Photography Practice: The 3 Circle Approach

The age-old question of the beginner photographer is… what to shoot! You have your new camera and have worked out how to use it and now what do you shoot? All dressed up and nowhere to go. Where do you get the inspiration and creativity to start taking photos? Here’s a three step approach.

photography practice

Photo captured by William Bayreuther

All of us battle with creativity at some point and so beginners are not alone in their quest for ideas of what photos to shoot. In the same way writers have writer’s block so do photographers in a similar fashion. So how do you overcome this? I have developed the three circle approach for my students which is a simple way of getting the creative juices flowing.

1. Circle number one – close-ups

Start this exercise in your home. If you look carefully there is so much to shoot. I like to focus on close-ups because you can’t really shoot landscapes or large subjects in your house. Getting in closer helps you to focus on detail and helps the learning process. So look for interesting objects around the home. By getting in closer you see details you wouldn’t usually look at. For example, the fine mesh screen of your stereo speakers, the shiny bathroom taps or the grid of the draining rack in the kitchen. The ideas are endless and you just need to look for them carefully and before you know it you have a host of great ideas. Learning to see detail and worlds within worlds also helps you to hone your overall photographic skills.

close up photo

Photo captured by Bozhin Karaivanov; ISO 100, f/4.0, 1/100s.

2. Circle number two – medium shots

With this exercise you take your first step beyond close-up into the area surrounding your home and the garden. Looking for bigger objects and things to shoot wander around the garden. Wheelbarrows, spiderwebs, garden taps, doors, shutters or a birdbath are all ideas that will make great shots. Here you might want to do an alphabet challenge. Find an object that begins with each letter of the alphabet until you have photographed all twenty six. This will really challenge your creativity and imagination. If you can’t find twenty six objects then shoot ideas or concepts such as L for love or F for fun with each concept represented by a letter. The aim of this game is to shoot bigger objects or subjects.

garden photo

Photo captured by Jan Huber; ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/800s.

3. Circle number three – wide shots

Get on to the streets of your local business district and go wild. There is just so much activity both small and large and the ideas are endless; you really won’t lack for inspiration. Here you can focus on a theme. Find things that are similar such as post boxes, doors, windows, reflections. Try to capture the essence of the activity, big trucks, billboards or church steeples. Slow down your shutter speed so that people become a blur and the focus is on objects and not people. I can go on and on with ideas but the name of the game is for you to get out and shoot.

town reflection

Photo captured by Vitalis Hirschmann; ISO 200, f/4.0, 1/125s.

In order to get shooting you need to get out and practice. Unless you are putting in shooting time you will not grow on your photographic journey. Ideas will flow when you start doing something about it. Happy shooting!

About the Author
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has produced 21 Steps to Perfect Photos, a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

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