“Only boring people get bored.”
My whole life I’ve been afraid of being bored (or boring for that matter) because of these words. My mom’s response anytime my sister or I would whine the dreaded phrase, “I’M BOOOORED!”
So when I started my 365 project at the beginning of this year, that’s the one thing I wanted to accomplish: to take at least one photo a day that wasn’t boring to me. The last part of that sentence is very important. “To me.”
Not every photo is going to please every person. What’s boring to me, may be exceptional to you. A photo that’s exciting to me, may put you to sleep just by looking at it. I constantly need to remind myself of that. So in my daily shooting journey this year, I’ve discovered a few tricks that have helped me accomplish my goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken plenty of boring… ahem… uninteresting, photos this year, and I’m actually going to share those with you, too! Because when I take those types of shots, it helps me reassess and think through what I need to do to get a shot that I’m happy with. I know I’ll eventually find it. That one angle, that one detail or that new perspective I’ve never seen before. Those are the things that make my heart sing and that make me want to pick up my camera again and again. So here you go! Five tips to help kick BORING to the curb!!
1. Emotion, humor
This is a big one for me. And this might also be why I never seem to like the traditional portraits I take of my kids. When I can add an element of emotion (and for me, nine times out of ten that emotion is humor) to an image, it is immediately transformed from what might otherwise be a boring photo.
My kids (and I’m sure most of yours, too) are just naturally funny. I try to pay close attention to what they’re doing and I can usually gauge when they’re going to do something that will elicit lots of emotion.
But every now and then, I will “set up” a situation where I know they won’t be able to resist big laughs. I once had a burp contest with my five year old while taking pictures. I almost puked (literally) but the genuine emotion and laughs I was able to capture of him are so special to me!
BORING – Cute kid with a water hose.
NOT BORING! – Cute kid soaking his brother right in the face with a water hose! And the top of that toddler tush peeking into the frame just adds to the humor element.
BORING – Kid caught a fish
NOT BORING! – Interested and slightly disgusted baby brother trying to figure out what that slimy thing is! Poor fish got photobombed!
BORING – Kid hanging out of truck.
NOT BORING! – I told him my camera was a gun and that I would try to shoot him when he popped up from the back of the truck (sorry, total boy mom here). I loved the expressions and emotion I got each time he popped up and I “shot” him. Also, moving him to the bed of the truck and closer to the source of light (the sun outside) helped me eliminate distractions in the garage (I did also bring down the shadows a bit in post processing). With the distractions gone, the only focus is his precious emotion!
BORING! – Kid batting at a t-ball game.
NOT BORING! – I caught his victory dance after he ran home and scored! I liked that I was able to shoot from behind so it looks like he is addressing the adoring crowd.
BORING! – Cute kids eating lunch.
NOT BORING! – I mean, isn’t this really what lunch looks like for a toddler?! Ha, ha! I love moments like this so much more. Not only do they make me giggle, but they truly convey the mood of what is going on. Food strike.
If I shot every image the same way (for example, squatted down and straight in front of my subject) I would be bored to tears and over photography in just a few days. Trying to find a new way to shoot something that is not in and of itself interesting is a fun challenge for me.
I try to find things to shoot through, I’ll stand on things, put my camera on the ground, etc. It doesn’t always work, but usually if I keep trying, I’ll find something refreshing!
BORING – Two kids playing on an obstacle course their dad made for them.
NOT BORING! – I pulled a branch down from the tree I was standing by and dangled directly in front of my camera. I kept shooting and rearranging it until I was able to capture just a bit of my son. Now it almost looks like he’s Tarzan swinging through the jungle!
BORING – Kid riding a bike. Truth be told, I was trying to get a shadow shot of him riding his bike (I’ll talk a bit more about shadows later), but it didn’t really work here for me.
BORING – Kid at science museum.
NOT BORING! – I caught my youngest son and husband checking out the scene through a hole in the railing. These two images are essentially the same, but by shooting through the rail, it brought an interesting new element to it.
BORING – Kid playing with poppers
NOT BORING! – Remember when I said I liked putting my camera on the ground!
BORING – Kids swimming in pool.
NOT BORING! – I put my camera on the ground by the edge of the pool and was able to catch my son as he popped up and down!
BORING – Cute kid with neat clouds.
NOT BORING! – I really wanted to emphasize the size of the gorgeous clouds, so after I shot a few frames, I knew I needed to back up even further to really capture the scale of how huge they were. I framed it to where there is just a little bit of my son included. The muscles were all his idea.
BORING – Kids playing in playroom.
NOT BORING! – I pulled up a chair (I actually had to clone a little bit of the chair legs out of the final image) and stood on my tippy toes to get this shot. To try to get directly over him, I literally shot as I was on my tippy toes and falling over on him, haha! My kids are so used to my crazy photo antics it doesn’t even phase them anymore. I would just fall down, get back up on the chair and try again. If you’re falling mid-photo, make sure you use a fast shutter speed
BORING – Kid playing basketball.
NOT BORING! – I had been standing on a chair (I lowered the goal to the lowest setting) and was getting some okay shots, but when I held my camera actually INSIDE the net, I loved those shots so much more. I had to be okay with some of the shots being out of foucs, since I couldn’t actually look through the viewfinder, but I actually ended up liking the ones where the focus fell on the net better.
BORING – Kid on monkey bars.
NOT BORING! – By only including my son’s hands and the top of his head and focusing more on the sky, it really gives the feeling of how difficult and daunting monkey bars can be for a young kid. This was actually the very first day he made it all the way across
3. Mystery in the details
I love a little bit of mystery in my photos. I add an element of mystery to my photos by including just a few details of the story and letting the viewer fill in the pieces. Most of the time, I try to keep this in mind while I’m shooting, but sometimes I’ll achieve this in post processing by cropping to help tell my story.
If I look back at the photos I’ve taken this year, I would say nearly 80% of them don’t include my kids faces. Faceless images make me think so much more when I look at them. My mind is trying to fill in the blanks, and images that put my mind to work like that are some of my favorite.
BORING – Kid falling in dunk tank.
NOT BORING! – Those hands trying to find their way out! Where is he? Is he okay? Is he laughing?
BORING! – Kid about to jump off the diving board.
NOT BORING! – I focused on his feet right before he jumped. I love the anticipation this photo gives and that little drop of water is just a bonus!
BORING – Kid eating gummy snacks with a funny hat.
NOT BORING! – Have I mentioned that I love, love love a good faceless image?! So much so that I have to remind people that I do think my kids are cute even though I hardly ever include their faces in my images! But this is where my love of mystery comes into play. Who is under this hat! What is he doing? Why is that hat so freaking big?!
BORING – Kid in tree.
NOT BORING! – You can tell there’s a kid in the tree by looking at the image. But I like making the viewer come up with that assumption on their own as opposed to giving them them the entire story right off the bat. And if it takes the viewer a minute to even realize there’s a person there, even better! As a viewer it’s almost as if you’ve solved the puzzle once you find the barely there subject!
BORING – Kid about to go on a train ride.
NOT BORING! – What an adventure! Where are those little hands going? I bet he is excited! Ambiguity in images is so much more fun for me.
Oh, do I love a good silhouette. I love that they can be taken at pretty much anytime during the day and they can really enhance the action. Just make sure you are exposing for the sky and you will be good to go! Look for places, like a hill, or on top of a playground where your subject, and what they are doing, will really stand out. It’s always easier to eliminate distractions by adjusting your shooting angle than eliminate them in post processing (however, I’m not above a large clone job for a great silhouette!). Gorgeous clouds make for great silhouettes, but don’t be afraid to try them when the sky is a blank canvas too. Simplicity can be oh, so good!
BORING – Kid on a dirt pile
NOT BORING! – Silhouette of kid being tossed on top of a dirt pile by his dad.
BORING – Dad and son on top of a mountain.
NOT BORING! – Silhouette of a dad and his two boys on top of a mountain.
BORING – Kids running around at t-ball practice.
NOT BORING! – Silhouette of kids packing up their things after t-ball practice. A silhouette here really enhances the dust too! Bonus!
BORING – Kids swinging
NOT BORING! – Silhouette of kids swinging. Same exact image as above, just with the exposure brought way down. This is one of those images, where I couldn’t remove all the distractions, so I did spend a good bit of time in post processing cleaning this up a bit.
BORING – Kid holding a long tube (I mean it really does not get more boring than this).
NOT BORING! – Expose for the gorgeous sky and I almost don’t even notice that long white tube anymore!
BORING – Kids playing in tall grass.
NOT BORING! – Silhouette of kids playing in tall grass.
BORING – Kid eating cupcake.
NOT BORING – Silhouette of kid eating cupcake and standing on a log. These images were seriously taken within minutes of each other. Isn’t it crazy how different they are? Experimenting with different angles and settings can make a world of a difference.
5. Flip it!
I shoot a lot of reflections and shadows. And a lot of times they are more interesting to me after I’ve flipped then. The image becomes less about the person and new life is brought to the shadow/reflection itself. And how easy is this trick?!
The thing to remember is sometimes it can be really hard to tell if a flipped image is going to work until it is already flipped. So I flip LOTS of pictures (just a click of a button in LR) to find ones that work for me. I’m actually just going to call these before and after because the unflipped version isn’t necessarily boring. It’s just that the added element of flipping it really kicks it up a notch!