With the sheer number of photographs now being taken and published on the internet it is easy for your shot to be lost in the noise, especially if you simply go with the flow and take the photo in the same way as everyone else. Here are five things to consider when taking a unique image that stands out from the crowd.
1 Look at what everyone else is doing and then do something different
The vast majority of people will take a prompt from how other people are photographing something and then simply replicate this. You see it all of the time in London – everyone walking up to the same place, lifting their camera and taking what is essentially the same shot. This is particularly noticeable at places like the Palace of Westminster. People either cross the river and photograph the Palace including the bridge (as below) or point their cameras up at some crazy angle to try to capture Big Ben. Often they will ask their relatives to pose in front of the scene and then wait until faces go stiff before pressing the button.
The result is thousands of homogenous photographs that lack any impact. So the first rule of a unique photo is to look at what everyone else is doing and then resist the urge to copy them. This will normally mean moving away from the place where all of the photos are being taken and going somewhere that is less obvious. When I took the photograph below people were clustered on the southern embankment and beneath the clock tower so I deliberately decided to take the photo from the bridge. The problem was that to capture the image in landscape format meant that the only option would have been to tilt the camera upwards which would have created crazy converging lines on the building. So the secret to that first shot is that it was taken in portrait mode and then cropped in post-processing to a landscape format. Once the shot was framed I waited for the lamp to be switched on, exposed for the sky to throw the image into silhouette and then pressed the button.
We all have smartphones these days and this can give you a real edge when it comes to taking a unique shot. Simply do an image search for the location and you will get an insight into how people have interpreted the location photographically. You can then consciously decide not to replicate this.
2 Use framing creatively
A simple technique like using elements of the scene to create a frame around your desired subject can make a real difference when it comes to creating unique images. When I took this photo of the GLA building in London I knew that the area had been photographed multiple times and there were literally thousands of photos of that building sloshing around on the internet.
The answer was to look for a possible frame around the shot so I crossed Tower Bridge and after a few aborted attempts to frame the building through the holes on the top of the bridge I found the perfect frame for the shot – the Dead Man’s Hole which is a mortuary that sits beneath the bridge on the north side and allows for a perfect view of the GLA building.
I used a similar technique when photographing Battersea Power Station and although the result was a little bit “Christmas cardy’ the photo illustrates the point well. Using a frame for your subject can have a powerful impact.
3 Experiment with silhouettes
The use of silhouettes can be a good way of making your photograph stand out from the crowd as most people will expose for the subject rather than the background and that is the way that most light meters work. So if you are struggling for a unique shot and the lighting is right consider whether the shape of the subject is sufficiently powerful to be able to use silhouetting.
4 Change your perspective
It seems silly but the simple act of not photographing from eye level can have a profound impact on your final photograph. Most people will take photos by bringing the camera up to eye level as that requires the least effort and is intuitive. I would guess that over 90% of photos are taken in this way. So one simple way of changing the way your photos look is to kneel down when taking the shot. The difference this makes is illustrated neatly by the two photos below, one of which was taken at eye level and one when kneeling down.
5 Use a long lens
A lot of us have a portrait lens or telephoto lens in the kit but tend to use it only for close up work. One tip to making a difference to a shot is to use a long lens to compress perspective. Intuitively people tend to want to get close to the subject so don’t go with the crowd – move away from the subject and use the long lens to create a different effect.
The basic rule when it comes to taking unique images is that you have to resist the temptation to follow the masses and this sometimes means ignoring the rules (even this one!)