Don’t you just hate when the photography bug bites and you’re somewhere that you’ve been a thousand times before and it just sucks because there’s nothing to really inspire you? You just sit around the park by your house or the lake at your family’s summer cabin, camera in hand, staring wistfully at the screen or through the view finder. All you can manage are a few family photos that you’re basically forced to take just because you have the “nicest camera!”
In these situations, you have to force yourself to think outside the box. When you’re at Grandma’s house for the millionth time, you can’t expect to find the same tree that’s been in the front yard since your mom was born as interesting as it was the first twenty times you photographed it.
This advice comes from personal experience: don’t be afraid to get a little dirty. Get on your knees. Lie on your back. Get a little closer than you usually would. Move a little farther away. Look at your surroundings from a different perspective.
Take a walk around and make a note of the things you have photographed a thousand times before. Think about where you usually stand or what angle you usually take the photos at. Then don’t do those things. Do something different. And again, don’t be afraid to get dirty! I was up to my eyes in this tall grass in a ditch on the side of a dirt road. Bug bites galore, but I love this shot of my grandparent’s barn.
Us grandkids have always been told to stay away from the barn, which is falling apart at the seams. But be willing to break the rules, so to speak. Get up close and personal with something you’ve stayed away from. Look critically around you and step outside your photography comfort zone to find a picture you wouldn’t have typically taken but will absolutely love.
Even things that you would normally take photos of (for me, that’s flowers) can become a source of inspired photographs – especially when the subject seems old hat. It’s all a matter of twisting your body and holding your breath to get the shot. Composition is, of course, important when searching for inspiration in everyday, familiar subjects.
Find things around you that you might take for granted. For me, for this shot, this mobile hanging from Grandma’s laundry line has just always been a part of the scenery. It never really stood out to me and I never had a reason to look twice at it. Don’t get put in a situation like I did for this shot. Grandma recently moved out of the house that she grew up in, that she raised her own children in, that I’ve spent quite a number of summers at. She’s 92 years young and lives on a farm by her lonesome. She decided that she didn’t need or want to care for a huge amount of land and a dilapidated house that had more problems than there were solutions. My last trip to the farm was a few months ago when I visited for a few days to help her pack. It was a bittersweet experience for me. I’m 100% supportive of my grandmother’s decision to move to an apartment – she’s still completely capable of taking care of herself – but on the other hand, I’m going to miss the farm house and the creaky floor boards and the crab apples and the tire swing hanging from the tallest tree in the yard. She ended up selling the house to a neighboring farmer who currently rent out the actual farm land.
The lesson to take from that story is don’t take anything for granted. That old boat at the end of the dock at your cabin, the slide at the playground of the park next to your house, wherever you think you’ve already captured your favorite memories – look harder. Look again.
Above is my ultimate “different perspective” photo. It’s an old old old make-shift fence my grandfather put around Grandma’s little garden to keep the deer from eating everything. Change your focus. I have this picture focusing on the post and the background, too, but I like this one the best. It’s such a small detail to focus on, something I typically wouldn’t look twice at.
That’s the whole point of photography, no matter what or where you’re shooting. Always look at least twice! Feel free to share your own stories about looking at things with a new perspective in the comments.
Get out there and shoot!