Photograph what it feels like

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You’ve heard it before — shoot what it feels like.

In many places in the northern hemisphere, the fall and winter are moving in. The trees are losing their last colorful leaves and the gray and cold weather settles in.

This is also the time that I get an increasing amount of emails from photographers asking for inspiration during this often perceived as “bleak” season. Many photographers seem to put their cameras away as there appears to be nothing interesting to take pictures of during this season. And many don’t get their camera back out until the spring (photographers with job assignments excluded).

Advice on what a scene feels like

The advice that I often give to these photographers seeking inspiration is to focus on what is unique about a place or a season. I always say: “When things are drab and there is nothing interesting to shoot, try to capture the drabness.” In other words, try to put your emotion into the picture.

Here is another photographer’s quote that comes to my mind while I’m writing this post:

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”

David Alan Harvey

To give you a visual example of what I’m talking about here, I took my camera out for a photowalk and tried to capture how this fall day felt to me.

To better convert and intensify my perception of this day, I used one of my favorite creative lenses, the Lensbaby Composer Pro.

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The selective focus and vignette help me to focus and intensify the look of common objects and things.

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Camera settings to try

I set my camera to my preferred B&W jpg settings and see the combination of selective focus and B&W conversion right in my viewfinder. This enables me to see if I managed to convert my emotion from that moment straight into the camera. And it saves me the tedious process of trying to convert that emotion hours later in post-processing on the computer — where I may have already forgotten how it really felt like.

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I love the energy and activity that the spring and summer seasons have to offer. But I also appreciate the unique characteristics that the fall and the winter bring with them. I find myself to be fortunate to have four unique seasons where I live and I try to convey this in my images, too.

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I hope that this post was an inspiration for you to go out and look for photo opportunities no matter the season or the weather. And remember to shoot what it feels like, too. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.



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