Beautiful Ugly

“We are not interested in the unusual, but in the usual seen unusually.” – Beaumont Newhall

You know your camera inside and out.  You achieve perfect sharpness, perfect color, perfect exposure 100% of the time … and that makes you a brilliant technician.  All you need now is a beautiful subject, and you automatically have a beautiful, captivating photograph – right?  But what does it take to be an artist?  Part of it is developing the kind of eye that can recognize the potential for an ordinary object to become something extraordinary within the viewfinder.  Let’s take that creative visualization a bit further.  Let’s go beyond the mundane…

This month, your challenge is to photograph a subject or scene traditionally considered ugly, unappealing, undesirable, or even downright repulsive … and capture it in a way that draws us in.  It could be a dumpster, a dirty sink, a toilet, tangled cords, clutter, litter, something damaged, cracking, rusting, stained, ripped, frayed, broken, decaying … you get the idea.  I’m talking about the kind of stuff you typically AVOID including the in the frame because it would detract from your subject.  In this case, I want you to make it your subject.  How can you make it beautiful or interesting?  Is it about changing up your physical perspective?  Working with a different lens?  Using light creatively?  Emphasizing color, lines, or texture?  Converting it to black and white or otherwise processing it creatively?  Let’s see what you’ve got!


Tami G

Jessica Harms

Celeste Jones


Justine Knight

Jessica Nelson

Megan Dill

What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!

And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Visit the forum where Sarah has posted the next challenge. We’d love to see your work!

Sign up for a risk-free membership!

About the Author:

Sarah Wilkerson is the CEO of Click & Company and also provides mentoring services, teaches advanced Click Photo School courses on composition & creativity, and authors the “Why It Works” series in CLICK magazine. She specializes in low light photography, everyday documentary, and tilt-shift work. A former attorney and Duke graduate, Sarah resides in northern Virginia with her Army JAG husband, four children, and three dogs.


  1. Holly Thompson Jul 05 2012 at 6:55 am - Reply

    What incredible images! Some give me shivers, but all inspire me to look at the uglier bits of life with more creativity. Great challenge! Congrats to the featured photographers!!!

  2. Melissa Jul 05 2012 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Beautiful! Some give me the willies, but I'm amazed how how lovely AND ugly they are at the same time. 🙂

  3. Lacey Jul 05 2012 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Awesome!! Wonderful job, ladies!

  4. KimGL Jul 05 2012 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Love these – what a fun challenge, beautifully done ladies!!

  5. Lacey B. Jul 05 2012 at 9:39 am - Reply

    These are great! Wonderful job ladies!

  6. Margy Jul 05 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Congratulations! Highly impressive work.

  7. Mary W Jul 05 2012 at 11:01 am - Reply

    What wonderful images! I feel challenged now to go seek out beauty in those things we typically call ugly!

  8. Michelle Judd Jul 05 2012 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Wow! Some of these images made me instinctively turn away but I couldn't help but take a second look. Great job! Very creative!

  9. Kristin Jul 05 2012 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Wow these are some great shots!! I really enjoyed watching that thread – there were some awesome entries!

  10. Amanda G Jul 05 2012 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Those are some amazing photographs. So much beauty in life even if we don't see it at first.

  11. Julie Jul 05 2012 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I love the mood of these photos and the texture in them. It makes me want to be really creative:)

  12. celeste jones Jul 05 2012 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Great eye ladies!

  13. Chris Jul 05 2012 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Great shots so creative!

  14. teresa Jul 05 2012 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    fantastic images!

  15. Lisa Parnell Jul 05 2012 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    What fun! I should do this.

  16. Jessica Jul 05 2012 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    These are all so intriguing–great work!

  17. Katy Laulo Jul 05 2012 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Loved all of these. Good job everyone!

  18. Natalie Jul 05 2012 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Very interesting! Some were hard to look at but I love looking at them in a different way.

  19. Davina Gruenstein Jul 06 2012 at 12:24 am - Reply

    What a creative challenge! Some of the images made me gulp, for sure. But I am inspired to work harder to view unpleasant things differently.

  20. Tori L. Jul 06 2012 at 4:46 am - Reply

    These are all so fantastic!! Loved them! great job everyone!

  21. Rachel Dale Jul 06 2012 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Just beautiful! You gals did great 🙂

  22. Brandilynn2012 Jul 06 2012 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Love the macro inspiration! I must get myself a macro lens!

  23. Emily Jul 06 2012 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    The images are fantastic! I have to say that the mouse photo may give me nightmares though! 😉

  24. Angie Jul 06 2012 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    Great shots! I love and hate the mouse picture.

  25. Jamie Rubeis | Las V Jul 07 2012 at 6:43 am - Reply

    These are all so amazing. I really like the hose and the pepper.

  26. Marissa Nicole Jul 07 2012 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    awesome. great lesson in looking beyond what appeals to the eye.

  27. jerilynn Jul 08 2012 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    what a great excercise!

  28. Lisa (Tout Petit Pix Jul 09 2012 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Fantastic! I feel so inspired! Amazing work ladies!

  29. Laura S Jul 09 2012 at 5:32 am - Reply

    These are awesome!

  30. Lisa Joy Jul 09 2012 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I think it's great to be challenged to see the world from a different perspective! Amazing work ladies!

  31. Angie Jul 11 2012 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Love that the scavenger hunt has brought me over to the blog:) I've never participated in the creativity exercises-now I think I'll check it out.

  32. Ayca Jul 12 2012 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Those were all so cool! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  33. Marsha Jul 13 2012 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    amazing work ladies and a wonderfully creative challenge CM!

  34. Allison Jul 13 2012 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Those images are amazing especially the macro ones!! I think this is a great way to stretch our photo skills and to start thinking outside of the box. Found a new project to shoot!!

  35. valerie Jul 14 2012 at 8:15 am - Reply

    i loved looking through these!!! so gross and beautiful!!

  36. Krisanne Jul 14 2012 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Fantastic challenge, and these images are amazing!

  37. Anita Martin Jul 14 2012 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    WOW these are incredible. I love them all. It takes a special talent to see beauty in the ugly, and these are amazing.

  38. Jenna Jul 16 2012 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Wow!! I love macro and I love when people can take beautiful pics of things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Awesome job by all of the photographers.

  39. Jessica W Jul 17 2012 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    Wow! I found the dead mouse most gorgeous. Who would have thought!

  40. lisaanacker Jul 18 2012 at 2:48 am - Reply

    So many great photos! Nice job everyone!

  41. Amanda Harper Jul 18 2012 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Oh my goodness! Those are some really amazing shots! Funny the rat one was my favorite, i mean ewwww! But it was really an amazing shot.

  42. kayla Jul 18 2012 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Wow, fantastic and interesting images!

  43. Jaime Profeta Jul 18 2012 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Beautiful images ladies!!! This was an amazing exercise to participate in, and it’s something I’ve still been thinking about nearly a month later. It really makes you think outside the box and appreciate that there is beauty all around us!

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