Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How To Photograph Abandoned Buildings - 10 Tips For Better Urban Exploration Photography

Do you like to photograph abandoned buildings? Do you like urban exploration, but find that your photographs are not all that great or are lacking something? Below are 10 tips to help you improve your urbex photography.

Keep It Simple
Fruit Cup - Tehachapi, California
A common mistake in photography is to include too much in the frame. Only the minimum necessary to convey the point of the message should be included. Less is more.

Often this means getting close and refining the composition. Look carefully at the background. Look carefully at the edges of the frame. Look for anything that doesn't belong and rework the subject until those distractions are gone.

Often photographs are improved by subtraction and rarely by addition. In many cases, the more that is stripped away from the composition the better the photograph will be. Make it obvious to the viewer what the photograph is about by taking away everything possible that does not convey the massage.

Find The Light
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Photography is painting with light. Without light there is no photograph, and without great light there is no great photograph.

While great light can be found at any time of the day or night if one looks hard enough for it (or if they create it themselves), the most obvious great light is found around sunrise and sunset. Photographing around this time is an easy way to immediately improve one's images.

The pursuit of great photographs is really the pursuit of great light. The sooner you understand that the better.

Have Photographic Vision
Old Cup of Coffee - Mojave, California
There are some things in photography that are more important to understand than others. At the very top of the list is photographic vision. All great photographs began with photographic vision. It is the one prerequisite to creating exceptional images.

I define photographic vision as "a vivid and imaginative conception." In addition to that definition, photographic vision includes the process of turning the conception into a tangible photograph. Vision means nothing if it never becomes something real--it's nothing more than a dream.

Vision starts with a concept--the idea in your mind. The photographer must refine the concept until it becomes vivid--the idea must be clear if the photographer has any hope of executing it. It must also be creative, because no one is interested in boring photographs. The photographer must then take that and make an actual photograph out of it, otherwise it's nothing more than an idea in your mind. That is what vision is.

Use Contrast
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
Contrast is what will draw the viewer into an image. There are two basic types of contrast in photography: light and color.

Light contrast are areas within an image where light and dark areas touch. Color contrast are areas within an image where colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel touch (such as red and green). Anytime you have light contrast or color contrast, that is where the viewer will look first. You want to use this contrast to draw the viewer's eyes to where you want them to look in an image. You must be careful that light or color contrast doesn't take the viewer to some place that you don't want them to go.

Lines Shapes And Forms
Tumbledown Window - Mojave, California
Lines, shapes and forms within a photograph can be used as guides. After using contrast to draw the viewer in, you must then guide the viewer through the rest of the image.

Perhaps you have a "punchline" in the image that you want the viewer to see, but it is not likely they'd notice without being guided. Lines, shapes and forms can be used to take the viewer's eyes there.

Lines protruding from the edges of the frame will take the viewer's eyes out of the photograph (and onto the next image). Lines from the corners will draw the viewer's attention in to wherever the line leads.

Change Your Angle
Copy Machine - Mojave, California
Sometimes changing your angle can make a big difference to the outcome of an image. Move a few inches left or right, up or down, and the image might be much stronger. Sometimes a few feet is what you need. Sometimes you might want to get low, very low. Perhaps you may want to get higher.

One common mistake in photography is to capture the scene at standing eye level. That perspective may be appropriate for some photographs, but it is far from appropriate for all or even most of your images. Change your perspective and see if it creates a stronger photograph. Be sure to move around.

Be Contextual
The Old Boron Housing - Boron, California
It's great to see photographs of abandoned locations, but sometimes it's difficult to picture just how that scene fits into the larger environment. What is the place surrounded by? What does the neighborhood look like? What else is nearby to give context to the scene?

Sometimes you will find that showing what else is around adds very little value to the images, but other times it will be a critical element. Consider how you might show the abandoned site in context and whether or not you can create a strong image by doing so.

Get Close
Monochrome Bolt - Atolia, California
"If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough." --Robert Capa
Robert Capa's famous quote has been repeated over and over. I've heard it myself probably a hundred times. And while he was most likely speaking specifically about war photographs, I think his principal can be applied to all genres of photography, including urban exploration, and it is every bit as relevant today as it was the moment it was first uttered.

The quote is simple enough. It could be summarized with two words: get closer. But I think we could look at it a little deeper.

Photography has a lot in common with sculpting. A sculptor chisels away everything that doesn't belong until all that is left is the finished sculpture. It's about subtraction. Remove everything that doesn't belong to reveal what was hiding there all along, which no one had noticed except the artist.

Photography is about subtraction, too. You must take everything out of the frame that doesn't belong until the finished composition is all that's left. Less is more. Reveal what no one else noticed because of all the unnecessary clutter that got in the way.

The best way to chisel away the unnecessary clutter and get to that composition that is art is to get closer. Your feet are photographic tools. Use them to move closer so as to subtract all that doesn't belong.

The closer you get your lens to the subject the better your photographs will be. They'll be cleaner, simpler and clearer. So, if you are not happy with your images, move in a little closer to refine your compositions.

Be Creative
Circular Abstract - Atolia, California
Creativity is an essential element of photographic vision, but it is worth mentioning on its own. You should look at a scene differently than others. You should think about a scene differently than others. You have your own unique perspective and ideas, and if you can channel that you will create photographs that are uniquely yours.

Don't think that you are a creative person? Well, thankfully creativity is something that can be learned and fostered. It's something that you can get better at with practice. Each time you are out photographing, consider how you can capture the scene in a unique way.

Tell A Story
Lake Front Property - Rosamond, California
Photography is a form of nonverbal communication. One can speak to people through photographs. It is said that a photograph is worth a thousand words. Sometimes it is worth only one word or maybe 10,000 words. What is important is that the image spoke something to the viewer.

Because photography is communication it can be used to tell a story. It can be used to speak to the viewer in a way that verbal words would have a difficult time stating. Photography can be powerful in this way.

Use your photography to say something. Don't just snap pictures. Instead, convey some kind of message that the viewer can take with them long after they've seen your photograph.

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