How to Think Outside the Box

Taking a photograph of what’s in front of you isn’t exactly rocket science. But training your mind to think outside the box allows you to see past the obvious and into a dream world that only a community of creative minds could otherwise conjure up. 

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer by

Traditional Photography Thinking

Yet thinking outside the box first requires us to understand what actually is ‘the box’? It’s a term we’re all familiar with, but when applied to photography, what are the conventional parameters we want to break?

Of course, the best way to begin is to test our expectations. For example, if we said ‘think of the Eiffel Tower’ what does that visual in your head look like?

Here’s the most popular interpretation(s):

• Full height
• In good weather
• Well exposed
• Evenly proportioned
• Colour

Doing your own ‘imagination research’ will help you picture easy common conceptions which in turn you can use a benchmark to overturn.

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer by
Image: Creative photographers should avoid 'the tourist shot'.

Do Something Different with your Photography

Since we know what most people think when they picture the Eiffel Tower, here are some photos that show the photographer thinking outside the box to capture unusual views of a familiar landmark.

Can you see how those popular interpretations are being changed?

• Tight crops
• Nightime / Inclement weather
• Distorted with wide lenses
• Colour effects added in post-production

If you’re visiting a location, you’ve never been to before, do some research online to see what the most common viewpoints are. Write them down as ‘things to avoid’.

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer by
Image: Look for ways to capture familiar landmarks in a unique way.

10 Ways to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer

But there are still more ways that you can think outside of the box.

Don’t spend precious time researching other people’s shots if you’re busy. Instead, simply think about these 10 key questions that you should pose to yourself when taking your photographs.

1. Do you need to photograph the WHOLE subject? Could you crop tighter in and still offer context?

2. Have you tried placing your subject in the background and creating a foreground to draw an audience in?

3. Go to the extreme with angles. Extremely high and low angles will change a subject’s story instantly and make for a unique viewpoint.

4. Can you create controversy? Look for 2 competing scenarios that juxtapose each other adding humour, drama or sorrow for instance.

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer by
Image: Change the viewpoint of the camera for my dynamic photos.

5. Don’t be afraid of one colour. Many photographers hone in on colourful scenes, as that’s what attracts our eyes. Look past the multiple shades and train your eye to think outside the box and look for the monotones. Shots filled with different shades and tints of the same hue can look well thought out.

6. If you can direct your subject, a portrait perhaps, then direct them to do unusual poses or actions with everyday objects – reading a book in a swimming pool or writing a letter upside down. Don’t do the normal things conventionally.

7. Returning to colour, with a bit of editing it is possible to change the colour of anything with a little bit of Photoshop? Using Hue and Saturation sliders it’s easy to quickly switch green grass to pink building up a psychedelic view of familiar places.

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer by
Image: Play around with the colour (top left) or the angle (top left). Perhaps look for opposing elements (bottom left) and offset compositions (bottom right).

8. When shooting with a shallow depth of field it is most common to set the focus point nearest to the camera. But what would your shot look like if the focus was further away drawing attention to the back of the picture?

9. Got your horizon straight? Great, now tilt it. Who says all pictures have to be level? Make a decisive decision to add in a Dutch tilt making the whole shot more modern and diagonal.

10. When it comes to composition, step away from the middle. Create negative space for your subject by pushing it to the side of your frame. Having a blank void offsetting a shot can add mood, drama, interest and space for…a logo, advertising, headline – who knows!

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer by
Image: Tilting the camera angle is simple but effective sometimes.

How to Think Outside the Box as a Photographer: Summary

In conclusion, all you need is a process to learn and rehearse every time you pick up your camera.

After a while of thinking this way then you won’t need to review a list anymore, it’ll just be instinctive. You’ll begin to look at subjects and think ‘how can I make you look different?’.

Once you’ve been thinking outside of the box for long enough it’s time to start sharing those creative approaches with the iPhotography community. Upload them to the gallery or tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you’ve got any other creative tips for thinking outside of the box then get in touch and let us know so we can build up a bigger checklist for other members.


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