PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS

A fresh perspective on familiar scenes

From embracing nature to harnessing natural light, three photographers share their advice on how to turn everyday moments into unforgettable images.
Canon Camera

It's easy to take the area we live in for granted and we often mistakenly believe it is necessary to travel hundreds of miles to create interesting photos. Spending time viewing familiar scenes from a new perspective, however, can be a great way to inject fresh life into your images. We asked three photographers from around the world how they find new perspectives that inspire both them and their audience. Here are some of their top tips for creating inspirational images when shooting closer to home.

1. Get creative when documenting dramatic city skylines

London's Thames Barrier at dusk, with the colourful lights of Canary Wharf visible in the background.

Whether you live in a bustling city or a quiet rural area, you can capture stunning shots if you experiment with composition and camera settings. This image was taken using a long exposure.

London-based photographer Laku Davies shoots adventures in her home city and beyond. Consequently, it's cityscapes and street photography that light up Laku's lens. Two of her favourite images combine iconic London views with a creative twist.

"I'd gone to the Thames Barrier for sunset and saw Canary Wharf lit up in the background," says Laku, who used her Canon EOS M50 fitted with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS M and a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM) telephoto lens to capture the impressive view.

"I used this particular lens because of the compression that happens with a telephoto," she explains. "It tends to pull in the background, so I knew I was going to get a great view of Canary Wharf in between the barriers." Effectively, telephoto lenses compress perspective to make the background and foreground appear closer together than they are.

A long exposure and an ND filter accentuated the scene, creating a vibrant yet surreal effect. "A 30-second exposure can blow the highlights, so I used an ND filter in front of the lens which helps to get the highlights right so it's not too overexposed when I go into editing," says Laku.

A portrait of lifestyle and travel photographer Laku Davies.

Laku Davies

The London-based lifestyle and travel photographer enjoys shooting cityscapes with a creative twist.

2. Shoot landmarks from a unique perspective

A double-decker bus crosses Tower Bridge in London, UK, at sunrise. The sky is orange in the background.

Laku suggests visiting places at different times of day in order to get the perfect shot. She took this image of a double-decker bus crossing Tower Bridge at 5.30am.

A night-time shot of The Shard in London towering over Southwark, the buildings lit up in lights. The London Millennium Footbridge can be seen in the foreground.

Street photography and cityscapes, such as this incredible shot of The Shard in London, dominate Laku's work. Wide-angle lenses are often used for cityscapes but using a telephoto lens enabled Laku to capture a familiar location in an unusual and unique way.

When it comes to other well-known and regularly photographed landmarks such as London's Tower Bridge, Laku suggests seeking out alternative perspectives, which might mean heading out early with your camera. On one occasion, she decided to start at 5.30am and focus on a particular part of the famous bridge's architecture.

"I used my telephoto lens to isolate the tower and get the glow of the sun rising behind for a halo effect," she says. "The orange sky made that picture – and the London bus!"

Her advice for those searching for inspiration while exploring their local environment is to visit favourite locations at different times of the day to keep things interesting.

"Challenge yourself during various times of day to see what the lighting is like," says Laku. "Try to use different lenses otherwise you'll end up shooting the same picture over and over again. Keep it interesting for yourself and the people who are viewing your pictures." A Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens is a good option in low light because it is so fast, letting in a lot of light. If you want to go wide and capture as much of a scene as possible, a Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens is worth a try.

3. Find the best light

A figure stands silhouetted against a dramatic orange sunrise.

Pierre Dubuis revisits the same park time and time again, always looking for a new angle for his photography.

Venturing into the Pilat Regional Natural Park in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France has brought another dimension to the pictures of Pierre Dubuis. The young photographer, who shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV), has been taking pictures since the age of 15, but it was during his photography studies that his love of adventuring in nature began. He credits his friends with firing up his passion for the outdoors, and says that rediscovering local areas boosts creativity, evident from his favourite images, which were all taken in the same park.

"To discover beautiful places, it's best to go scouting as often as possible and you will come across more places than you think," he advises. "I look at Instagram for inspiration. Visit places at different times and try different angles to get the atmosphere you want."

To create ambience in photographs, Pierre recommends heading out either first thing in the morning or in the evening. "The times when you will see beautiful light are early in the morning and at sunrise and sunset," he says. "The environmental silhouette (above) was taken at sunset. To create this kind of photo, it's best to find out about weather conditions beforehand and arrive 30 minutes early to give yourself time to locate the place and imagine the different framing that you could choose. For this image, I decided to underexpose by increasing the shutter speed and shooting at a high aperture of f/22. I did this in order to have a well-defined, dark silhouette – to create a darker vibe."

A portrait of Pierre Dubuis.

Pierre Dubuis

The 21-year-old nature photographer enjoys shooting in natural light at sunrise and sunset.

4. Pay attention to detail

A close-up of a fern leaf set against a dark background.

Another great way to take interesting shots without travelling far afield is to focus on details that may not appear obvious at first. Pierre likes to take a closer look at nature.

The leaves of a tree are backlit by the sun.

This image of a tree's leaves lit by the glow of the setting sun was taken near the Saut du Gier waterfall.

"You have to observe everything that is happening around you, down to the smallest detail," says Pierre, referring to his other favourite image – a delicate depiction of a fern leaf. An ISO of 3200 and an aperture of f/4.5 helped him bring the dark forest depths to life. By opening up his Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens he was able to reduce depth of field and instead focus attention on the central area of the fern and its wonderful texture. The high ISO was needed because of the lack of light in the forest.

"When I took this photograph, I was on a short outing in the woods," explains Pierre. "I needed to clear my mind and I spotted the fern illuminated by a beam of light. I love this image because it represents the beauty and fragility of nature."

5. Find the extraordinary in the everyday

Two little boys playing in a sandpit in front of a log store, shrouded by dust.

Light conditions change naturally throughout the day. Choosing the right time to photograph can mean the difference between an outstanding image – such as this atmospheric shot of Camilla's children – and an ordinary one.

Award-winning professional photographer Camilla Rutherford hails from Scotland but began chasing ski seasons in New Zealand. Drawn to photographing the stories of athletes in nature, she now lives in the scenic town of Wanaka with her husband, a Merino sheep farmer, and two sons.

Camilla's reportage style has a strong emphasis on natural light, evident in this backlit image of her sons playing in their sand pit, taken with her Canon EOS R fitted with an EOS R Adapter and her go-to lens, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.

"My favourite thing about the picture is the facial expression on my little boy," she says. "He's having an absolute blast. It's the primal joy of uninterrupted play that makes this photo what it is.

"When you're shooting kids playing, sometimes you don't have time to switch to prime lenses," she adds. "The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM has the perfect zoom length for those purposes, and the image quality comes close to what you can achieve on a prime."

Shooting into the sun can be challenging as well as fun, says Camilla, but mirrorless cameras such as the Canon EOS RP offer an advantage thanks to the electronic viewfinder. "You can see what the exposure is doing and adjust it up or down a few stops depending on the strength of that backlight," she explains.

A portrait of Camilla Rutherford wearing sunglasses.

Camilla Rutherford

Scottish-born Camilla is an award-winning photojournalist who now lives on a farm in New Zealand with her family. She specialises in sports, travel and lifestyle photography.

6. Tell a story by photographing what you know

A man in a workshop using an angle grinder and surrounded by tools. The sun is shining through a gap in the back wall.

The way that the sparks from the angle grinder and the light flare mimic each other adds a whole new dimension to what could otherwise have been quite an ordinary image.

Camilla's image of her husband in the farm's workshop represents the rich history of where they live. Using just natural light and a low shutter speed, Camilla shows you don't need to look too far to create a narrative.

"Our boys are the fifth generation on the farm and this workshop is an incredible space that I love to photograph," she says. "The boys love to go and watch their dad fixing stuff. I noticed how the sun would come through the back wall in the morning which creates the big flare in the left-hand corner," she says.

"I shot wide on my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens as I was trying to tell the whole story. I cranked the ISO up to 800 to get a little bit of extra light and shot at 1/80 sec. That was a good shutter speed to get the motion of the wheel and the sparks flying."

So whether you're walking through woodland, enjoying an urban stroll in the city or relishing the comfort of being at home, exploring locally doesn't have to mean lacklustre photographs. By learning to train your eye to see the photo opportunities in the ordinary and making pictures that matter to you, it's possible to create images that are really special.


Written by Lorna Dockerill

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