How to Make More Interesting Photos

Michigan, 2013 #cindyproject
Michigan, 2013 #cindyproject

As photographers, I think we all want to make more interesting photos. We want to make photos that aren’t boring, aren’t cliche, and somehow show our unique viewpoint of the world.

But in today’s world where we are over saturated with images, how do we make more interesting photos?

The secret: make more personal photos.

Why personal photos?

Berkeley, 2016 #ricohgrii
Berkeley, 2016 #ricohgrii

Why should we make more personal photos?

Well, as human beings we are natural voyeurs. We are so interested in the lives of others; just take a look at any of the gossip magazines or blogs out there. We fetishize the lives of celebrities because we somehow think their lives are happier, more personally meaningful, and more exciting than our (boring) lives.

However, you have a unique and interesting life that nobody else on the planet has. No matter how “boring” you think your life may be, you have a unique perspective, a unique creative vision, and a life that nobody else has.

The benefit of making your photos more personal is that they feel more authentic, genuine, and real. They aren’t forced. They glow with warmth and love. Nobody can imitate your photos; because nobody can imitate your life.

Your interesting photos are inside of you

Berkeley, 2014
Berkeley, 2014

I think a lot of us think that interesting photos lie outside of us; in exotic countries or cities across the world. We are endlessly fascinated with the lives of others, because we see our own lives as boring, sometimes purposeless and meaningless. We jump on the social media treadmill, thinking that we will somehow get lasting happiness and satisfaction from getting more “likes” and followers on social media.

We might travel the whole world, yet still be unsatisfied.

Personally, I know a lot of people who travel for decades on end, and are still traveling as a send to escape their discontent.

Even for myself personally; traveling was a way of escapism. I hated the mundane boring reality of my 10-7pm cubicle tech job, and wanted to explore and see the world. I had the wrong impression that somehow my “heart’s treasure” was hidden and buried in some foreign country.

Balancing home and travel

Berkeley, 2015 #cindyproject
Berkeley, 2015 #cindyproject

The last few months I’ve been spending more time at home in Berkeley, in my simple and modest 1-bedroom apartment. Most of my social activities have revolved around meeting my close friends and family, having great kimchi and pork belly at family gatherings, taking personally meaningful photos of Cindy, reading, and trying to think and contemplate more about my life’s purpose, and what would give me more meaning in my life.

I’m typing this out on my phone, on a bus, about to go to NYC for about two weeks. I am extremely excited; but I know that all I need is here within a two mile radius of my apartment in Berkeley. The love of my life, my espresso machine in my apartment, a few close friends, my books, and a couple of good coffee shops.

So friend, how can you make your photography better capture the beauty of the life you already have? How is the camera going to capture personally meaningful moments for you? Do you want to travel as a way to see the world and expand your mind, or to escape your dissatisfaction at home?

I encourage everyone to travel, and definitely get out of their apartment. Even me; I can easily spend all day at the apartment, drinking coffee, reading tech blogs, screwing around on my smartphone in the App store (trying to find a new game or app to distract and “entertain” me). But in reality, we do need some adventure to keep our lives interesting.

But “adventures” don’t need to be foreign or overseas. It can be as simple as going for an hour long walk in an unfamiliar part of your own city.

For example, I hate walking in Berkeley, I’m lazy. I prefer the bus or to call an Uber.

However the other day I was in Oakland, and instead of taking an Uber back to Berkeley, I decided to take the hour long walk back to meet cindy in Berkeley, and I had a fantastic time. I took a few photos of random stuff that interested me, I enjoyed hearing the sounds of the birds chirping in the air, as well as the feeling of using my legs and exploring. Also feeling the transition of when Oakland becomes “Berkeley” is interesting– just walking a few blocks totally changes the feeling, mood, and sense of place of a neighborhood.

Love your life

Berkeley, 2015 #cindyproject
Berkeley, 2015 #cindyproject

Anyways, I’m probably rambling on (now that the double shot of espresso that I drank 30 minutes ago is hitting my blood stream).

But once again, to take more interesting photos; make your photos more personal. Not only that, but life a more interesting life.

If your friend invites you out for a drink, but you’re tired after work, just down a red bull and meet them up (camera in hand, you never know what might happen). Don’t use your precious weekends to just “relax” at home on the sofa. Use that time to go on a mini day trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go; and bring along your partner or your friend.

And never forget; the point isn’t to be a good photographer, but to live a good life.

March 16, 2016 @ 10:54am, written on my smartphone with IA writer.

Personal Photography

Berlin, 2015 #cindyproject
Berlin, 2015 #cindyproject
  1. The “Personal Photography” Manifesto
  2. A Photographer’s Search For Meaning
  3. How to Find Your Passion in Photography
  4. Find out What to Photograph, Not How
  5. Why Do You Take Photos?