Jim & Cindy Griggs | Setting Yourself Apart

Setting Yourself Apart

December 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

There are numerous ways to make your photography stand out from the crowd!  With the proliferation of digital cameras in so many forms, phones, iPads, P&S, DSLR's, photographs are everywhere in our lives.  The world is flooded with images.  Most are glossed over, ignored or at best, not remembered.  Most of us who shoot professionally or semi-professionally, enthusiastically strive to make our images memorable.  What makes your images stand out from the mass of images hitting the street everyday?  One of the age old ways was to travel to some exotic place, not normally visited and photograph what makes that place unique.  Those days are fast disappearing as more people are carrying cameras than ever before plus people living in those places are acquiring photo capability, too.  Photos of exotic places are becoming more commonplace.  That is one age-old recipe that is fading rapidly.

So what else could make your images unique?  Watch most photographers in the field and you will notice one VERY common denominator; they almost all shoot from eye level, standing and holding the camera up to their eye (or out in front of them!) giving a view of the world some 5 feet above ground level.  To be unique among this crowd all it takes is to get up higher or down lower and your images are unique.  That sounds overly simplistic but it does create a unique viewpoint that 99% of the photographers forego in the interest of "just taking photos".  So one way to set yourself apart would be to shoot high or low.

Shooting HighVisiting Canyonlands National Park in Utah, I was not happy with the view from ground level. Hired a small Cessna to fly me over the park in the early morning. This gave me the viewpoint I desired. Prairie RattlerI got down low to meet this small rattlesnake face-to-face.













Another way to set your photography apart from the masses is shooting early, shooting late.  Most people don't like to be up at 4 am or out shooting until 10 pm.  There are tons of photographs taken between 9 am and 4 pm.  As serious photographers, we know that the best and most unique natural light occurs in the early morning and late afternoon into the evening.  This gives us another way to make our photography unique; get up early, stay out late.  With digital and ISO's reaching into the tens of thousands, even shooting the stars has become possible.

Sunrise - Chase CountyUp early leading a workshop in the Flint Hills, our group photographed the rising sun with misty fog in the fields between the trees.


Milky Way and CabinAt our recent workshop on a ranch near Dubois, WY, we set up tripods and photographed the Milky Way rising above the trees and one of the cabins at the ranch.











Most common cameras and devices have limited zoom range.  The perspective offered by these cameras is somewhat limited.  Try switching to a super-wide angle or super telephoto lens.  This simple step changes the perspective radically offering very unique points of view.  Early on I discovered that I loved the extremes of viewpoint offered with these two choices.  There were times that I shot in the field with a 20mm wide angle and 400mm telephoto lenses ONLY.  Hard to believe that I would sometimes carry just those two lenses but it was the way I saw the world and  it did set my images apart from those using lenses in the "normal" range.  Perspective is one of the elements of control that we have in our lens choices.  Use the extremes and your images will be different, unique. Compressed PerspectiveA telephoto lens will allow you to compress distant object together. Wide AngleUsing wide angle lenses lets you get close objects larger while shrinking distant objects, creating large spaces between near and far.














Tell the story with the minimum of information.  I know we have all sat thru lectures or meetings that seemed to drag on because the speaker kept repeating things or embellished his presentation to make it fill the time slot.  A "Cliffs Notes" version would be enough for most of us.  Same goes with photography.  Sometimes it is easy enough to grab the viewers attention with only a portion of the subject, not an overall image.  Try finding what is critical in the image, move in or zoom in on that particular part of the subject and see if it tells enough to stand alone.  When someone looks at the image, you want their brain to engage and build the rest of the story.  Try tightening up your compositions, it can be very exciting.  The downside is that you can get too close and abstraction sets in leaving the viewer wondering what it is.

Tight CompositionBy using a telephoto lensI cropped in on this bison showing one horn, her eye and fur. Viewers know this is a bison without showing the entire animal.








If the above are not enough to get you grabbing for your gear and heading out, try this.  Think about what you want to convey with your photograph.   While photographing the ranch house at the "Tallgrass Prairie Preserve" near Strong City, Kansas with a few friends, I noticed that everyone of them was shooting with a  tripod, a good thing.  I also noticed that from that position the grass didn't look all that tall.  I suggested they lower their tripods enough to bring some of the foreground grass into play in front of the building.  This made the grass look tall; after all we were at the Tallgrass Prairie!  Try to think about what you are trying to convey in the image.

Ranch House at the Tallgrass National preserveShooting from a low angle emphasizes the tall grass, the trademark of the ranch.


I spend a lot of time looking at my subjects in every way I can imagine, front lit, side lit, back lit, high, low, compressed with a super telephoto, expanded with a super wide; all of these are ways I have trained myself to visualize the finished image.  I started photography on a shoestring with only a 28mm lens for over a year.  I next bought a 200mm lens.  I only had those two lenses for about 18 months.  I learned to see in either wide angle or telephoto.  I learned what those lenses would do well and when to leave them in the bag.  To this day, I see the world in wide angle and telephoto.  My brain has been trained to crop what my eye sees for telephoto and to scan to visualize in wide angle.  I think that has been a good thing for me.  It certainly makes me more aware of an area when I stop and look for images.





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