Updated: May 19, 2019
“Taking photos is more than just pressing a shutter…an artist is something we all are inside and photography is our journey/path in finding that inner artist.” - Anthony Epes, photographer and teacher.
Most of us, even experienced photographers, rarely get a good photograph on the first try, or even the second or third try. Many of us might not get a good photograph on the fiftieth try. I have learned this the hard way. Too often I have seen something that I would like to shoot, taken my photograph and come home only to realise that the picture was rubbish. I have now realised that one of my greatest mistakes in photography is taking too few shots. I can be guilty of spotting something I want to photograph, pressing the shutter and moving on to the next thing. But invariably, these images have not been great. So I had to ask myself, what am I doing wrong? One of the most useful pieces of advice which I have picked up from my reading is the encouragement to ‘explore the scene’. That has brought the realisation that no matter where I initially stand in relation to a subject, there is always a better place to stand, a better angle from which to shoot, a better viewpoint to be found.
Exploring the scene 1
When I was young I loved exploring around the scene of an old building. I loved looking at the materials from which it was built, particularly if they were crumbling, I loved finding clues as to how the building had been used, and I particularly enjoyed building a scenario in my head of the type of people who lived or worked there and what their lives might have been like. When I came to photograph this building in my local park I did so with the same interest in looking at it from different angles to try and build a picture of the building and its purpose. In short, as I took these images as an adult with photography in mind, I decided, rather than just take one shot, to explore the scene to see what evolved.
For my next set of images I took some shots through the window. In some shots the window was in focus with the people passing by on the other side of the building visible but not in focus, whereas in some shots I placed the focus on the people in the distance and blurred the foreground. These are two examples.
I took some shots from different perspectives
I went around to the front of the building and noticed this plaque. I discovered that it is a working craft workshop, with what is obviously a type of storeroom at the back.
This is not great as an image but it is an example of how a scene can be worked from all possible perspectives and how, when we take the time to explore a scene, all sorts of photographic possibilities emerge.
For my final image I moved sideways to an adjacent building and took a shot of these three windows on the side wall of that building. I like the balance here and the simplicity of the shot.
Going away from the scene I felt that I had made a few discoveries about the building, its former and current uses and, indeed, its photographic potential.
Exploring the scene 2
My normal position in this next scenario would have been to take a photograph from the viewpoint of a standing adult, hopefully with some people in the image. The first image below is nothing more than a snapshot of a garden decking and it is nothing special.
Normally, I would most likely have walked away but on this occasion I decided to experiment and explore the scene a bit. One of the subjects that pops out at me from the image is the stone ball, so I first of all decided to do a close up photograph of that. Then I took the ball and its shadow, as I thought that might provide some interest in the photograph. The image was still not great so I took another with a blurred background.
I then decided to change my position and shoot from the other side of the decking, with the decking boards providing leading lines. Later I saw that the sun was casting a stronger shadow so I tried again for a shot of the ball and its shadow.
As I looked around the scene I felt that I could make more detailed images by going close up to some of the elements in the scene, particularly the plants.
The lights on the decking suggested that I might get some nice shots in low light so I decided to come back later. These are some of the results.
Exploring the scene 3
In former times when passing a location such as the one below I might have just taken one or two images, and invariably all would be from the same position, most likely as in the first image. Again, I decided to explore the scene a bit more than usual and I was pleased with some of the shots I got.
Working a scene like this can help us develop creatively; it can urge us not to be content with what we see initially but to keep looking for something better, which to me is the essence of creativity. In every scene there is a possibility for a better image than the first one we see. If I don’t just snap and leave, but stop and look around, I might find that there is something more interesting to be found just 'over there'.