Habitual Photography

Staying fresh and challenged with our imaging craft can be difficult at times, and if we are not vigilant we may fall into habitual photography patterns. When that happens our choice of subject matter becomes more limited. We rely on existing methods and approaches. Sometimes we lose our creative spark and photography becomes a chore, not a joy.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

NIKON 1 V2 + 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, ISO 3200, 1/500, f/5.6

Falling victim to habitual photography has been even more challenging than usual given restrictions brought on by the pandemic. There are a few things that we can do to “get our mojo back.”

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 42mm, efov 114mm, f/8, 1/25, ISO-160

Find subject matter close to home.

It may be as simple as going into the garage, or looking around our home or yard, to identify some subject matter that we haven’t photographed for a while. We may even find things that we’ve never tried to photograph in the past.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, -0.7 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 8.1 metres

Photograph common subjects in more challenging ways.

If we enjoy bird photography but are unable to travel to photograph more exotic species, it can be fun to photograph common birds in situations that are more challenging. This can get our creative juices going, and also help to sharpen up our skills.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-640, subject distance 920mm

Use existing lenses in different ways.

Often we have ‘go to’ lenses that we automatically use for specific subject matter. Forcing ourselves to use our existing lenses in different ways can reignite our photographic creativity, and also help us expand the use of our existing camera gear.

Pretend you’re an advertising art director.

Think of a product that you use in your every day life. Then pretend that you are an advertising art director with the responsbility to create photographs for a new campaign. Create some product images as well as supporting ones that could be used in advertising.

Envision typography with your photographs.

When composing photographs, envision that they will be used for greeting cards, in presentations, or with some other kind of messaging. Experience how seeing that photographic use in your mind radically shifts how you compose an image.

Get in tight with subject matter.

If you haven’t used your macro lens or extension tubes for a while take them out and play around with close-up/macro photography. If you don’t own a macro lens or extension tubes, then take out all of the lenses you do have. Then, experiment with how closely they will focus on a subject. You’ll learn a lot about the capability of your gear and you may discover new ways of creating images that you may really enjoy.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO IS 12-100 mm f/4, @ 100 mm, efov 200 mm, f/4, 1/20, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode

Practice your handheld technique.

Pick some subject matter, then challenge yourself to photograph it at increasingly slower shutter speeds. This is a great way to get reaquainted with your camera gear while enhancing your skills at the same time.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-200, FL-700WR flash used, subject distance 1.5 metres

Experiment with your flash.

I don’t use flash very often with the work I do, and I need to remind myself to periodically take out my flash gear and play around with it. This serves as a great reminder about the importance of light and the additional creativity and functionality that flash can provide.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-800, microscopic mode

Dust off an old camera and put it to use.

Many of us have camera equipment that we haven’t used for a while. It’s good to remember that we originally bought that gear because of something that we really liked about it. Dusting off an old camera and creating some images with it can be a great way to get our creative juices flowing in new ways again.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12.1mm, efov 32.7mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-160

Look for symmetry and patterns.

There are every day things all around us that we can see differently in terms of looking for symmetry and patterns in them. This visual reinforcement can pay dividends later as these perspectives can be brought back into our photography for a wide range of other subject matter.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.2, 1/125, ISO-5000, subject distance 630 mm

Get out of your comfort zone.

Many of us have preferred subject matter. It could be birds. Flowers. Landscape. People. Still life or a host of other subjects. Whatever it is doesn’t matter. What matters is the subject matter we don’t like to photograph. Choosing to go out with our cameras and photograph something that we don’t like, forces out of our comfort zone. It also makes us think creativity about how to photograph subject with which we have limited familiarity.

Create photographic challenges.

The challenge can be about anything you want. The key is to set parametres for yourself, then go out and see what you can do within the challenge guidelines. It could be limiting yourself to 12 photographs for the outing. Shooting one-handed. Limiting your ISO to a specific value. Creating ‘Magic 7’ compositions. Working with leading lines. Whatever the challenge is doesn’t matter. All of them help to reengage us with our imaging craft.

Olympus OMD-E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.5, 1/200, ISO-2000, subject distance 245 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

Use a camera feature you’ve never tried before.

Many of us own camera gear that has some interesting technology that we’ve never tried before. Spending time learning how to use these features can be an eye opening experience.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 11mm, efov 30mm, f8, 1/160, ISO-160

Re-do old photographs in post.

Go back through some of your older photographs and start from scratch with them in post. Experiment to see what you can do to improve them. Or, change the creative interpretation of them.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 79 mm, efov 213, mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-160

Expanding our photographic experiences come back to enrich us.

Many of us have fallen into habitual photography patterns from time to time. When we break free of our habits, and go off in new directions, we create opportunities for us to grow as photographers, and to make us stronger creatively.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Most of the images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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