As any physical fitness instructor will tell you, stretch to keep yourself flexible and prevent injury.
Photography is no different.
There have been many times I have arrived for an assignment and said “What am I supposed to shoot here?” And digging into that bag of tools, I use what my good friend August Miller taught me.
August was the photo editor at the time. A great photographer now the assistant photo editor at the Deseret Morning News.
During my first week, he gave me a simple piece of advice. To make me a better shooter, begin by shooting “wide, medium, and tight,” and then “stretch” your creativity for the best image.
By first shooting these three basic shots, you get something usable and you’ve essentially covered your bases. While you are getting the main three, seek out compositions you’d like to pursue further.
Seek those that with the right moment, will make your image zing. The one when you get back home, or send to a client, that says “This is What Happened.” That image that makes the editor say “Wow!”
But the thing to remember is: wide, medium, tight, does not mean to shoot them with that focal length of lens.
Wide is to get a good overall. You can shoot these images with long glass. For example, your story is about a policeman walking his beat. You shoot with a wide angle lens to get him and all the buildings, and then run ahead and get him walking through the crowd with a telephoto. Same information presented in two different ways.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have to photograph a tall building. As you drive to the city, you see the building, so you find a good spot and photograph it with a telephoto to get a perspective with it towering over its neighbors. When you get to the base of the building, its towering facade is overwhelming so you use a wide angle capture it as it recedes into the clouds.
Now time to stretch. What compositions did you see that with the right moment will make your editors, or clients, be happy you shot the assignment?
For example, did you like the photo of the building as it towers into the sky, but thought it was a bit bland? Then compose and wait for someone to walk by. Wait for someone unique. Maybe you get lucky and a delivery boy walks by carrying a lot of balloons.
The key is to exercise your creativity and constantly push yourself to do better. Climb on things, lay on the ground, look for angles that are not “pedestrian.” Look through, over, under. Don’t take the obvious, but keep seeking something different.
So keep your eye exercised by stretching your creativity.