhat minor German poet.

This was better, but I wanted the light to be a little more dynamic.

This is where learning about camera settings from our Basic DSLR class came in handy.

From these three photos, I had something cool to work with. They gradually became more dramatic. Then I tried a different angle and got in closer—

—and ended up with a pretty cool shot!

It’s also important to look not just for the obvious dramatics, but to keep your eye down, to be looking everywhere.

It was getting dark and I was on my back to my car when I noticed this cool little chalk drawing on the ground. I just really liked the message, so I snapped a quick pic. It was a good subject for a photo, I think, but because I was in a rush and because the light wasn’t the best, I didn’t get a good photo.

That’s OK! I’ve also learned that you can do a lot in post.

Join me next time, when I’ll hopefully have another person to photograph!

Midwest Photo

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