How to make your photographs unique

Let’s face it, most of us would have come across this problem while trekking – we would all have ended up with similar photos. This situation can be easily avoided. There are so many ways to shoot unique pictures; all it requires is some moving about, some thought and maybe some extra equipment. 

1. Move around, there is infinite space all around you

Well, if you don’t want photos like everyone else, don’t do what everyone does. Don’t stand where the crowd does. The trick is it to find interesting perspectives. Move around to get a different view. For example, reflections in lakes change as you move towards the water. From the other side, there might be a lonely tree adding to the composition. You’ll never know if you never move. Scout the location thoroughly. Chances are, similar photos from the same point of views are already shot by many photographers. If you want a unique photo, find a good vantage point.

2. Shoot from either a high angle or a low angle

Using a low angle let me include the grass which complements the clouds and fills an otherwise empty frame. This was shot near Hassan.
Shot from a lower angle at Hassan

A photograph can express different things based on your composition. For instance, shooting a subject from a high angle can imply that the surroundings are overpowering the subject. Whereas, the same photograph when shot from a lower angle gives a feeling that the subject is overpowering the surroundings. Try a low angle when shooting landscapes as it lends more depth to the image. Try a high angle shot when you want to show the setting of the subject or show the environment around it. If not these two, try all sorts of angles that come to your mind. All of them might not be good but you might hit jackpot with some angle.

3. Bad weather is no excuse to not shoot

We all know that a bright sunny day with a few cotton candy clouds is perfect for photography. But many a time, we encounter cloudy days without much sunshine. This is when you most certainly should NOT pack your camera.

Cloudy skies look great if you can capture the drama. The exposure is not that easy to manage, but if you are able to capture the mist rolling in from the mountain tops or dark skies, it can make for a great photo. HDR or bracketed shots help in this case. If you use filters, try a Graduated Neutral Density filter, it helps greatly.

4. Observe your surroundings and anticipate

In the mountains, especially in the Himalayas, I have noticed that soon after it rains, the sky clears up spectacularly. And not just that, 80 percent of the time, I have spotted rainbows. If around a lake, you can expect the winds to calm down for clear reflections. But it is just a moment before the winds blow, clouds reappear or the colours fade. So be ready with your camera to capture the magic at the right time.

Caught in action! This was shot in Desert National Park on a trek in Rajasthan.
This was shot on the Kugti Pass Trek, just after heavy rainfall

5. Show the camera what you see

A camera can merely capture what you show it. Before clicking a photo, think about what caught your attention in the first place. It could be the grasslands or a bird or a peak or a flower or a pattern. I know it can get tricky to isolate a subject, but the point is to identify the object of interest and then try framing a photo around it. David DuChemin rightly said, “Gear is good. Vision is better.”

Flowers on the roopkund trek
Seeing the sunset colours and the settling clouds. This was taken on the Kodachadri Trek. Winters are the best time to witness such clouds below your feet.

6. The mighty mountain and the humble human

Treks can be overwhelming in many ways. The vastness of the scenery sometimes leaves us feeling very insignificant and humble. Including a frame of reference in photos always helps the viewers comprehend the magnitude of things around. Adding a human element to the frame makes it all the more interesting because not only does the photo convey the scale of the scenery but it also manages to invoke a humbling sense of wonder.

Kugti pass trek
Without the human, it would’ve been very hard to comprehend the vastness of the glacier and the mountains. This was taken during the Kugti Pass Trek, while descending the pass to the other side.

7. There’s a smaller world out there – the macro world

We get to see varied flora and fauna on treks. The macro world is an interesting place to venture into. If you own a DSLR, then increase the aperture and if you own a point and shoot, look for the macro mode. This blurs out the background.

Blurring the background in itself is not going to be enough. Make sure the background is clutter-free as well. Look for contrasting colours between the subject and the background. You could also carry a small black cloth and use it as a background for macro shots.

Flowers on the Roopkund trek
I moved my point of view to avoid brown mud and find green in the background. We saw many such flowers on the Roopkund trek.

8. Play with light

As I see it, a big advantage of photography is the chance to look for something beyond the ordinary. Before photography happened, light was just a basic requirement. Later, light became everything. Look around to play with light. Sunlight streaming through branches, streams, clouds – all of them can provide excellent photo opportunities. Be on the lookout for anything eye-catching, if it has caught your attention, it is something different.

Shivanasamudra waterfall
The sunshine sparkled through the drops of water creating a magical moment. The spider web only added to the scene. The light was gone minutes after clicking this photo. This was shot while exploring Shivanasamudra.

So, there are several things you can do with your camera to show your surroundings in a different light. You could use long exposure to get silken smooth water bodies or you can capture the culture of the place with good portrait shots. Just be patient, take your time and click good pictures. Memories may not last forever, but photographs will!

To learn more from Neelima, check out her website, The Wandering Soul’s Wander Tales.

Cover photo of the Goechala trail by Geet Tryambake.


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Neelima Valangi

Neelima Valangi

A travel writer and photographer by profession, Neelima is an offbeat and adventure travel enthusiast. Eschewing touristy things and sightseeing, she prefers to trek or travel to remote corners in search of extraordinary stories.

One thought on “How to make your photographs unique

  1. Thanks Sandhya

    Lots of great advice in this article!

    A couple of other suggestions:

    1. Put something interesting in the foreground of a landscape.
    Most people see an amazing view and want to photograph the entire thing. But if there’s nothing in the foreground, everything in the photo is so tiny, the viewer loses interest.

    2. Dawn & Dusk are your Friends
    The light is softer, more even, more colourful, and has more red/orange in it, making everything look warmer (including people). These are the best times of day to shoot. Even after the sun has gone down, there’s often still enough light to capture amazing photos. If you can avoid it, don’t photograph during the middle of the day.

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