How To Turn Ordinary Subjects Into Extraordinary iPhone Photos

Do you struggle to find interesting subjects for your iPhone photos? Are you uninspired by your surroundings? The good news is that you don’t need to travel to exotic locations to take amazing pictures – you simply need to change the way you see the world around you. In this tutorial you’ll discover how ordinary subjects can become extraordinary, allowing you to capture your everyday surroundings in unique and artistic ways.

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Creating extraordinary photos of mundane subjects and scenes might sound challenging. But with a little practice you can train yourself to see beyond the ordinary, opening up a whole new world of photographic opportunities.

I discovered this myself when I took part in a 365 photo-a-day challenge. I live in a very small town and work mostly from home, so I quickly realized that I was going to have to think outside the box if I was to succeed in taking 365 interesting iPhone photos that year!

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I began to explore my surroundings with fresh eyes. I became more observant and resourceful. I took photos of anything that caught my eye, experimenting with different shooting and editing techniques.

I soon found that it was very easy to create beautiful, dramatic, or unique images – even in the most ordinary of locations. And I now love the challenge of photographing mundane subjects in new and interesting ways.

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No matter where you live, or what kind of scenes you encounter in your daily life, you too can learn to take creative iPhone photos of ordinary subjects in any location.

Whether you’re at home, at work, in your garden, walking down the street, relaxing in your local park, playing with your kids, hiking through a field, traveling on public transport, or sitting in your car at the car wash… you can always find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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What Makes Ordinary Subjects Extraordinary?

So what kind of ordinary subjects might make extraordinary photographs?

If something catches your eye, then you can probably take a great photo of it. Look around at your surroundings right now. What captures your attention?

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Maybe it’s the color of an object or its interesting shape. You might notice the pattern of a fabric, or a particular texture such as rust or peeling paint.

Perhaps you’re drawn to an interesting juxtaposition of objects, or the way two people are interacting.

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Often, the way the light catches an object in a special way at a particular time of day can be enough to turn an ordinary subject into something beautiful.

Maybe you’re entranced by rays of sunlight shining through a window, an intriguing shadow on the wall, or a stunning reflection in a shiny surface.

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It might even be the underlying meaning of an object that draws you to it. For example, the fact that it’s hand-made, vintage, or old and decaying.

Anything that tells a story or evokes emotion is always a great choice for a photographic subject. If you’re intrigued by a particular subject or scene, it’s likely to make an interesting photo.

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Potential images are all around you. You just need to notice them, and then capture them in a visually pleasing way with your iPhone.

So lets take a look at eight ways to turn ordinary subjects into amazing iPhone photos.

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1. Shoot From A Different Perspective

One of the easiest ways to make an ordinary subject look more interesting is to take the photo from an unusual angle.

Rather than shooting directly at your subject from standing height, how about capturing it from a very low angle or from a high vantage point?

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Look around you right now, and choose a subject to photograph. It can be anything – a cup of coffee, a plant, a lamp, a tree, a building, etc.

Now explore it from every angle, taking photos from as many different perspectives as possible.

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Below is an example of a fern leaf in a garden. Its color and shape are intriguing, but photographing it from standing height meant including a lot of messy background behind. The result is a less interesting photo.

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In this situation, lying down on the ground and shooting a single fern leaf from below was a much better option. This is a very easy way of creating a striking image that will instantly catch the viewer’s eye.

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Shooting from a low angle is a great way of eliminating distracting backgrounds, especially when you’re outdoors and can use the sky as your backdrop.

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Now see if you can photograph your subject from above. If you’re shooting an object on a table top, such as a cup of coffee, a glass of champagne, or a plate of food, this will be fairly easy.

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If you want to capture a street scene from above, try standing on a bridge or shoot from an upstairs window or balcony.

Capturing the rooftops of buildings is a great way of showing your city from a viewpoint that most people don’t usually see.

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Wherever you are and whatever you’re photographing, there will always be the option to capture the scene from a more unusual angle.

This simple technique will help you see the ordinary world around you from a whole new perspective.

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2. Get Up Close And Fill The Frame

Many ordinary subjects don’t look that impressive from a distance. But if you get up close, you can often capture amazing detail in your photos.

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This is particularly effective for subjects that have an interesting texture, such as peeling paint, rusty metal, feathers, or even the cabbage leaf in the photo below.

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There are so many different kinds of textures that you can capture with your iPhone. How many textures can you see in your immediate surroundings?

The amazing ice crystals in the photo below are actually a close-up image of a trash can on a wintry day!

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Shooting up close is also great for capturing small details like water droplets on a flower, or the intricate veins of a leaf.

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Get close enough to capture the detail, but be aware that if the lens is too close to the subject it won’t be able to focus. As a result, your photo will appear blurred.

If you want to capture extreme close-ups, use an add-on macro lens that allows you to get really close to the subject.

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For maximum impact, fill the entire frame with the subject, eliminating any background elements from the picture.

A busy or uninteresting background will only distract the viewer from your intended subject.

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Don’t be afraid of not showing the whole subject in your photo. By focusing in on just a small part of an object, you can create incredible abstract images like the one below.

This amazing abstract photo of color and shape is actually a close-up of part of an electric bar heater!

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By getting up close to the most interesting part of your subject, you’ll create truly artistic photos.

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3. Capture Interesting Light

Light is one of the most important factors in photography. It really can make or break a photo.

You can make use of interesting or beautiful light to completely transform an ordinary scene into something special.

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As an experiment, try photographing the same indoor or outdoor scene at different times of the day.

Compare the results and notice how the different types of light affect the image. The amount, strength, quality, color, and direction of the light will all impact your image in different ways.

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If you’re shooting indoors, try using soft, diffused window light to create a bright and airy still life photo. You could also look out for interesting shadows and light patterns cast on walls.

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When shooting in harsh sunlight, look out for dramatic and intriguing shadows. You’ll often find incredible lines and patterns cast by railings and other objects on the street.

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On an overcast day, these wonderful shadow patterns wouldn’t have been visible.

Water droplets look amazing when the light hits them in the right way. Look for dew drops or rain drops on flowers, leaves, and grass, and try to capture them when they’re sparkling in the sun.

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Reflected light is another great way to turn an ordinary subject into a work of art. Look for reflections in water and other shiny surfaces, then try to capture just the reflection in your photo.

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This picture of trees reflected in a puddle has a wonderful painterly feel created by the ripples in the water.

Of course, you can also use artificial light rather than sunlight to create interesting photos, especially in your own home.

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Try turning on a lamp when it’s dark, and notice how it illuminates part of the scene while leaving other areas in dark shadow.

You can use this light to illuminate your subject, such as a person or household object. Or maybe the lamp will be interesting enough to act as the main subject of your image.

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4. Backlight Your Subject

A really creative way to make an ordinary subject appear more extraordinary is to backlight it.

Backlighting simply means that you illuminate your subject from behind, rather than from the front. In other words, you shoot towards the light.

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There are two main reasons to backlight a subject. If the object is solid, it allows you to create dramatic silhouettes.

And if the object is semi-transparent, the light will partially shine through the subject, revealing stunning detail and color.

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The backlighting technique is a wonderful way to photograph leaves.

Simply hold the leaf up towards the sun, or stand beneath the leaves of a tree looking up towards the sky. For maximum impact, fill the entire frame with a single leaf.

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The light shining through the leaf will reveal incredible detail and texture, and the color will appear wonderfully vivid.

Below, backlighting reveals interesting details in thick ice on a car windshield.  This photo was actually taken from inside the car.

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Another easy technique to try in your own home is to find a semi-transparent object with an interesting pattern or texture, such as this glass bowl.

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Hold the object up to the window or a lamp, and capture the way the light reveals the intricate detail of the subject.

Now let’s take a look at what happens when you backlight a solid subject. Because no light can travel through the object, it will appear as a dark silhouette against the brighter background.

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It’s very easy to create impressive silhouettes with the iPhone, even with ordinary subjects such as people or trees.

Start by making sure the sun or bright sky is behind your subject. Tap to set focus on your subject, then swipe down on the screen to reduce exposure until the subject appears as a dark silhouette.

Silhouette photos are especially stunning when shot during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.

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5. Make The Most Of Empty Space

If you’re shooting outdoors, you don’t need amazing landscapes to create extraordinary images. In fact, less is often more.

How many times have you not even bothered to take out your iPhone camera of your pocket because you thought there was nothing interesting to capture?

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The next time that happens, look at it as a challenge. Ask yourself how you could make use of the empty space to create a stunning minimalist landscape photo.

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In photography, empty space is called “negative space.” Frame your composition to include mostly negative space such as the sky, an empty field, or a large body of water.

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To hold the interest of the viewer and give your photo more meaning, try to include a subject to act as a focal point. This might be a person, a lone tree, a flower, or a vehicle. It could even just be the silhouette of a fence as shown in the photo below.

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Remember that you don’t need to be in a dramatic landscape to create this kind of image. You can easily shoot minimalist landscape photos at your local park, the golf course, an ordinary field, or even by the side of the road.

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Just look for lots of empty space and an interesting main subject. That’s really all you need!

6. Make An Ordinary Scene More Interesting

Remember that you don’t have to just accept the scene as it is. Think about ways that you could make an ordinary subject more interesting.

Maybe you could arrange the objects in a visually pleasing way. Try creating a beautiful still life scene, or arranging objects into a pattern.

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If you’re shooting around water, how about throwing a stone to make a big splash?

When taking the picture, be sure to activate burst mode by holding down the shutter button.

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Burst mode allows you to capture a series of shots in quick succession. You can then select the perfect image when the splash is the most dramatic.

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Including a human element is another way to make an ordinary subject more interesting.

And props are always great fun to work with, allowing you to spice up an ordinary location with unusual or unexpected elements.

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Try framing the scene with foreground objects to make the composition more intriguing. The landscape in the photo below was very ordinary – just an empty field and some sky.

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But by stepping back and using this gap in the hedge as a frame, you can turn a mundane field into something far more beautiful.

In addition to shooting through frames, look for other objects that you could shoot through that might distort the scene and make it more compelling.

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For example, this sunrise shot was taken through a window.

The water droplets on the glass made the image far more unusual than if it were shot the scene through an open window.

7. Tell A Story With Your Photo

An image that tells a story will capture the viewer’s imagination, making them want to linger on your photo for longer.

Street photography is a classic example of storytelling through photography. When you’re next out shopping or on your lunch break from work, look around for people to photograph.

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Try to capture the interactions and activities as they go about their everyday lives. A couple holding hands, a market trader handing over his goods, or two people greeting each other can make a really interesting photo.

But storytelling isn’t limited to street photography, or even to people. And you don’t have to try to tell complex stories.

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Anything that intrigues the viewer or evokes some kind of emotion will create a storytelling element in your photo.

Try capturing someone engaged in an activity such as reading a book, playing an instrument, or engrossed in their iPad like the boy in the photo below.

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Catch emotional and sentimental moments in the lives of your family and friends.

If a moment makes you feel some kind of emotion, then it’s likely to capture the heart of the viewer too.

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Think about the stories you could capture in your own home or in your daily life.

It could be simple things such as your child’s bowl and food splashed across the floor, a table set for a special event, or a group of your friends enjoying a cup of tea.

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Look out for little details that might conjure up an intriguing story in the mind of the viewer, such as an empty bird cage or a set of footprints in the snow.

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Creating a sense of mystery in your pictures is the perfect way to intrigue the viewer and get them to ask questions about the story behind your photo.

8. Edit Your iPhone Photos

Finally, there are many different editing techniques that you can use to make an ordinary subject more extraordinary.

For example, a simple black and white conversion can dramatically change the look and feel of your image.

Below is the color version of a photo of a hotel corridor.

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Converting it to black and white has created a much more dramatic and abstract image.

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If you want to get more creative, try adding textures or painterly effects to your photos.

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If your subject was shot against a plain background, textures work particularly well as they add visual interest to the empty space.

Below is a simple photo of some large seed heads photographed against a plain white wall.

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The Mextures app adds texture to the background, giving the image a more beautiful and artistic touch.

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There are so many editing apps that allow you to apply special effects, from subtle textures to crazy swirl effects.

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This image was created from a photo of a flower, using a swirl effect in the RollWorld app.

The options are endless with photo editing. If you start experimenting with a few apps, you’ll soon discover what kind of effects suit your own personal style of photography.

Conclusion

By following the tips in this tutorial, you too can take extraordinary iPhone photos of ordinary subjects.

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Begin by really looking at your surroundings. Explore the scene and the objects within it so that you start to see the ordinary world around you with fresh eyes.

Look for subjects that are interesting in some visual way, and try to capture every detail and angle until you’re happy with your shot.

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Be aware of how the light affects the scene at different times of the day, and use that to your advantage.

Make use of empty space to capture stunning minimalist landscape photos. And don’t be afraid to get creative by making the scene more interesting.

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Look for ways to tell a story, even if it’s a very simple one. If captured in a beautiful or interesting way, a single fallen leaf can speak to the viewer and make them feel a connection to your photo.

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And lastly, don’t forget to try editing your images. Even a subtle change in color can have a big effect on the overall impact of the image.

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Whether you choose to use subtle edits or full-on creative effects, remember that your aim should always be to turn your ordinary iPhone photos into something more extraordinary.

  • Peggy_Carlaw

    Super tips and great photos, Kate. This post will be very helpful to refer tack to when I get stuck for what to shoot that day.

    • Glad to hear you found these tips helpful Peggy. My hope is that it inspires people to find amazing photo opportunities in the most ordinary, everyday situations 🙂

  • monark rathod

    Great useful tips, I willing definitely use it

  • Inspiring!
    Thank you Kate 🙏🏻

    • Glad you enjoyed this tutorial Fred. It’s amazing what great photo opportunities you can find in your immediate surroundings 🙂

  • Rob

    Fantastic post! It really is incredible how things can turn from ordinary to extraordinary with just a little change in perspective and some creativity!

    • So glad to hear you enjoyed this article Rob! 🙂