5 Ways to Hit Refresh on Your Photos by Koren Smith
Right now is about the time when I start hitting a wall in terms of creativity. This is the point of quarantine where literally EVERYTHING looks and feels the same. It's hard to feel inspired when the same boring walls I've seen all year long start to mock me.
I mean it, I'm pretty sure I heard one wall laugh at me the other day when it blocked my perfect view while photographing my kiddos...
When I've reached this point of boredom-induced delirium in life, I know it's time to start trying something new. I wanted to share what has worked for me just in case you also need to teach your walls a lesson.
1. Find a New Perspective
This feels like a pretty basic tip, but it's really easy to overlook. I know I have the capability of getting super caught up in my idea. I tend to get tunnel vision where I never seem to think to switch up the view. Instead, I'll get frustrated and give up. So if you feel like I'm speaking to you, then I'll repeat it, TRY A NEW PERSPECTIVE.
Get on a different level. Be upside down, on the floor, perched on the couch... on the ceiling? Look through objects, distort your view. Do whatever you can to change your perspective!
In this first image, I wanted to take a photo of my daughter petting our dog Red. This perspective is not great. Her hand is blocking his face, and there are tons of distractions in the frame. Now I could just go to the other side and maybe get a "cleaner" image. Instead, I decided to completely switch my perspective from straight on to an overhead view.
This perspective is so much better and gives a more intimate look at what's going on. Not only did it create space for a whole other subject to join in the frame, but I also got an adorable moment of my daughter "holding hands" with our dog.
Switch it up! Even if you think you already got the perfect image, it takes nothing from you to try a new perspective.
2. Get Abstract
Abstracting an image can be anything. Trying a new lens technique, going out of focus on purpose (whhhhaaaat?!), or even switching up how you crop an image. "Abstract" doesn't have to be about breaking the rules, though it totally can be!!! It's about doing something out of your ordinary.
Lensbaby Trio 28 | 1/40 | 100 ISO | Sony A7RIII
For instance, this image is totally out of my ordinary. First and foremost, I'm not a traditional still-life photographer by any means, so this was already a bit of abstraction from my norm. It also has a double-image thing going on. This is created by using my Lensbaby Trio 28 and adding a pop of brilliant color using an Omni crystal. It was fun and forced me to use my brain in a way that was so out of my comfort zone, and I LOVED IT.
35mm | 1/640 | f5 | 100 ISO | Sony A7RIII
"...you don't have to become the next Picasso."
In this image, I use the sun flare to block out my friend's face. It's weird and goofy, which brings me to a fundamental note— it's okay to take photos that don't work. Remember this about breaking out of a creative rut; you don't have to become the next Picasso. Be brave, make mistakes, and fall in love with your work all over again.
3. Find a Visual Hook
A good image always has an element that draws the viewer in. Even a simple portrait can create a bond connecting the subject and onlooker—a visual hook. Create a narrative around your photo and think of it from another perspective. The "hook" can be a common theme someone else can recognize; a few of my favorite themes to use are color, repetition, mimicry, or opposition. It doesn't matter which theme you use, so long as it contributes to your story.
35mm | 4 sec | f4.5 | 160 ISO | Sony A7RIII
In this image, my connecting theme was color. It was a slow shutter image where I quickly changed my clothes to match my environment. This is an excellent example of how you can have several elements in an image working together to create a powerful response.
Lensbaby Trio 28 | 1/1600 | 100 ISO | Sony A7RIII
Here, my theme was empty spaces. I balanced the image to frame my daughter, creating a rather eerie-looking image. I want to drive home this idea: it's not about perfection; it's about having fun! You can't have both without luck or lots of practice. (in my case, it's both— ha!)
Try Out The Trio 28 Lens Koren Uses In Her Photos
4. Tell a Shadow Story
Are you looking for a way not only to push yourself creatively but make your brain work overtime? Try to tell a story with shadows. It sounds a lot easier than it is. It takes patience, some micro composing, and a quick execution time for those using natural light because of the shifting sun.
Lensbaby Trio 28 | 1/50 | 320 ISO | Sony A7RIII
Instead of setting up my tripod to capture a portrait of us, I chose to include myself by shadow. I think the reason this works is because of how my daughter fills the foreground. You can see she's eating and make the connection to what my shadow is doing. Without her, it would be a lot less clear. I had seconds to take this image, working with the quickly fading winter light and a child that is faster than a cheetah on the hunt.
4mm | 1/459 | f/1.7 | 50 ISO | Samsung Galaxy S8+
5. Forget the People
My favorite thing to photograph is found still life.
[This refers to documentary photography of still objects]
I enjoy finding life where it happens and capturing it without any interference. It's a fun way to capture life as is, authentically and honestly.
Lensbaby Trio 28 | 1/500 | 100 ISO | Sony A7RIII
Documented here is our homeschool teatime hour. It's a time for our family to come together, read stories and enjoy each other's company. The big red heart in the middle was my daughter's way of decorating for the Alice in Wonderland book we were reading; for me, it represents the love and joy I feel for this time with my kids. It's a messy and silly time that deserved space on my feed and in my photo album.
35mm | 1/640 | f/4 | 125 ISO | Sony A7RIII
Taken in my grandmother-in-law's house, this shot is all about documenting another beloved person's space. The light and colors here are lovely, but I love how much it tells me about this person. Part of the charm of found still life is finding a way to soak up another person's essence without that person being in the frame. I have a few personal projects based on this idea, altogether, they are some of my favorite images. I want to capture a full story of the people that mean so much to me by showing context. Stories are not just characters but the spaces in between. I hope to leave this collection of stories for future generations to get a true sense of the person.
These are just a few tips to help you hit refresh on your creative photo ideas. Anyone can follow this method at any level with any gear. I hope that you can find inspiration and break out of any creative ruts!
Koren Smith has a deep love for all things storytelling. Through marriage, motherhood, and everyday struggles, she makes an effort to photograph the magic found in the minor details of the everyday. In her rare moments without a camera, you'll likely find a stylist in her hand drawing these photographs within the world of her own creation.Instagram