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Choosing Your Subject

Thursday, October 18th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Many times, we mistakenly believe that we need to have a studio setting and a studio subject to take great pictures. The truth is, your subjects can be anyone, animate or inanimate. That’s what makes photography so much fun. Here are a few easy tips on finding the right subjects for your pictures!

Honest Emotions

This quality is always appealing. If you capture innocence on your camera, no matter how badly composed it is, the picture will still be appreciated. If you spot a pet, a child or an adult with innocence written across their face, go for it! Capture them in action and you never know what you may end up with.

Poignant Faces

You need to study faces before you decide who can be your best subject. Faces that appear pleasant in person might turn out to be quite non-photogenic and vice versa. Also, capturing an acknowledged beauty on camera isn’t always great. What will elevate your skills is if you can find that grandmother with well-defined wrinkles and years on her face. A tight close up of her face in black and white will tell you what you have indeed captured. It’s these poignant faces that distinguish a professional from an amateur.

Straight Action

Sometimes nothing succeeds like sporting action. Whether it’s snowboarding, jet skiing, parasailing, bungee jumping, roller skating, driving, water slides, roller coasters, it’s so fun to capture those kinds of things. In fact, just about any kind of action shot that’s engaging and inspirational at the same time will be a winner. With this, the action becomes your subject and not the person performing it.

Serendipitous Moments

We have many such moments, but the thrill is in capturing them for posterity and nothing can beat the serendipitous moments offered by nature. It could be a pattern in the sand, a set of footprints, the crashing of waves over a rock, a lifeguard’s tower, shoes at the water’s edge, sand castles, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, etc. The possibilities are endless. All you need is a watchful eye for the serendipitous!


With a little observation, you can create photographic subjects. For example, the start and end of a day can present the best opportunity for shooting at the beach. For starters, there will be fewer people there at those times and, with the sun shining at an angle, you often get more interesting effects of shadows and colors. That’s especially true in the evening when the light becomes quite warm and golden. Another timing issue is that the beach can really come to life on the days when everyone avoids it because of poor weather. Stormy seas, threatening and dramatic clouds and wind blowing trees all make for atmospheric shots.

Watching and Listening

Many times, you don’t have to look far for photographic inspiration. Your subject could be anything that moves, from tiny orange soldier beetles to bull elephants fighting. Intimate photographic knowledge can be taught to a lesser extent from others, but to a far greater extent just by watching and listening to everything around you. It can be the body language of your subject that results in a “once in a lifetime” photograph. For example, a naturally relaxed bird will have its feathers quite loose, but just before flight, they will all tense. If you see this and start clicking the shutter at the right time, it can result in a wonderful “take off” image. It could be a bull elephant twitching its tail and becoming very agitated just before charging at another bull and engaging in a tussle. The world is full of great photo subjects!

Happy picture taking!

~ Zahid H. Javali

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