Taking photos is today much easier than in past. DSLRs with their dropping prices are available almost to everyone today and also quality of point and shoot cameras increased. Count in also cameras in cell phones and introduction of digital photography in last 5 years which makes whole chain “shoot-publish” photo quick and easy. Together with services such as flickr you get tons and tons of new photos posted every single minute from all over the world.
This all and mainly digitalization of photography had significant impact on professional photographers and the way they did their business. It has also significant impact on amateur photographers though and the impact is both positive and negative. The positive impact is that techniques and experience can be easily shared with others and also that photographers can be inspired by others while inspiring others at the same time. The negative impact is that it is much harder to make something unique. I browse through hundreds of photos every week, mainly on photography blogs, forums and on flickr, and I see many great photos, even some excellent photos but only rarely a unique photo. And in my opinion a uniqueness is something that every photographer who takes photography seriously (it does not necessarily mean making it for living) should strive for. Uniqueness means that your photo will grab attention of a viewer among many other excellent photos and it does not matter if the viewer is a potential customer or just someone who likes photos.
For me, as an amateur photographer, it means that I need to find out how to make my photos unique, how to give them an additional value. It is not hard to learn new processes and techniques but if you will simply follow them it will mean that you will very probably produce an average photo which can be done by any other photographer under similar conditions and following the same steps.
In the beginning of this year I decided that I don’t want to create only nice photos but if I want to grab viewer’s interest I must create something unique. When I was thinking how to do it, finally I realized that I must give something from myself to the photo. Breathe a life into it as we used to say. I must unlock my creativity!
The first step is to see creatively. You need to recognize what could result in a unique photo. It has been some time since I wanted to try a motion blur, concretely panning, in photography but my first quick tries did not worth a word. Some 2 or 3 weeks ago, when I was outside shooting some flower, our field kept my attention. The field is not used this year and thus it was full of blooming dandelions and thyme and I really liked the look of violet field with bright yellows here and there. I set up the camera upon a tripod and did some quick tries.
For motion blur photos you need longer shutter speed so turn up the aperture to maximum (32 in my case), turn down the ISO to the lowest value (100 in my case). This got me to some 1/5 second of shutter speed which is good for this kind of photography. If you need or want to slower the shutter speed more you can try to use additional filters. Actually, I think that I used a polarizer for richer colours so this also slowed down the shutter speed a bit. The camera was ready then so I started with first tries. Soon I found out that the panning method that works best is just to make very short moves in directions in which you want to “draw with the scene”. In my case I had a camera vertically and after pressing the shutter I started to move the camera up and down quickly, making very short moves all the time until the shutter was closed again. It takes couple of tries but once you find out what works for you it’s easily repeatable.
The result after some minor processing in Lightroom 2.7 is following:
1/5 sec. @ 100mm, f/32, ISO 100
It is not bad for the first try, I really like the mix of yellow and violet but it is not something unique enough. Anyone with similar equipment, scene and technique could easily make the same.
Now the second step comes and that is to think creatively. It means to think of an approach or processing how to get the photo to another level, to give it a unique look. In this case I thought that it might look well if I applied some processing resulting in a painting look. I took the photo to my favourite Snap Art 2 plugin for Photoshop and after several tries I was satisfied with “watercolour on canvas” settings.
The overall feel is softer and brighter and the “strokes” of colours are more blended. This is already a unique photo and a probability that some other photographer would create the same or at least similar enough photo is quite low due to a lot of variables in whole process of creation and post-processing.
I am satisfied with the photo and I could end by now BUT something told me that I could try some unusual processing. I have learnt that e.g. changing temperature (in RAW photo) to some extreme values sometimes produce really interesting results so I dragged temperature slider to the maximum value of 50000K in Lightroom and I got something that I really liked. After some additional minor touches it looks like this:
~ Golden Prairie ~
I decided to name it “Golden prairie” because it reminds me the vast fields of tall prairie grass, moving in a wind and lit by the evening sun. This is the image I am really satisfied with. It does not remind the original image but I do not care. It looks unique and it is the kind of photo where I expect the viewer to ask herself “how did he do it?” and that’s exactly what I value the most in this kind of photos. It’s not only an appealing photo, it makes the viewer think.
So, if you are like me and you are thinking how to make your photos unique, then my advice is …
UNLOCK YOUR CREATIVITY!
Short addendum 1: just yesterday I read an interesting article presenting results of a research on creativity. Results say that high creativity has very close to some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. You can read the article here. I should state now that I do not count myself as a person with high creativity. I know people with much higher
Short addendum 2: excellent articles about creativity with tutorials, suggestions and hints writes e.g. Ed Vatza in Making the Ordinary Extraordinary blog and well known photographer Tony Sweet in his Tony Sweet’s Flower Photography Blog.
Technical details: the photo was created with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens mounted on tripod, under natural conditions.