Photo Tip. Be unique Photo Tip. Be unique | East Lansing Photographer-Todd L Church-Wedding and Senior photography Specialist

Photo Tip. Be unique

 April 12th and it is snowing in Northern Michigan.

March snowstorm

Older photo taken in the big snowstorm last March.

This is the perfect chance for me to spend some time updating the blog.

I have been thinking about something lately and thought it would be a useful tip for my fellow photographers. Traverse City had an ice storm yesterday. This morning, as expected, people were posting close-up pictures of ice dripping off branches and other objects to their Facebook photo albums.

I think it’s great that people want to get out and use a shallow depth of field to blur the background to accentuate the  main focus of the photograph. It’s a great way to practice camera settings. You might even get one or two images that stand out as unique photographs.  My mantra, to improve your photography skills has always been to keep shooting until your button pushing finger hurts. Try to see the shot through the lens before you push the button. Compose your image before you take the shot.

Good camera skills with win you praise, Uniqueness will win you awards.

Have you ever seen a photo that stands out from the digital noise and sticks in your head? Some of the greatest photographs of all time are story-telling images that stand out because they tell the story in a unique way. If you check out the top photos on you will see images that are of a wide variety of subjects that are photographed in unique ways. The photos on update often so there’s no way to say specifically which photos you will see when you click the link but I can guarantee that you will be impressed by the quality of the photos, not because they are unique subjects, but because the photographer chose a unique way to show you something that might be commonplace. They took the time to think about the shot before they pushed the button.

Always look for ways to get high.

That was a quote from my Journalism Professor at Michigan State University and he wasn’t talking about drugs or alcohol. He was talking about getting different angles in order to tell the story. Here are a couple examples from my work with the Traverse City Film Festival.

band at the Traverse City Film Festival_MG_1603

I took the photo on the left while standing in an area above the band to try and capture what they saw as they played. The one on the right was taken by attaching my camera to a monopod and using a remote to trigger the camera. I couldn’t see what I was getting when I took the shot because I was holding the camera up in the air on a stick. I’ve done this technique enough to have an idea of the result. Look for ways to tell a story by using camera angles. Don’t just tilt the camera for artistic affect.

Look around when you are taking photos

I was photographing stars over Green Lake in Interlochen. When I turned around I noticed this scene behind me. It pays to be open to unexpected shots. I didn’t go out looking for this shot. I found it as I was shooting something else.


Use Depth of field to tell a story

Depth of field is tricky. Most people think of it as an aperture setting, which it is, but it also has to do with lens choice and distance to the subject. You will see in the following examples how depth of field can be used effectively to focus the viewer’s attention. In the first case I used it to compress the accordion player with the sign in the background. I wanted the two to blend into one. You will also notice that the accordion player is in the lower third of the photo and he’s looking up in the direction of the sign. That was not by accident. I did not ask the man to pose. I simply composed the shot in camera and waited until he turned to face the right direction.

I took some ribbing about the wine glass shot. I was getting close with my 50mm f1.4 to blur the background and give me the bokeh that I was after. People who observed this thought I was crazy. People were commenting “What’s that guy doing at this party zooming in on a wine glass?”  I am paraphrasing but hopefully they could trust my judgment. Frankly, I didn’t care what they said. I knew what I wanted to get and I knew how to get it.

. Accordian PlayerCiccone wine glass

So there it is. Boiled down. My tip of the day is this; Shoot as much as possible and be creative. Don’t fall into the trap of just shooting what everyone else is shooting. Use camera angles and settings to your advantage to tell the story or to capture the scene as you want people to see it.  Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s going to happen. I promise. Go with it and move to the next shot. Find your voice in the digital noise and I bet you will be more successful as an artist.

Take care. Until next time…


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