Inspiration is everywhere. You don't have to travel far in order to be able to take amazing photographs. Everything you need is right in front of you - or in this case - your very own backyard.
A photographer’s greatest tool isn’t the newest camera, the greatest, most advanced editing programs or the most elaborate set of flashes; a photographer's greatest tool is their eyes and their ability to see things around them.
I love finding things to photograph in my backyard on days when I feel less than inspired, because shooting in my backyard helps me train my brain to think outside the box.
Here are some tips to help you do that:
1. Play around with camera settings
The safety of your own backyard is the perfect place for you to experiment or play with those camera settings you’ve been wanting to try out but never had the time to. Play around with what your camera can do to help you change the look and feel of a particular image.
My favorite challenge to give myself is to try to change a specific season or weather condition by changing only the settings in my camera. For example, if it’s a warm and sunny day, I’ll reconfigure my white balance, aperture and shutter speeds in order to make my image look like it was taken in the middle of winter.
This will give you photographs a sense of mystery, especially when you upload them on social media. Get ready for comments from your friends asking you where you are and what you’re doing!
2. Use light as your subject
Whether you’re living by the beach, in the city or in a nice quiet suburb, your backyard is filled with built-in props that you can play around with. Light is the most natural and most abundant subject available to you so why not take advantage? Use leaves and branches to create different shadows on walls to tell a story.
Look at the different ways light seeps through the different holes and crevices throughout your backyard. One of my favorite things to photograph are light beams. I love the natural symmetry that light seems to form when going through cracks and crevices.
3. Find textures
A flower is more than just its petals. Nature photography doesn’t always have to mean wide shots, don't be afraid to go close. Textures are the most abundant thing you will find in your backyard but not every texture makes a for a good subject.
Find textures with a natural recurring pattern like those seen in leaves or tree trunks. Study how the light hits the the texture, find ones that are able to create shadows to give your photographs more depth and dimension. Lastly, take out your macro lens and see how close you can go in order to capture the natural patterns and details that occur in nature.
4. Search for life
Photographing your backyard can be a relaxing but isolating experience. Take some time to find the many critters hiding behind plants and trees. Set up a bird feeder to attract birds to visit you.
My favorite thing about photographing insects and birds is that it allows me to practice and improve on having a steady hand, fast eye and patience that I need for sports and runway photography.
5. No angle is the right angle
Most of the time, especially when we are so used to doing photography for a living, our brains and our eyes get trained to thinking that photographs should be taken from a 90 degree angle.
When I used to teach the smart phone photography class, I would make my students play a game. I would first tell each one of them to pick a spot, without telling them where and why, and when they’ve each locked in on a spot, I would tell them that they would each have to take ten different photos without moving an inch. This was an exercise in seeing, and the goal was for them to realize that there’s so much images they can create without even moving.
The same thing applies when trying to find things to photograph in your backyard. Don't be afraid to get on your knees, or stand on chair, you'll never know what you'll find when you leave your comfort zone.
6. Create your own
If at the end of the day, you don’t find anything interesting to photograph in your background, why not create your own setup?
Your backyard is filled with things that can make any flatlay or portrait shoot ten times more interesting. Keep an eye out for things you can use in your upcoming shoots and play around with how you can put them to use.