Perception Matters

We may have seen numerous beach shots, but sometimes, the sheer spontaneity of a moment like this makes the picture unconventional. Photograph/Neha Mutreja

We may have seen numerous beach shots, but sometimes, the sheer spontaneity of a moment like this makes the picture unconventional. Photograph/Neha Mutreja

Photography is all about presenting a new point of view. Neha Mutreja tells you how to perceive the world differently.

This article was originally published in June 2014.

While going about our daily lives, we inadvertently shut our eyes to anything that is a part of our routine and ignore it. “This is so common,” we think, “so let us not shoot it.” This leads to complaints that our work does not give us enough time to shoot. However, a slight shift in perception is all that is needed for you to appreciate subjects that otherwise seem ordinary.

Look at it this way. Absolutely everything in the world has already been photographed. Whether it is an unassuming object or a magnifi cent monument, people have shot pictures of it. What matters is the way you look at a subject—your own point of view.

The Art of Seeing
When two people look at the same scene, they will react to it differently. In fact, even if they stand at the same spot and shoot, their individual way of seeing things will come through.

This unique perspective that each one of us has, is a gift. Instead of ignoring it and sticking to tried-and-tested formulae, make use of your individuality to ensure that your photographs stand out.

Hold the Camera Upside Down
It is useful to understand the basics, but once you have done this, the challenge is to go beyond. Learn the rules, and then fi gure out which are the best possible situations to break them.

For instance, you can even hold the camera upside down and shoot! Does that sound a little too crazy? Try it out when you are shooting a funny portrait of a friend. You can use this technique for other images too. Imagine going to a beautiful place that has large rocks that you can sit on. Lie down on the rocks, relax and look behind you, such that the world seems upside down. Shoot. It is a heady feeling, which can really add an interesting twist to your photography!

Take a Look Around
Observe the ground as you walk. Patterns on footpaths, abstract formations in puddles, dry leaves and pebbles have their own sense of beauty. Alternatively, try looking up while walking. You may spot interesting cloud formations, birds in fl ight or silhouetted building tops. Just do not collide into someone while walking!

Bend, Crawl or Prowl
Besides spotting subjects in unusual places, remember that you may need to contort yourself in some really unusual shapes and positions to get the best possible vantage point!

Do whatever it takes to make an image— be it getting into muck, wading through neck-deep water, lying down in the middle of a road or even climbing a tall building. Just do not compromise on safety!

Into Personal Spaces
When was the last time you really observed your own house? We are so familiar with our own space that we tend to neglect a number of photo opportunities. Look for unused areasinside your home. These have their own story to tell. Climb up to the loft or go to the storeroom. You will fi nd cobwebs, brass containers and dustcovered furniture here. Frame them in different ways and watch the magic.

Boredom Can Help
We often spend time lying on our bed, waiting to drop off to sleep. Look up at the ceiling and try to fi nd different patterns. Theshadow of the ceiling fan along with the lines of the cracks on the walls may create patterns. The play of light may create some fun effects too. These geometrical shapes and bizarre shadows can form a great series!

Portraits with a Difference
When you spend time observing someone, you will notice subtleties that you would otherwise overlook. Body language, expressions and gestures are all things that help you capture the conventional portrait with an unusual perspective. For example, while studying, your sibling may question themselves, sigh in frustration or make funny faces! The sheer spontaneity of such moments is rarely seen in pictures.

Also, a portrait need not comprise of the entire face. You can shoot an extreme close-up of the eyes as they are so expressive. Eyes wide open speak of awe or surprise, or tears speak of pain or joy at times. Curved eyebrows are a sign or tension or thoughtful mood.

You can also photograph a person’s hands or distinctive shoes, or the way her toes curl up when she sleeps.

With Child-like Imagination
The best photographers in the world often speak about photography like excited children. In fact, anyone can shoot great photographs, if they view the world with a similar child-like enthusiasm.

Kids generally observe things that we tend to miss out. They are also less hesitant, as compared to us. The reason is simple—absolutely everything around them is new and they have no fear of what people might think. Children are also a lot more open-minded about exploring new ideas and techniques. Due to this, they can interpret things in their own unique way.

Be curious, ask questions and most importantly, enjoy yourself. You will surely fi nd magic within the ordinary.

A 24X7 Companion
Do not shoot indiscriminately. You should try to make each frame count. However, in the process of being conservative, do not miss out on any shooting opportunities. Keep looking for photographs wherever you go, and whatever you may be doing— while travelling, having dinner or even when you are inside the bathroom!

Story of a Subject
One simple way to change your perception is to choose one subject and make a deliberate effort to shoot it in different ways. It could be something as ordinary as a curtain or a brick. Observe the intricacies of the subject, experiment with the composition, and see how it looks in different kinds of light. Do this for a week! In the beginning, this may seem diffi cult, even boring… but from the third or fourth day, you will start enjoying the challenge.

Get Inspired, Not Restricted
As beginners, we tend to look up the works of the masters and store them in our memory bank. So, the next time we go out to shoot on the streets, we look for typical Henri Cartier-Bresson moments. Or, while shooting landscapes in black and white, we try to imitate the style of legendary photographers like Ansel Adams.

Inspiration is great, but it can backfire. The masters have already established themselves. Blindly copying their work will only make you a clone. Study their work, learn from their strengths and then fi gure out how you can add your individuality to it.

At the end of the day, nobody can stop you from becoming a great photographer. After all, the way you see the world is different from absolutely anyone else. Use your own interpretation of the world and make pictures. Not only will you improve your photography skills, but also have a lot of fun!

Tags: Neha Mutreja, Composition, July 2011, Perception, Differently