Though many people don’t realize it, photographs are a vastly flexible art medium. There is absolutely no reason you should ever feel limited to shooting what’s in front of you or documenting reality. Just as with painting or sculpting, there is plenty of room to exert your influence on the way your photographs turn out. So, let’s talk about several fun things you can do with your pictures that you may not normally consider.
1. Change Your Angle
One of the most common things done in photography is the eye or head level height in which photos are taken. While it makes sense why most photos are taken at head level, it may not be the best angle for what you’re trying to shoot.
Spend an entire day shooting entirely from the ground (get down on one knee or crouch) and see how getting below your subjects changes how reality appears to your viewers. If you’re feeling lucky, try taking a group of pictures from your waist without checking the focus or the frame and see what you get.
2. Push Your Film
All film has a recommended development time based on a specific temperature. For example, when developing 400 speed film in 70 degree chemicals, you would need to soak the film for 7 minutes before rinsing but don’t take my word as you should check the recommended times off the developer manufacturers box. What many people may not realize is that the longer you allow the film to develop, the more stark the contrast gets. The darks get darker and the lights get lighter.
If you are lucky enough to develop your own film, try “pushing your film” or increasing the the development time by 2 or 3 minutes and see how it changes your print. While it’s easy to push your film too far into an overly contrasty mess, a little extra time can sometimes create a stunning result by adding extra contrast to important areas of your photograph.
3. Set Your Camera to “B”
Any film (and most digital) cameras with manual settings will give you the choice to set your shutter speed to bulb or “B.”. This simply makes your camera shutter stay open for as long as you keep the button pressed and gives you a way to capture images that seemed impossible. Sadly the bulb setting doesn’t do well in daylight since it will overexpose the frame, but in a dark environment there’s a lot of fun to be had with this option.
Place your camera on a tripod facing the night sky and leave your shutter open for 5 minutes (using a cable release) so you can capture the stars moving as the earth rotates. You can also hold the shutter open while a friend dances around with a flashlight then snap a flash before closing it and you’ll have a perfect shot of them surrounded by streams of light. This setting requires a lot of practice and experimentation but can often have tremendous results.
The next time you’re feeling adventurous, remember these three photo experiments. You don’t need any additional equipment for most of them (besides a cable release, which you can pick up for a few bucks) and you can use almost any SLR or DSLR camera. Just remember that you should only do experiments with photographs you’re willing to lose – your daughter’s wedding might not be the best time to try shooting everything from the hip. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you have fun and create images that reflect you or the message you want to send.
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