5 Ways to Truly Explore a Single Photographic Subject


When you start to get serious about photography, something becomes very apparent to you – that getting different effects while photographing the same subject doesn't need to be particularly difficult. It is actually quite easy to render totally different effects on a single subject using a few tried and tested tactics. What you will come to realise is the variety of outcomes that can come from that single object is quite remarkable.

Move the Camera – This is the easy one. In fact, a good habit to get into when you're starting in photography is to look for different framing options when you're composing your shots. The easiest way to do that is to simply tilt the camera up and then down so you can judge what to include in your shot. Often an uninspiring shot can be made remarkable in different ways such as changing it to a negative space composition or removing distracting background elements. Your skill at composition is the only thing holding you back with this simple tactic!

Move Your Feet – Similar to the tip above, walking around a subject offers an infinite amount of differing angles so check them out! Often with great zoom lenses and technology it can be easy to forget that the tools we were born with are actually our greatest assets in creating great images. In moving around, we have absolute control over the background of almost any image as well as the angle of light. These elements have a massive effect on the outcome of an image so use them to your advantage!

Change the Light – Crafting light is what we do as photographers and there are a lot of different ways to control it. Bouncing light off walls, using a reflector, improvising a reflector, using a strobe – there are so many ways to do this, so with a little preparation it is possible to get very different effects on a single photographic subject.

Wait for the Light to Change – While it's not always possible, simply coming back to a place at a different time of day will result in vastly different photographic images due to the changed quality of light. Photographers favour the golden hour in outdoor photography, but as you can see from Tom Dinning's series on shooting at different times of day, there are great effects to be had whenever you shoot. (What's Your Time of Day Part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Image by paul bica

Change the Texture – Now the standard photographic example for this is changing the texture of water from sharp to blurry by going from a fast shutter speed to a slow one (and that is a great example of a fun effect). But there are a lot of other ways to change a scene by altering the textures within it and a multitude of scenarios in which you can do this. The length of grass on a field will change the texture of the image. The type of fabric worn by a model. Even limiting depth of field can add certain textured looks to the background of an image depending on what the background actually is. And of course, texture can be affected by ISO settings with the higher settings leading to a grainier look.

* Shells * by pareeerica, on Flickr

Now this is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to explore a subject. The real list is almost endless. These are just a few ways to get you thinking of different ways to approach a subject. Feel free to list more ways in the comments!

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

“Move Your Feet” is a good approach and will often give you a different and even better perspective than just using a zoom lens. That said there are times when moving your feet is not an option due to the location (natural or man made barriers) or the subject (wildlife). When you cannot physically get closer to (or in some cases further from) your subject, by all means take advantage of the technology you have at hand. Zooming in tends to emphasize the subject (the “Shells” photo)while zooming out or using a wide angle lens tends to bring more context (the two swimmers in a vast waterscape). Both can be very effective and I often will try both approaches with the same subject; and, although the results are not always equally pleasing it certainly does not hurt to try!

Very interesting subject, very clever! Waiting for the light to change, in my opinion, makes for the more interesting change. Morning shots, afternoon shots and evening shots can make one location seem drastically different.

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