Move Beyond Your City’s Mobile Photography Clichés

words + photos
| Zahara Jade
| Nick Rufo
| Kim Genevieve
| Darin
May 08, 2017
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Do you ever find yourself on Instagram skimming through image after image of cityscapes, feeling like they’re all the same? You aren’t alone. So many once-unique destinations have been stripped of their photographic novelty by being shot to death. This makes capturing epic stills in your own backyard feel impossible -- even if the Great Wall of China is just steps away.

But we’ve got the advice you need to stand out in this oversaturated virtual sea. For this guide, we decided to focus on one of the most “over-shot” cities in the US: Los Angeles. Cliché shots are a dime a dozen, but seizing L.A.’s spirit is no different than any city if you take an expanded approach. Here’s how:

Go Reductionist with Iconic Shots

You can reinterpret famous landmarks by reducing them down to their bare essence. The macro perspective is a great way to draw the viewer into the raw emotion of the moment. This may mean using a macro lens, or a different lens depending on what you are trying to capture. For example, consider using a wide lens with a granular focus at an angle you haven’t seen before. Not a new concept in itself, but perhaps a new way for you to deconstruct shots of Venice, the Santa Monica Pier, or the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

This helps embrace the textures and materials of your subject, elements often felt in person but otherwise overlooked.

Uncommon Conditions

Mobile photography is perfect for shooting the unexpected because your lens fits in your back pocket. You’re always ready to take pictures, even in uncommon conditions. While everyone else is gearing up to push out the typical sunset photo of Los Angeles, having your camera in hand to snag a rainy day view may ultimately prove more fruitful. Translate this concept to your city, and get creative with new shots at a moment’s notice.

Get Low

Squat low to the ground, lower than you have since your last yoga class. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty for the perfect shot. Your mobile screen might save you on this one, though, because you can preview a shot without ever having to touch the ground yourself just by setting the phone on its edge. Crawling into spaces or snapping from underneath are other moves that can turn the cliché into masterpieces.

Getting low also means considering alternative perspectives that everyone else has rejected because of aesthetic uncertainty. In L.A. where beauty abounds, unexpected shots can be found in abandoned alleyways or a back entrance to the Los Angeles Theatre.

Do not let tired, popular images of your city dampen your creative drive. Your subject, your city, your vistas do not matter, but rather the inspiration that lies within. Oh, and some dope mobile lenses can’t hurt.