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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but if you keep your eyes peeled you can certainly find more of it than if you don’t! Beauty is a truly elusive concept and consequently everybody is bound to find it in different places.
Nonetheless, beauty can be found in almost anything – from the mundane to the divine; from a shell on a beach to a grand statue in a town plaza. When you, as a photographer, look at the world in new ways, explore fresh angles and perspectives you can extract the beauty from all things.
When you capture that subtle essence of beauty in your photography you will make your viewers stop in their tracks, pause and really think about the image in front of them. It can end up having a hugely profound effect on them and may linger in their memory for years to come! This is exactly what you want as a photographer and although in many cases you will have to go with your gut feelings there are also some ways that you can practise the art of finding beauty in plain sight.
Searching For Beauty in the Mundane and Everyday World.
Beauty is not something which only exists in the exquisite art of the Renaissance or photoshopped models on Instagram! Beauty exists in plain sight and can be found anywhere and in almost anything.
Often, by changing the way you are looking at the world through your camera’s viewfinder, things which are considered to be ugly can be beautiful when seen in the right light. For instance, decaying buildings, peeling paint and the imperfections in the world around us can be among the most arresting subjects for a photo.
A great way to start practicing the search for beauty in plain sight is to take a walk around the area that you live. Look for unusual features that you wouldn’t normally notice and try to find interesting or unique ways to capture the beauty in them on camera!
In the image below the picture of two rusty nails sticking up out of a piece of wood are quite captivating and yet the scene couldn’t be more mundane! The photographer has zoomed in close to the nails to draw the viewer’s attention to something they wouldn’t normally take the time to notice; and the result is a well composed and beautiful image.
Nature and the Natural World.
No matter where you live the natural world creeps in. This applies whether you live high in the Himalayas or in a busy city! There is something universally appealing about nature and in photography it is a mainstay of the beautiful. Macro photography is a good way to find the beauty in nature, even when it’s just a single flower or leaf!
The image below showing water drops perched delicately on a leaf could have been taken anywhere but it contains the essence of beauty, harmony and balance. To capture this image the photographer had to really look for the shot in amongst the busy world around them.
Simplicity in the City.
Beauty doesn’t have to be complicated and often something which is simple and mundane but viewed with an unusual perspective, as in the photograph below. The photographer has made fantastic use of the light and broken reflection in the puddle. The slight element of mystery due to the face of the subject being distorted by the rain drops gives the composition an extra layer of interest.
Decayed Buildings and Structures.
In this photo of a run down building the former magnificence of the architecture still shines through and although most people would avoid such places a well tuned photographer can find the beauty in its fallen state. The faded colors, the broken glass roofing and the water logged floor all add a sense of pathos to the image. Your viewers will always take a moment to stop and appreciate the unsung beauty of these kinds of structures which have been left behind as the world moves onwards into the 21st century.
Traditional Beauty – Try to Add a Little Extra.
In some cases you don’t need to look far to find beauty in plain sight but when you’re photographing something which could be considered to be traditionally beautiful as it is then you should always be trying to add more depth and interest to it. This will turn a good photo into an epic piece of artwork – which is, after all, what you want!
In the photograph beneath the landscape is beautiful as it is, however, the photographer has chosen to wait until the autumn season so that they can incorporate the colored leaves. The photographer has also waited for the natural light to be just right so that it catches the colors on the leaves under the modest, cloudy sky.
Make the Most of Textures and Patterns.
When you’re trying to bring out the beauty in a scene textures and patterns are something to focus on. This can draw in the viewer’s gaze to appreciate things that they would normally pay no attention to. One of the primary purposes of seeking beauty in plain sight for a photographer is to show that it can be found all over the place!
In the image below, the photographer has managed to capture the rough and varied texture of the cobblestones which the vast majority of people would literally walk over without even looking down! Beauty that is almost hidden right before our eyes can be humble and understated; two qualities that the image below portrays perfectly.
Keep the Photo Tightly Cropped.
When you’re trying to give the viewer a glimpse into things with a fresh perspective it can be very effective to keep the photo tight around the subject. By excluding the background the viewer is forced to focus on the subject of the photo in isolation which can help them to see it anew.
In the photo below the close cropped cat’s face highlights the beauty of its eyes and because there is no distracting background or visual noise in the image the focus remains entirely on the subject of the photo.
Use a Shallow Depth of Field.
You can use the depth of field in an image to highlight the beauty in a photo. Similar to excluding the background by shooting tight around the subject; by keeping the depth of field very shallow you can achieve the same effect except you can also incorporate the colors in the background. The background colors, even when it’s blurred and the objects in it are indistinguishable, may be used to compliment the subject, adding to the beauty of the shot.
Contrast is Your Friend.
When you’re shooting keep an eye out for stunning contrasts in colors. Contrasting colors and temperatures in your work can have a magical effect and transform an ordinary object into something very special.
In the photo of a tiny chapel in the snow during the twilight hours the warm colors emerging from the door contrast beautifully with the pale blue snow and the bleak landscape. The warm light emanating from the doorway and window of the chapel adds a depth of meaning and gives the chapel an inviting feeling. Imagine though if the same photo were taken at midday – there would have been no contrasting colors and the image would have lacked the beauty that is captured with the twilight shot.
Photography is the Art of Finding Beauty Where Others Don’t.
Photography is one of the world’s best loved artforms and a major part of its appeal to audiences is the ability of the photographer to show them new ways of looking at the world. A skilled photographer can pick out the beauty in the most mundane of objects and places by using their creative vision to transform them into works of art.
Oftentimes, the photographer will identify the separate elements of a scene and focus down on one to highlight its beauty while at other times it’s the skillful use of contrast, color and light that creates a beautiful image from the least expected situations.
If you’re looking for inspiration then setting out to find the beauty that is hidden in plain sight is a great way to get your creative juices flowing as you force yourself to look at things in a new light!
Audiences love to be surprised by the photos they see and will linger over a single image for minutes at a time if it really strikes a chord in them. This elusive quality is hard to precisely define but as a photographer, if you’re frequently finding the beauty in plain sight then you’re likely to have it in spades!
Where do you find your inspiration?