by Kelly Garvey
One of the things I love about photography is that each individual photographer has their own style, vision and “eye” for how they want to execute a shot. There are tons of different variations, perspectives, angles and compositions you can achieve with one shot. I learned this very quickly back when I took Sarah Wilkerson‘s Shooting 301: Composition and Creativity workshop. None of us interpreted the assignments exactly the same and we all had our own spin. The class pushed us to be creative and step out of our safe zone. It was fun to see everyone’s assignments from week to week, all the creativity, variation & ideas. It was also awesome to hear feedback and critique because sometimes it turned into an a-ha moment. Here are a couple images I took in Sarah’s Composition & Creativity workshop that ran May 2011.
Because everyone varies so much on how they interpret and see things, it’s fun to go shooting with a friend and see how your images of the same subject can vary so greatly. From the lens choice, lighting angle to the composition, perspective, etc. there are so many variables to take into account so you can achieve the result you want.
When you shoot, think about the intended result you want the viewer to be able to read. Are you trying to create a pretty shot you can frame in your house, tell a story, highlight a particular time in your subject’s life, be creative, capture your subject in action, create dramatic lighting, make your viewer feel a certain way (happy, emotional, uncomfortable)? Try to take your result into account when you’re shooting.
Sometimes you compose your shot to tell a story. In this image below, I wanted to use it to document a particular time in my life. I wanted to remember that I had to go to the doctor every week for months and that each time my son was with me. Almost every visit my mom came to help watch Garrett and to be with me because she was excited and wanted to be there. I wanted to capture that moment so that one day (when he is old enough) I can show the baby their excitement through pictures. I composed the shot to include as much context as possible. If I cropped in more, it wouldn’t have told the story I wanted it to because without all the context it wouldn’t have had the same meaning.
Here’s another example. My goal was to include as much context as possible here, too. I want to put it in his 3 year book so he can remember the time when we painted for three days straight together.
Sometimes you don’t care about context or telling a story and you compose your shot for a different purpose or sometimes purely for aesthetics. In Sarah’s workshop, we all had to pick a series of shots and compose the shots in 3 different ways. It really got our creative juices flowing. It was fun and easier and more natural as the weeks went on. This is an activity you can also do on your own.
As you can see from my examples of the snapshots I took of my son, a lot of times the lens you choose helps to achieve your intended result. If you don’t have multiple lenses to switch out, don’t worry – you can still change your positioning, location from the subject, etc. to capture the kind of images you want.
Remember not to be too hard on yourself when you’re in a rut or having trouble composing shots the way you want and just keep shooting. Eventually you will get out of it and good things will happen! It is great to challenge yourself to be better, but just don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t quit! I notice the times when I am hardest on myself are the times when I struggle the most creatively.
Here are some other ways you can force yourself to think differently when in a rut:
- take a class/workshop (Clickin Moms has a ton of awesome classes to chose from)
- go location scouting for a new place
- change lenses
- change your distance from the subject
- focus on a small detail
- stand up and get over the subject (or make some other shift in position). changes in perspective make for neat shots.
- take several shots in a row of the same subject and challenge yourself to change your composition each time.
- while still being YOU, get inspired by studying the work of photographers you love & admire
- focus on one skill for a day, week, month (work at your own pace).
- do a 365 project. shooting everyday is an awesome habit to get into because it forces you to constantly practice, think of new ideas and change it up.
- find ways to frame your subject in your shot
- participate in a project or challenge (there are always opportunities on Clickin Moms. check out “the way I view” monthly project to see if that is up your alley or just go to the creativity exercises or challenges and games board to see what is going on).
- stop to think about what you want to convey, then take the whole frame into account before snapping
- go shooting with a friend. pick a subject (the same for both of you) and compare images
- ask questions or post your images on the critique forum to get feedback
- challenge yourself to use and see light in different ways
- if your kids are hard to photograph, scout out a fun and cooperative subject you are excited about to help get out of a rut
I challenge you to step out of your usual niche; change it up and force yourself to compose shots in ways that are a little out of your ordinary!
Kelly Garvey is a natural light photographer in Houston, TX. She prefers a candid, natural, relaxed approached over the classic “portrait session” and loves photographing real connections and emotions wherever she can find them: kids, families, weddings, engagement, newborns, you name it. Though always loving photography by growing up in a house with a photographer dad and a job in the fashion industry, it wasn’t until her son was born in 2008 that she acted on her interest, found her style and pursued photography as a career. She’s due in March with another boy and can’t wait to have a new subject to photograph!
Do you have an interest in CM’s Composition & Creativity workshop? This highly demanded workshop will begin March 26th but sold out within 30 minutes of registration opening. If you’d like to be the first to know when the next run will be make sure to sign up for the CM newsletter (right over there in the top right hand column —>) and you’ll receive an email when registration opens for the next class.