Taking pictures in your neighborhood doesn’t always seem very exciting. When everyone you know is traveling internationally or taking part in epic photo shoots or photo walks, it’s easy to get discouraged about your lack of opportunities.
You don’t have to travel further than your backyard to create amazing images. Staying close to home may not be as glamorous as traveling abroad. However, it gives you the chance to hone your skills without the time and money required to travel.
1. Have Fun Discovering Hidden Spots
One of the neatest aspects of taking pictures in your neighborhood is the chances it gives you to get to know the area better. You’ll be surprised at what neat spots you stumble upon simply while taking a new route or getting off the main path.
To learn about popular photo spots that may not be familiar to the general public, start following local photographers on Instagram. When you see a shot you really like, take note of where they took it. Pay it forward, and share the shots you take when you get to visit these hidden gems, so more photographers can discover the spots.
2. Practice Composition
When you plan outings close to home, you don’t have the time constraints that you do while traveling. It’s disappointing to spend a few hours out with your camera and not get any shots you love. But when you’re in a nearby location, you can always re-visit the spot in a few weeks. The flexibility to visit the same spots over and over again gives you the chance to work on your composition skills and experiment with different styles.
Begin working on the rule of thirds and leading lines. When you divide a photo into thirds vertically and horizontally, you have four intersections. Creating images with points of interest in these intersections will help you create stronger compositions. Leading lines refers to prominent lines in a photo that draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. When you feel comfortable with these two skills, consider your symmetry and framing. I’ve written an entire article on these rules, here it is Photography Composition: The Best Guide.
3. Practice With Different Styles
Without the time constraint that comes with travel, you also have more flexibility to play around with different styles. You don’t have to be an expert in urban photography or architecture photography to have fun dipping your toe in the style for an afternoon.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone will force you to push yourself. The skills you work on while shooting in a new style will be applicable to your own style. For example, the chance to shoot skyscrapers will make you consider framing in a whole new way. You’ll be able to bring those skills to your work as a family photographer.
In addition to shooting in varied locations, look for opportunities to practice different styles at events. If you have zero experience with sports photography, attend a local high school or college game. If you want to work on your street photography skills, go to a food or music festival and stake out a good spot for people watching. To find your own photography style you can read How to Find Your Photography Style that I’ve recently published.
4. Tell a Story
You know your own neighborhood well. This advantage gives you the chance to tell stories the average person wouldn’t think to tell when visiting the area for the first time. It’s easiest to tell a story over multiple pictures. You can tell a powerful story in a single photo, but it’s much more difficult and the narrative will be more limited. Work to create a series with at least four to six images, each one of which adds a different element to the narrative.
5. Pay attention to the little details
Some of the most interesting shots you can take in any location hone in on the small details. It’s nice to get a few wider establishing shots to tell your story. Then focus in on the details to further the narrative.
For example, when you’re at the farmers market, watch the way the vendors’ hands move as they select and bag produce, the facial expressions people make as they consider which items to buy, and the movement of small children weaving through the crowds.
Taking great pictures in your neighborhood requires developing an eye. You have to be able to see the extraordinary potential is seemingly ordinary surroundings. Anyone can take a great picture of the Grand Canyon. It takes a lot more skill to create a fantastic image of a row of tulips. The more you get out with your camera in the neighborhood, the more opportunities you’ll see for great pictures.
What are your favorite spots for picture taking in your neighborhood? What tips can you offer for creating great images close to home?
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.