A simple exercise to improve your visual eye, without leaving the house.
The premise is pretty straightforward; if you’re in a photographic funk, parameters are your best friend. These images were created within the constraints of my own self-imposed challenge. In just 15 minutes, I produced over 30 images without leaving the house (therefore averaging less than 30 seconds per image). What can be gained from this kind of activity? By imposing limitations to time and setting, I was able to explore unique choices in content that may not have occurred to me otherwise––achieving this creative mindset is sometimes trickier than you would think.
This is both a useful and liberating exercise for anyone looking to expand, reinvigorate, or practice compositional techniques. For myself personally, there have many upsides the more I have trained my artistic mind to approach the world in this way. Because oftentimes when I am in the midst of a creative block, this is due in part to existential struggles that are infiltrating the rest of my day. So the beauty in this exercise is that it is also a kind of mindfulness strategy as well. Life is a little easier when we can see the beauty in our humble surroundings.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES:
Here’s what you should keep in mind to get the best outcomes:
- Use a convenient, portable camera instead of a fancy one. This allows you to focus on the frame instead of technicalities such as ISO and depth of field. (I used my phone.)
- Imagine that you are creating a sculpture or an abstract painting.
- Investigate all possible angles: top-down, bottom-up, and eye-level, amongst others. Approach things abnormally.
- Combine those unusual angles with odd cropping. Ignore perceived beginnings and ends of objects.
- Turn your attention towards appealing combinations of texture and negative space.
- Avoid pre-grouping images in your mind as you shoot. Avoid thinking about thematics or symbolic interpretation. This is about producing and following instinctual impulses.
- Remember, these images don’t need to be capital-A artworks. It’s okay if you never show these to anyone. But I don’t recommend deleting these; stash them in a sketchbook, virtual or printed out.
THE AFTER: Groupings & Gestalt
Although you can leave this activity after the shooting stage, I recommend taking a moment to review the photographs. I find it useful to bundle these images and begin to experiment with their interactions amongst one another. Personally, I find this secondary stage to be very relaxing and rewarding, so I encourage you to arrange and rearrange your snippets. Good consider-ations include colour palettes, textures, and leading lines. If you’re confused by that last term, hopefully the images down below
give you an idea of what is meant by this.
When grouping your images, consider the famous Gestalt principles relating to perception. In case you’re unfamiliar, these are very helpful guidelines when it comes to UX and design more broadly. (Check out DePaul University’s online resource for more detailed information––the site design itself is extremely outdated but it does provide comprehensive explanations with art historical examples.)
Though all the principles may be at play, I want to draw your attention to a few key interactions:
First, closure tells us that our brains seek out a connection, regardless of whether the elements touch. So we read all these images as one, in part due to their proximity as well. Both closure and proximity are virtually inevitable due to my snapshots up being lined up in this row/column structure (something to be aware of if you choose differently).
However, you will find that various potential arrangements within this structure will provide equally varying levels of compositional success. What you should aim for is a good sense of continuity, so that proximate images almost “talk” to one another as the eye flows from one area to the next. Again, have a look at my visualization of exactly this, below.
Overall, experimenting with the order of your snapshots within a grouping structure can lead to a really satisfying visual impact.