Blog Home Contributor Community Conversations: What Makes a Photo Not Boring?

With thousands of photos uploaded everyday, how do we keep our images fresh and interesting? How do we make sure they’re not boring?

Ever wonder how some photographers swear by stock photography, but you can’t seem to figure out how to make money off of it? Well, a lot of elements are involved.

Recently, we chatted with six of our contributors to discuss one of the most vital elements—interest. As in, interesting images. Non-boring stories in a still frame. Here are their tips and advice.

Nastya Kudzina on Flat Lay Images

Beauty Products
Top view of a minimal flat lay campaign. Image via Kudzina.

Our brain is quite organized and it likes to see patterns. So, let’s go for it! What fascinates me about flat lay photography the most are the separate elements that come together in a perfectly-balanced arrangement. Or, on the contrary, in a chaotic manner and create something new.

Bamboo Toothbrushes
Keep it simple. Image via Kudzina.

Every little detail like background, texture, lighting, composition, all count since that’s the language a still life photographer uses to reach out to the viewer. Sometimes, I feel like flat lay photography is something that’s simple, but not easy at all. I’m only starting my way in still life, but all that excitement I get while shooting makes me want to work harder and explore deeper.

Facial Clay
Make your image intriguing to the viewer. Image via Kudzina.

While shooting, I like to arrange the elements on the image in a certain order. When separate elements inside an image form some triangles, squares, or circles, it always seems nicer and more familiar to the viewer’s perception. For a flat lay image to sell, it should be easy to interpret and eye-catching at the same time. To find this balance is a challenge, but a creative one.

Lauryn Ishak on Lifestyle Images

Man Diving
Evoke emotions with your images. Image via Lauryn Ishak.

I’m drawn to scenes that evoke emotion, whether it be adventure, melancholy, happiness, or peace. Within lifestyle photography specifically, though, I love creating images that are interactive, warm, and fun, yet intimate and peaceful. The best photos for me happen at intersections—between chats, between frames, an unguarded moment, after the actual shoot when another moment presents itself.

Beachball Vendor
Look for authenticity in your photo. Image via Lauryn Ishak.

I try to photograph in a way so viewers are drawn in. So that they feel like they’re experiencing the moment themselves. A lot of moments in lifestyle photography don’t always come naturally. Some require some direction and some unfold without much effort, but I always look for accessibility and authenticity in a photograph.

Watching Sunset
Allow viewers to imagine themselves in your photos. Image via Lauryn Ishak.

When viewers can imagine themselves in the photographs they’re looking at, it’s immediately no longer boring. They’re able to dream to be somewhere, to be doing or experiencing something.

Michael Barrow on Black and White Nature Images

Dark Sea
Make a color image black and white. Image via michaelbarrowphoto.

I think one of the most integrally poignant parts of photography is its ability to pluck clean out of time and space something that might otherwise be consigned to be a memory. However, there’s absolutely no getting away from the fact that we now live in a world of limitless imagery, limitless photography, limitless documentation. And, insomuch, photography, in all its different forms, can certainly be boring. It’s diluted, it’s overused, and it’s often an afterthought.

Black and White Landscape
The simplicity and beauty of a black and white landscape. Image via michaelbarrowphoto.

So, what makes a photograph NOT boring? For me, it’s all about context. If we consider black and white photography, we have no choice but to consider a world completely void of color. In this world, tone becomes the most important factor. We don’t look at hue, vivacity, and color contrast. We look at white to black and all the tones in-between.

With black and white photography, tone becomes the focus. Image via michaelbarrowphoto.

We look at the effect light has on the world. As a photographer, I try to study these before I even start to shoot. A crisp, clear day upon the Moors of Saddleworth in winter, with long grasses kissed with end-of-day light or a cliff face touched with the same light out at sea, hints a change to black and white and can suggest a striking difference between tone.

I think it’s important that this comes naturally and is often mixed with mid-tones from other elements in the image. It’s true that these sorts of images can work perfectly well in color, but the punch you get from a black and white conversion is really something else.

Pine Forest
The intricacy, yet simplicity, of a black and white image. Image via michaelbarrowphoto.

I also think that black and white enables us to see things in terms of form and shape, rather than literally “That’s a cliff face” or “Here’s a farmer’s field.” I think an image can be striking in its lack of comprehension to the viewer. It can be striking in its form, shape, and tone, without its literal interpretation being immediately relevant.

The natural world is a world often underestimated as we think we know it all and see it all. It’s only when we’re faced with it under different or slightly-warped circumstances that we tend to take notice. I think photography is a valuable medium for shedding light on this . . . no pun intended.

Galina Zhigalova on People and Lifestyle Images

Couple Kissing
Revealing intimacy through lighting. Image via Galina Zhigalova.

What makes a photo not boring? I’d say the cinematic tricks in the composition. Like blurring the foreground and playing with the effect of the viewer’s presence in the frame. As if we seem to be peeking from behind a door or curtain, or even shooting from behind.

Fixing Hair in Mirror
Choose an interesting angle to shoot from. Image via Galina Zhigalova.

I carefully prepare for each of my shoots. I should not only choose clothes and props for the models, but also think over an interesting location. Basically, the whole message and the mood of our joint work. I write down in advance the plot or storyline and think about the general concept of shooting.

My task is not only to create a beautiful set of decorations around the model, but also to emphasize her natural beauty and spontaneity. All this makes my work commercially attractive to future buyers and, even more, brings incredible pleasure to my models and me.

Drinking Milk
The sincerity of a moment caught on camera. Image via Galina Zhigalova.

Another secret to interesting images is the sincere emotions of the models and relaxed poses. To get this, I make a lot of jokes and compliments to help the model to relax and feel at ease. After all, there’s nothing better than a sincere smile and a good laugh!

Alex Maeland on Architecture Images

Hanging Laundry
Capture real people performing daily tasks from interesting perspectives. Image via Alex Maeland.

For me, the best images are often the simplest. This has been reaffirmed time and time again via social media, as well. It’s often the casually captured phone photos of real, relatable moments that resonate with the community of followers I have, as opposed to the images that are “professionally” captured and hyper-considered.

My sense is that within a world where we’re inundated with imagery, the visuals that stand out to people the most are the ones that feel the most rooted in reality.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong shot in natural lighting. Image via Alex Maeland.

Also, there’s a huge element of humanity in a photo that makes it engaging. For example, even with architecture photography, imagery that’s lit more candidly with natural light, captured spaces that look lived in or used and includes some aspect of humanity and/or people in the photo, seem to stand out.

Beach at Sunset
An intimate angle of the beach at sunset. Image via Alex Maeland.

I’ve been approached a lot lately to shoot interiors and people have specifically asked me to avoid what they consider “overly commercial” lighting in favor of “editorially-driven” images. People have been moving more towards warmer interior tones, less strobe or artificial lighting, more intimate angles of the space as opposed to perfectly framed, wide shots of the space that you might find on a traditional real estate website.

Jorge Maricato on Still Life Images

Up-Close of Feet
Keep your mind and eyes open for new, unique ideas. Image via Jorge Maricato.

I do not search for the subject. It’s the subject that finds me. When I’m with my camera, my heart is open to hear what the world has to say. Sometimes, a set of elements catches my attention so much that I feel the need to capture that message. I believe this is what makes images interesting.

My work in these cases is much more about visualizing the form of presentation (framing and colors) than choosing the subject. The subject eloquently imposes itself. Thus, allow yourself to truly notice what’s around you.

Abandoned Stroller
An image that otherwise may be simply unnoticed. Image via Jorge Maricato.

There are also cases where my imagination is activated. It’s not just the subject that calls for attention, but it also converses gently with my memories. I can imagine objects interacting with each other, anthropomorphizing, a group of people contemplating around the photographed subject. Perhaps the most important thing is to remain a child.

Vintage Records
Approach a subject with a child-like perspective. Image via Jorge Maricato.

More tips to up your stock photography game:

Cover image via skyNext.