Guest post by Cole’s Classroom:
Remember when you first tried photography? Eventually, you found your niche or specialty: your comfort zone. While focusing on your preferred method, you can still explore other ways of taking photos.
If you want to improve your skills and take better photos, you'll definitely need to step out of your comfort zone and dive into the courage zone. While specializing in a niche or gear is great, sometimes you need variations to learn new things.
1. Try a Different Niche
Going out of your comfort zone means trying something you usually won't do. Are you a landscape photographer who prefers shooting outside during the early morning or golden hours? Why not try something drastic like sports photography, where your subjects are moving, unlike in your landscape shots.
Visit a new place rather than your go-to photowalk location. It's helpful to take a break from something you normally encounter. In effect, you get a fresh and broader perspective.
2. Consider Everything As a Subject
Everything you see can become a subject in a photo. Yes, even the most boring, mundane thing you generally overlook in a setting can help to create awesome photos. Slow down and notice objects, moments, and people you normally pass by.
This move helps you see patterns or colors that may be different from your usual style. Likewise, you'll capture various textures or details by paying more attention. For example, if there’s a venue you continuously shoot weddings at, stop yourself from taking photos in the same exact location. It can be easy to go into autopilot and shoot the standard safe shots over and over.
Rather than taking the couple to the same wall that you’ve photographed 100 times, the experts over at Cole’s Classroom recommend show up to the venue early and take time to re-scout the location. Even though you have likely already done this before, challenge yourself this time. Look for walls and areas that you have typically avoided, and ask yourself why that is. If it’s due to poor lighting, how can you manipulate the light to create an interesting image?
3. Shoot with Different Focal Lengths and Poses
Do you always use a 24-70mm lens when shooting portraits (likely because it was one of the first professional lenses you got and are very comfortable with it)? It’s time to mix it up! Rent a lens you don’t own, such as a 50mm or 85mm and experiment with it. The change in focal length will challenge you by seeing things from a new perspective. Plus, using a prime lens will force you to move around more.
You might not notice it, but photographers tend to be comfortable shooting certain angles or particular poses. If you typically shoot your subjects at eye level, make a change by shooting from either a low or high angle.
Going out of your comfort zone is all about challenging yourself. While it’s important to get photos that your clients love (AKA safe shots), it’s also crucial for you to push yourself creatively so you don’t get stale. With poses, try spending 75% of the session using poses you’re comfortable with. Then, for the remainder of the time, try something new. If the poses don’t end up working out, it’s not a huge deal because you already know you got some great shots earlier.
4. Commit to a Personal Project
Unlike schoolwork, you can commit to a personal project without the pressure of somebody grading your output. However, you have to set some limitations and timeframes to ensure you'll achieve it. The great thing about personal projects is that there is generally less pressure from others, so you tend to give yourself more permission to take risks and try new things.
Here are some personal projects you can take on to challenge your creativity:
- Follow trends like doing a 365-day photo challenge.
- Take photos of your pet daily at different parts of your home and make an album.
- Capture what you see from your window during a particular period and compile the photos for a coffee table book.
- Sort through all the photos on your phone and make prints or an album with them.
- Do a self-portrait series of yourself over the course of a year to document your personal change and growth.
Explore and bring back your childlike curiosity. If you’ve never taken a long exposure or experimented with using an off-camera flash, now’s the time to try!
Play with light and shadows. Try a different preset, especially something you wouldn't even dare use. One small change can sometimes lead to more significant discoveries.
If you shoot weddings, an excellent time to experiment is during the reception. After shooting 30 minutes of dancing photos, let’s be honest - they all start to look the same. Rather than taking the same type of dance shot over and over, think about how you can create different effects. Drag the shutter to create light trails, or try a 3-flash set up to see the types of images you can make.
6. Take Your Time
Breaking out of your comfort zone will disturb you. It will interrupt your usual, well-planned movements. It may be difficult at first, but you'll eventually become comfortable with the change.
Similar to when you're starting in the world of photography, practicing takes time and patience. Over time, you will build confidence in taking more impressive and unique photos.
Crossing the boundary between comfort and change can be daunting yet satisfying. Remember, trying the opposite of what you're usually doing will let you gather experience. How do you step out of your comfort zone during a shoot?