One of the things I think is really important for anyone interested in photography is getting out of their comfort zone. What I mean by that is that everyone has a favorite subject matter that they are comfortable shooting and shoot all the time and that is great, as you can tell by most of the images on this site mine is sports. I love getting out and shooting people having fun on their bikes, in the ocean or out on the trails. But if that is all you photograph then you will start to get bored and burnt out because all your images will start to look the same.
You can get out of your comfort zone in a couple of different ways, if you are still developing your portfolio and style, then I would recommend that you keep shooting what you love, but limit yourself to the equipment that you use. If for example you always shoot portraits of people with a zoom lens, then dust off a prime lens and limit yourself in your next shoot to only use that lens or if you shoot outside, then try either shooting inside with lights or take a light outside and experiment with controlling the light outside.
But if you are like me and you have played with all your different lens combinations and done lots of different lighting scenarios within your favorite subject, then a really good way to break out of that comfort zone is to take on a new subject. This will do two things for you, one it will widen your portfolio but more importantly it will make you learn new techniques and make you think about photography in a different way.
I recently agreed to help out a friend’s wife who is starting up a house dressing business doing the photography for some the houses she is staging for sale. Though I have done a bit of interior photography in the past for travel, this was the first time I was going to shoot rooms specifically for a project and not as part of a wider story. To prepare for the shoot, I jumped online and searched out articles on how to best shoot interiors. I knew some of the basics like when shooting with a wide angle lens keep the camera level to prevent distortion and use ambient light as much as possible so shoot on a tripod and expose for interior lights when shooting at night or if you want to show the scene outside, expose for outside and light interior to match outdoor light. Those tips that I picked up helped me a little, but it still didn’t prepare me for all the challenges I faced on the day of the shoot. Like how to best show off a small room without getting reflections off the windows of my lights and how to bounce the light off the ceiling to create realistic shadows. Here are a few of the images that I got from that shoot and also a few from a lodge that I shot for a travel magazine soon after…..
After these shoots, I found that some of the tricks I was forced to come up with in an unfamiliar settings have come in useful when shooting sports. Especially how to hide the lights and make shadows look realistic.
So if you find yourself in a bit of rut or you feel like your images are all looking the same, try out a new technique or have a play with a different subject matter to see what you can learn from that experience and apply it back to your preferred subject matter.