How to Make the Mundane Look Good in Photography


We often think of photography in two ways, photographing things that are beautiful, or documenting reality, which is often the anthesis to beautiful. However it's quite possible and indeed very rewarding to try and make mundane, everyday scenes look beautiful. Today we are going to look at some ideas for elevating the mundane to the photogenic.

Work with the Light

Light is our raison d’être. A beautiful scene can look mundane in poor light, but conversely an everyday boring view can come alive in the right light. Of course the best times of day to bring an image alive are the golden and blue hours. Golden light casts long shadows and form and texture to everyday objects. In this example, the golden light of a sunset makes even this large oil tank look interesting.

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Good light gives form and texture, by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Good light gives us great reflections. Even a dreary puddle after rainfall can become a canvas for a beautiful reflection given the right light. Not all subjects benefit from sunlight. Sometimes a cloudy overcast scene can also help us bring out textures and form, as can be seen in the raindrops on the bonnet of this car.


Overcast light adds shape to these raindrops, by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Revisit your Neighbourhood

Most of us walk or drive through our neighbourhood without giving it a second glance. However, take some time to casually stroll through your neighbourhood and you will see all sorts of photographic opportunities opening up. Look at everything in detail. Do you have interesting locals people? Is the architecture unique? Is there a local market or pretty little, underused park? By wandering your local area without the need to be anywhere you will soon see beauty all around. In this shot, the light and the location come together to make even a Soviet housing estate look interesting.

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Golden dawn light makes this shot intriguing by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Look for the Details

Many of us are guilty of walking past what, on the face of it, is something quite mundane without realising that by looking at it in detail we an find all sorts of interesting subject matter. This ties in closely with working with the light, good soft light will add dimension to interesting close up items. In the shot below, two flowers add a sense of beauty to a war memorial stone in Odessa. The reflections in the marble also add to the composition.

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Watch for the little details, by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Use Depth of Field to isolate a subject

Sometimes a beautiful subject might be staring us in the face but is situated in a poor or uninteresting environment. In this case a good wide aperture lens can become a lifeline. By opening up your aperture to its widest point you can isolate the subject from its surroundings and eliminate the mundane bringing the eye straight to the subject instead.

Defocused view of Tower Bridge

Shallow depth of field islets this flower against a more obvious background, by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Find the Fun

Humour can be beautiful. It can be an ironic sign or a person doing something eccentric. Keep your eyes open and look everywhere, humour can be found all around us. This is one great reason to own a compact camera or decent camera phone, to capture those interesting, amusing little details of everyday life.

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A surprising ice cream? by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Change Your Angle

We are often guilty of being rooted to the ground when we take our shots, However, changing our angle, or elevation can dramatically change the look of a subject. What might appear to be a mundane, boring building from street level may take on a whole new level of beauty from the roof of a building opposite. Look up, look down and look around the back and you may find some very interesting and photogenic angles on something you take for granted on a day to day basis.

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Changing persecutive to add interest, by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr

Shoot at Night

When darkness falls the character of a location can completely change. Your local gas station might be a boring carbuncle by day but at night the fluorescent lights of the forecourt and the welcoming warmth of the shop create a huge contrast with the dark night beyond. Many buildings are transformed by artificial light and even a dull looking landscape, urban or rural can be transformed by shooing long exposures in bright moonlight.

We are often guilty of ignoring our own, well trodden surroundings in order to shoot the exotic. However, very often this is just because we are so inside our comfort zones we do not see the beauty in the everyday. Shooting the mundane not only opens up huge photographic possibilities but also helps hone your creative processes. For that reason alone, it's worth trying.

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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