How to photograph your surroundings

Pattern of pink details: mostly building materials found on foot in urban environments

There’s world of strange details, patterns and shapes within your everyday surroundings. But it’s a hidden world unless you intentionally start to look closer. Finding the art in your local environment allows you to let go of the idea you have to go somewhere beautiful or faraway to find interesting things to photograph. The constraint of going for a walk in your everyday surroundings and finding one thing that is different or interesting focuses your attention and forces you to “make it work” right where you are. Danielle Krysa in Creative Block interviewed Stephaine Vobas on getting creative: “Your attention to small things are little gifts, or clues, as to what you should be exploring further. Delve deeper.”

You will need: a camera or cameraphone and to look for details on foot

  1. Spend time looking around at small hidden details underfoot, around and above you as you meander on foot.
  2. Restrict yourself to a specific number of photos say between 1-10 photos. The restriction forces you to be more thoughtful and question if it’s worth taking the photos.
  3. Review photos at home at a later date to see if there are any reoccurring patterns or subjects that caught your eye.

Carolyn Schlam in The Creative Path speaks of an ‘inspiration hunt’ walk: “Think of your daily life as a hunt for art. Take note of what you notice and what you keep noticing. What interests you?” She encourages this process of reviewing possible connections because “These connections are the gold mine of your inspiration. Use them.”

The Sparkle Experiment Hidden Photos
Example of finding patterns – capturing X’s in urban environments

Feeling unsure what to look for?

  • Choose one colour, say red, and be on the lookout for red things
  • Choose one type of shape
  • Choose only black and white objects
  • Choose signs or symbols
  • Choose to really narrow it down and look for a specific thing eg. drainpipes, window corners or pavement cracks

More constraints makes it easier for you to find possible subjects. When you can photograph ‘anything,’ the endless choice could overwhelm and paralysis you. It is also vital you limit the number of photos because in a world of ever-expanding data storage, people tend to overtake due fewer restrictions. This creates extra work and mental energy due to deciding which images to keep or delete. Deciding before you even take the image saves your future self from additional review work.

By slowing down and focusing on what’s at your doorstep, you start to see hidden connections and allow yourself to be intrigued by ‘uninteresting,’ unexpected details. This new way of looking will feed back into your life in more ways than you’ll realise.

TheSparkleExperiment Hidden Photos 02
Looking for only yellow details in urban surroundings

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” – Andy Warhol