Making the Most Out of the Ordinary

Published: September 4, 2015

by Tiffany Carwile

One of the challenges of being a photographer is giving an ordinary subject a twist. There is a craft behind turning a familiar focus into a frame that makes the viewer appreciate the subject even more than before.

When I think about this concept, a tall glass of ice water comes to mind. Everyone knows what water is, what water looks like, what water feels like, and what water tastes like. I can confidently say that water is pretty ordinary. I mean, it’s basically a flavorless, clear liquid. So, how can one put a twist on H2O to make it more interesting? By adding a little lemon wedge here, a little mint leaf there, and a whole lot of frozen strawberries–Voila!–you have strawberry-lemon-mint water.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to give water, or, in this case, a photograph, a little more pizzaz. The question I want to pose is this: How can a photographer effectively put a twist on a familiar subject?

Let’s use a baseball field as an example:

baseball field wide angle

After taking the photo above, I realized I took a very traditional approach to the subject. “Yep, that’s a baseball field,” I thought. And that was all I could say.

The main culprit that strips photographs of their visually interesting elements is the lack of effective composition. All pictures have composition; all photographers can piece together elements to form a picture. The difference here is between the effective and ineffective piecing together of components.

Effective composition gives a photograph a focal element to draw the viewer’s attention immediately, and it gives structure and balance to keep the viewer’s eyes and mind completely engaged. My wide angle shot of the baseball field had composition, but it lacked a strong focus, organization, and balance.

So, instead of focusing on the field itself, I made the scoreboard the focal element, using the fence to my advantage to create guiding lines and a frame. These two focal element influencers take a flat image of a familiar subject and turn it into a refreshing and visually interesting shot that is sure to give your viewers a new perspective to appreciate.

Before ending my session at the park, I remembered a focal technique I’ve used in the past:

highway viewed through fence

Using the fence as a way to make the picture stand out became a new tool to put in my belt for another time. And a year later, I pulled out this photo again to put a twist (or a lemon wedge) onto my baseball field pictures.

baseball field scoreboard viewed through fence

So, no matter where you end up, always keep the elements of effective composition in your back pocket for when life gives you glasses of ice water to photograph.