Wednesday, April 30, 2014

25 Photography Subject Ideas To Get You Out Of That Rut

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut. Sometimes you are uninspired. It happens to everyone. When this has happened to me I've found that the best way to get out of that rut is to grab a camera and force myself to photograph something. Anything. It doesn't take long before those creative juices start flowing again.

It doesn't really matter what you photograph. It doesn't really matter what camera you use to capture it. Photographic vision and creativity are most important.

I've compiled a list of ordinary things that are almost certainly found in your home, yard, neighborhood or town. This is a great starting point for getting unstuck. Pick one or more of the subjects below that jump out at you and see what you can create.

Color Lamp Abstract - Bakersfield, California
Red Lamp - Anaheim, California
Photographing lamps and lampshades can be both interesting and challenging. You are typically dealing with tons of contrast and a bright light source that can throw your camera for a loop. Getting the white balance correct can sometimes be tricky.

What you can achieve with this subject are images that jump out at the viewer. Often these images are abstract in nature. This really is an underrated (and under-photographed) subject.

Floor Lines - Scottsdale, Arizona
Window Shadow - Victorville, California
Where there's light there are shadows. Sometimes photographers despise shadows. Or, at least, they try to minimize the amount of shadows in their photographs. But shadows are great. They play a vital role in contrast.

Shadows can even be a photography subject. Shadows can have unusual shapes or add much-needed interest to what might otherwise be a boring scene. Whenever there is a bright-light source, I often look around to see if there are any fascinating shadows on the floor or against a wall. 

Peg Board - Goodyear, Arizona
Two Wrenches - Hesperia, California
Everyone has tools. Some tools are old and have wear that gives them character. Sometimes the way that tools are stored or left out is interesting. There are tools that have unusual shapes.

Tools sometimes have good contrast because of reflective metal bodies and dark handles. Look for designs that occur naturally or randomly.

Nuts & Bolts
Washer And Nut - Tehachapi, California
Winged Nut - Hesperia, California
I put nuts and bolts into a separate category from tools because they are most often found in different circumstances. Nuts and bolts are often found holding stuff together. While it may seems that most nuts and bolts look identical, the surroundings that they are found in are often different.

The challenge here is to create photographs that don't look alike. Look for nuts and bolts in different places with different lighting and surrounded by different textures. Look for some that are in groups. Look for some where age and wear have given character. 

Four Jarritos - San Diego, California
Two Cups of Water - Big Bear Lake, California
Water is essential to life. People must stay hydrated. Yet what we drink is often far from boring. We drink things that are hot. We drink things that are ice cold. Sometimes what we drink is colorful.

Most likely you could open up your refrigerator right now and find several drinks worthy of a photograph. Look for contrast. Look for vibrant colors. 

The Beauty Of Change - Tehachapi, California
Three Green Leaves - Tehachapi, California
When people think about photographing leaves they most often think of autumn. Yes, autumn is a great time to photograph leaves because of the changing colors, but leaves can be photographed anytime of the year. Even in the winter months (dead leaves can be metaphoric).

Leaves are often most interesting when they are back-lit. This allows the viewer to clearly see the fine details and it also makes the colors more vibrant. 

Salute To Freedom - Tehachapi, California
Evening Hall - Stallion Springs, California
A subject that I find interesting is toys. I like to photograph toys in situations that make them look alive. This could require constructing scenes.

I've photographed plastic army men and I made it look like war scenes. I've photographed Legos in a photojournalism-like fashion. There are a whole bunch of different kid toys that could be photographed similarly. 

Flower Star - Stallion Springs, California
Two Poppy Flowers - Stallion Springs, California
Flowers are a popular photography subject and it is easy to see why. They are often vibrant and with interesting designs. The best part of photographing flowers is that you don't usually have to go far to find them. In fact, you may have some around your house right now.

Similar to photographing leaves, flowers often look good back-lit. Pay attention to contrast, especially color contrast.

Telephone & Power Lines
Wires, Clouds - Tehachapi, California
Wired Ears - Tehachapi, California
In most neighborhoods and in most towns, strung high above the roads are telephone and power lines. Sometimes it seems as if these wires are in the way of photography. It is very easy to overlook these as a photography subject.

If you pay close enough attention you'll notice that wires and poles come in different sizes, and (in the case of poles) different designs. There is a surprising large variety to help keep this subject interesting. 

American Flag - Palmdale, California
Star Spangled Banner - Tehachapi, California
People like to display flags. They can be found all over the place. There are national flags, state flags, club flags, sports flags, etc.

Flags are most interesting on windy days. You can use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion or a slow shutter speed to show the motion.

Picket Fence And Wall - Tehachapi, California
Fence, Storm - Stallion Springs, California
Many properties are fenced. Fences can be made from a variety of materials. They can also be metaphoric (barriers to something). There is a lot of potential with this subject.

Old fences tell a different story than new fences. Look for interesting lighting or clever situations. 

One Tree - Tehachapi, California
Oak Tree In Fog #4 - Stallion Springs, California
Unless you live in a barren desert, there are likely many trees near you right now. There's a huge variety of trees with many different shapes and colors. Trees often look different with each season.

I like to isolate trees from the scene around. Foggy days are particularly useful for this. Photographing back-lit trees is another great way to capture them.

The End - Rosamond, California
Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
Signs can be found along roads or on buildings, and they are all over the place. Some signs are particularly interesting because of age, graffiti or juxtaposition.

An interesting way to approach this subject might be to capture signs in such a way that it gives a message that is different than the intended one.

Gathering Cherry Pollen #2 - Stallion Springs, California
Gathering Pollen - Tehachapi, California
Bees are most active in the spring, but they can be found most of the year if you look hard enough. If there are blossomed flowers, likely at least one bee is buzzing around. While honey bees are most common, there are actually many different types of bees that you might encounter.

The trick to capturing bees is to be ready. Anticipate where a bee might land next. Have the camera ready and wait for the bee to enter the scene. Bees don't stay still long, so you have to act quickly.

As The Crow Flies - Tehachapi, California
Valley Flight - Stallion Springs, California
Birds add action to what might otherwise be an uninteresting scene. Birds come in many different sizes and colors. Some like to soar high and some like to hide in trees and bushes. Some like to be alone while others like to be in large groups.

A good time to photograph birds is in the spring and fall when they are migrating. Not only will you see more birds during those seasons, you'll see types that aren't typically around during the other months.

The Silver Lining - Tehachapi, California
Clearing Sky - Tehachapi, California
I like to include clouds in my landscapes, but sometimes the clouds themselves make a good subject. Sometimes what is going on in the sky is more interesting than what is going on below.

Partly or mostly cloudy skies are best for this subject. Look for where the sun is trying to peek through.

Half Moon - Stallion Springs, California
Moon Over Silver Queen Mine - Mojave, California
Every night you have the opportunity to photograph the moon. Sometimes the moon shows up during the day, as well. 

There are many challenges to photographing the moon. First, it is so far away that it may require equipment that you don't have. Next, it has been photographed over and over and over, so making an original image can be difficult. Third, the moon often appears in lighting situations that less-than-ideal for photography. Yet this challenge can lead to rewarding photographs. 

A Light In The Dark - Tehachapi, California
Sunset Through The Oak Trees - Stallion Springs, California
From dawn to dusk, unless it's an overcast day, you have the opportunity to photograph the sun. The most common time to capture the sun is at sunrise and sunset (and it is easy to see why), but the sun can be photographed anytime of the day.

Because the sun is so bright it can be difficult to photograph. Digital cameras especially struggle with it. This is another challenging yet rewarding subject.

Horse At Fence - Onyx, California
Horse In The Rain - Tehachapi, California
Horses may seem like an unusual subject to place on this list. After all, the number of people reading this that own horses is probably small. But a drive through the countryside will likely reveal photographic opportunities involving horses.

In my experience horses are friendly animals that like to greet you at the fence. Obviously don't trespass and always be careful.

Hoping For Life - Tehachapi, California
Yearning For Life - Tehachapi, California
In store windows in small towns and in big cities you will find manikins displaying clothes for sale. Manikins make for an interesting photographic subject because they are lifelike, yet without life (it's metaphoric).

If you like street photography but are afraid to photograph strangers, this may be a good subject for you to try. It may even lead to other photographic opportunities. 

Thunderbird - Tehachapi, California
Classic Lines And Shapes - Mojave, California
Classic cars, sports cars, motorcycles and any unusual cars make good photography subjects. Typically you'll find interesting lines and shapes. There are details that can be isolated in an image.

A walk downtown or a visit to a car show or automobile museum will reveal countless opportunities to create images. The biggest challenge with this subject is reflections, which can either make or break a photograph.

Mountain Road - Tehachapi, California
Foggy Mountain Road - Tehachapi, California
You drive on roads every day. They go all over the place--through valleys, over mountains, across the desert, through the country, into cities. Why not photograph them? 

Curvy roads are especially good photography subjects. Use the center lines or edges as leading lines.

Brownie Target Six-20 - Stallion Springs, California
Even Uneven - Stallion Springs, California
A lot of photographers collect equipment. This could be the subject of your photography. Even if you don't own a bunch of old cameras, you can find used film cameras for next to nothing if you look around (eBay is especially good for this).

I personally like photographing cameras as if they are in use--as if a photographer is actually using the camera. I think this is a lot more interesting than still-life type images of cameras.

Pathway To The Soul - Tehachapi, California
Ghost Garage Redlands, California
Self-portraits can be a challenging and rewarding subject. I personally don't like being in front of the camera, so photographing myself was a growing experience. I had to learn to like myself in order to like the photographs of myself.

The hardest part of this subject is that you have to be both the photographer and the model at the same time. You have to be in two places at once, doing two different jobs simultaneously. 

Your Family
Inorganic Boy - Palmdale, California
Over There Is A Better Angle - Stallion Springs, California
An obvious photography subject is your family. This could be your parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse or children.

Likely you already have a number of photographs of your family. But what I'm talking about here is beyond snapshots. Try creating some real works of art using your family as the subject. You'll have images that are not only great, but that will be cherished for many, many years to come.