Life from a Different Angle- an At-Home Photography Guide
April 20, 2020
Life gets a little boring now, with the stress of a pandemic haunting the streets we once played in keeping us indoors . Quarantined to our houses, motivation can be hard to come by. Hobbies don’t seem as accessible, but fear not, you just have to get creative to keep them up, and perhaps could even pick up a whole new one. Photography is a great pastime, indoors or outdoors. You don’t need to travel to the ends of the Earth to get amazing photos, and you don’t need top of the line equipment; you just need a little creativity, inspiration and dedication. Here are some ideas and tips for some awesome photos with some example shots I have taken.
One of the most common mistakes beginning photographers make is not paying attention to the background of their photos. Background is important, even if it’s blurred or not the main subject, no matter how much of the frame it takes up. It can help isolate a subject or make it fit into a scene better. Every single photo in this whole article has an intentional background of my choice to help compliment the subject.
A simple black, solid backdrop makes for some incredibly aesthetic photos and really isolates your subject. I have a fairly large black piece of fabric I picked up from Walmart to accomplish this. For this photo, I wanted a darker, more depressing tone so guess what I used!
A more complex background can make a photo just as cool looking. Such a backdrop could be staged or natural. Here is an example of a staged:
I do a lot of woodburning and I was exceptionally proud of this one and wanted a good, professional photo of it that showed what it looked like in real life and didn’t distort the piece of art. I had just cut wood with my dad the day before so I had plenty of sawdust, bark, and branches to stage this around the sawhorse.
Take advantage of your location
The location does not only have to be a backdrop, it could be the focus itself. I live in the woods, so I do a lot of nature and wildlife shots. If you are interested in doing the same thing, hiking is still allowed. Here are some of the pictures I have gotten from around my house:
Wildlife (most recent photos):
The sky can be just as beautiful as the land, so don’t forget to look up. Colorado has some gorgeous sunsets and they are extremely fun to capture on camera because no sunset is ever a copy of another. Here is some of my favorite sunset pictures I have captured:
Keep in mind that every single one of the sunset photos are taken with my phone, an LG G7. Phone cameras nowadays can capture these moments beautifully as well, especially with editing- we’ll talk about that later.
Sunsets aren’t the only time to take sky photos. Astrophotography creates some truly out of this world photos, though it does require a professional camera and little to no light pollution. Here is a photo taken by my house. The light illuminating the trees is my porch light.
Deer and elk may only be found in more of a rural area, but birds and chipmunks are common everywhere. These are taken with my actual camera, as well as the deer ones, so I could really zoom in on them since these guys are more skittish than pets. An actual camera also has a shallow depth of field for that nice blur.
Pets make amazing models for photos and don’t require a special camera since you can get closer to them, though a better camera has a higher shutter speed to reduce the motion blur of the particularly rowdy pets.
This is Tango … This one is an example of what a fast shutter speed offers. Tango is starting an explosive jump to catch a ball just out of frame, yet he is tack sharp in focus.
This is Lulu…
And these are some of the outdoor cats we feed…
Editing a photo makes way more a difference than you might think. The most basic of editing programs can mess with light, color, and clarity, and phones actually have these options in the editing program that comes with the phone. There is no specific right or wrong way to edit a photo, but this is an example of what editing can do. I took this photo of my dog Abby running towards me.
Editing can do wonders but there are many effects that can only be achieved in camera. Lighting is one of the biggest ones. You can adjust highlights and shadows in post, but can only adjust them to a certain extent. I do have professional lighting, but these following photos use nothing more than a flashlight to create the spotlight effect.
This is with my professional lighting:
As you’ve probably noticed, black and white works really well with this spotlight technique, but color and natural lighting can still produce an awesome photo.
This is one of my outdoor cats peering into the sun through the gap in the rails of my deck:
In this time of isolation, we may not have access to models, so why not put yourself in the spotlight? Any type of camera will work for this, and though a tripod helps significantly, stacking books or something else to prop your camera up will work. I use a tripod and bluetooth remotes to snap the photos, though I have to be careful to not show the remote when taking the pictures. If you don’t have one of these, use the timer option. Tripods are not just for regular cameras but offer phone mounts too. Here is mine.
These are taken with my phone on my tripod using the remote.
But who said portraits had to be so serious???
I am fortunate to have my dad as a willing model though, which allowed me to come up with this idea…
Using the black backdrop behind him and a string of Christmas lights held close to his eye, I was able to pull this off…
Take your camera everywhere
Having access to a camera even when thinking you won’t use it is important. For instance- awhile back, when I went to my grandmother’s house in the Redlands for a few days, I took my camera even though it was a hassle. Coming back after work, I saw this helicopter putting out the Redlands fire. Though some cool photos arose from the event, it was still scary to witness so close. Having my camera allowed me to capture that moment and the fear and destruction in it.
(another example of fast shutter speed; how it froze the propellers and shows water falling).