photo by Portra via iStock
I obviously recommend that you try and shoot in fascinating locations as often as you can, both because it will be more fun for you as the photographer and because it will make your compositions far better. But, what do you do when you have to create interesting compositions somewhere boring?
I know this was something that I severely struggled with at the start of the pandemic when I was trying to learn how to compose an image in my backyard, and I know that a lot of other photographers struggled with this too, especially those who were stuck in small studio apartments in New York City or London.
Thankfully, you can learn how to create interesting compositions anywhere, even in your own home or a not particularly stunning field or parking lot.
Manny Ortiz recently released a video filled with photography composition tips for photographers working specifically in boring places.
I recommend that you watch his whole video, since it will help you learn how to create interesting compositions, but if you don’t have time to, I’ll give you the breakdown here.
Use Your Camera’s Autofocus System
photo by PeopleImages via iStock
If you get to a location that is particularly boring, you may have trouble identifying where you should place your model. In order to combat this problem, Manny suggests that you focus your camera on the ground first. Then, trail your camera from the ground to potential places you want to put your model.
By keeping your camera out of focus, you can figure out what parts of your environment would look good as a background for your images. It will help you pick out particularly bold colors or odd patterns you wouldn’t otherwise see with your naked eye.
After you’ve found a good background, you can place your model in that spot and start shooting away.
After you’ve used this tip a couple of times, you’ll naturally know how to create interesting compositions without using the trick at all.
Find Interesting Lighting
photo by katleho Seisa via iStock
When you’re learning how to create interesting compositions, even in the best location, you’re still going to be looking for lighting. But, when you’re learning how to create interesting compositions in bad locations, this tip becomes even more important.
Manny found an old lighting fixture inside a movie theater that he was able to use in the background of one of his shots. If you’re not shooting in the city, then you may be able to find interesting lighting coming off of a street light, someone’s house, or the sun.
You can then incorporate that lighting into your shot in a huge variety of ways, so play around with lighting to find the most interesting applications.
photo by puhhha via iStock
One of my favorite composition tips for photography is to include plants in the foreground of your shots. It’s a pretty basic tip in landscape photography, but it’s also a great tip for portrait photographers who are working in a boring location.
You can find plants pretty much anywhere you go. The plants might not be the prettiest, they may just be weeds or grass, but even weeds or grass can help your composition if you don’t focus on them and instead just include them for their coloring.
Include Anything Interesting from Your Location
photo by JasonDoiy via iStock
I know that this is an article all about learning how to create interesting compositions in boring places. But, here’s the thing. You can find interesting things in any location you’re going to shoot in, even if it’s just your backyard. The big problem is that if you’re shooting in a location you know well, you’re going to have to look at it with new eyes.
Manny finds some beautiful old apartment complexes in Chicago where he is shooting and he incorporates them into the background of one of his shots. You can do the same thing if you’re shooting in a city.
photo by CoffeeAndMilk via iStock
If you’re shooting out in the country, you may need to include old dilapidated barns or felled trees into your shots.
If you’re shooting in your backyard, try and figure out what interesting information exists there. For instance, in my own backyard, I have a big hole in my fence that catches really great light at certain times of the day. So, when I was home shooting during the pandemic, I would have my son climb up on a stepstool and peer out of that hole to create really beautiful photos of his face.
Overall, though, the important thing that you need to remember when you’re learning how to create interesting compositions in boring locations is that you only have to include as much background and foreground as you want to. So, the direction of each photo is really up to you.