Video: Making the familiar look unique through creative photography


posted Thursday, April 6, 2023 at 10:30 AM EDT


"Now I'm not sure if anyone else will relate to this, but sometimes the things we're photographing look too much like the things we're photographing," says photographer Thomas Heaton. What the heck does this mean?

Heaton continues, explaining that sometimes when photographing a subject he really enjoys, he doesn't get those same positive feelings later when looks at the photograph he captured, even in cases when the image is an accurate, realistic depiction of the place.

While subjective, of course, Heaton thinks that an image looking just like a scene can be a bad thing. Expanding, Heaton adds that he thinks the issue centers around a subject looking too familiar, "which is where the skill of the landscape photographer comes in."

A skillful photographer can make something familiar appear unique and different through the use of clever composition, interesting lighting, and creative approaches to a scene. Aspect ratio, lens selection, focal length, editing, the list goes on – there are so many ways to do something fresh with a familiar location.

Photographers can also employ brand-new techniques they have never used before. One Heaton employed, and one I've seen other landscape photographers use to great effect, is introducing purposeful camera movement. Using a longer shutter speed to capture more blur, swinging your camera while the shutter is open, and incorporating camera shake are all ways to make a familiar place look much different. 

In general, abstract photography is a very interesting way to approach landscape photography. Instead of the subject being a relative straightforward tree, mountain, or lake, the subject can be a pattern, certain colors, or texture. There's nothing wrong with typical landscape photography, but if you feel like that's feeling a bit tired, or you just want to try something new, abstract photography is a fantastic option. Photographer Andrew Shoemaker has an excellent guide to abstract landscape photography that's well worth checking out. 

What are some of your ways to make unique images, even in familiar locations? How do you approach being in a creative slump with your photography? Let us know in the comments below.

(Via Thomas Heaton