At the beginning of February I set a goal to take 29 "good" No People photos during the month. I ended up shooting hundreds of No People frames and being happy with 39! Success!
Setting this goal enabled me to be more aware of opportunities around me to shoot still life images, and where I saw no opportunity, to more actively seek them out. The difference between the still life images that I made this month and the ones I made by the masses when I was learning photography, is that these are largely storytelling in nature. How can an image be storytelling, if there are no people, you ask? Taking a great "no people" image is important for anyone who wants to be a better storyteller who uses a SERIES of images to tell one story. Still life images are fantastic atmosphere setters and story transitioners. Whether it be a blog post or a photo album, inserting a few meaningful stills throughout the story can make the narrative flow and even feel more cinematic.
If you are thinking about trying a challenge like this, read on! Here are 7 tips for sharpening your observation skills and seeking out images:
#1: Always look for the light. Usually, where there is beautiful light, there is a good picture if you work hard enough. Can you tell I'm a fan of hard light and patterns?
#2: Think abstractly. Not every picture needs to be immediately identifiable. Look for light, texture, pattern and shape, and then fill your frame with it.
#3: Notice colors that are inspiring you or match the tone and feeling of the story you are trying to tell. Here, it was the dead of winter, so many of my pictures fit into that white, blue, or monotone color palette.
#4: Don't be afraid to take the same picture over and over. Found a muse? (Like me, with windows?) Don't listen to that voice in your head telling you that you've done it all before. Every day the light is subtly different, your perspective changes, your edits are different, and your mind must bend and grow to find something new.
#5: Nothing is off limits. When I first started the project I was trying to push myself out of mom-mode to shoot things that didn't pertain to my kids at all. But as the month went on I loosened up a bit on that rule and some of my favorite shots ended up being of more "kid stuff." Even though my viewer can't see a story behind each one, they all hold special significance and memories for me.
#6: If you are feeling totally uninspired by color (or lack thereof), a No People project is the perfect opportunity to go in search of it! Take your camera somewhere different. Or stay home, but look for color in ways that you usually don't see.
#7 Open your eyes to the mundane. Those same doors and windows you've seen a thousand times, a dead brown leaf, tree fungus (!?) -- you might be surprised what magic is waiting if you are just patient enough to see it!