Capture Unique Photos

In the first months of 2021, we have been blessed with some lovely winter here in Bergen, Norway, where I have been grounded for the last year. Blessed for those of us who like winter, that is. Right now and for the recent weeks, winter is receding, though, but it might still show up again for an occasionally appearance.

Of course, when winter showed up in its full splendour, I had to take advantage—photographically—of the snow, which suddenly adorned the city (contrary to what one should expect, we only irregularly have winter come for a visit).

While walking the snow-covered streets and photographing Bergen in winter garb, I came across another like-minded fellow photographer, who was out on the same errand. I noticed he was both capturing stills and shooting videos. Naturally, we ended up talking with each other.

It turned out he had only been photographing for little less than a year, but already had a Youtube channel up and running. About photography. He told me he was adamant about wanting to capture images that weren’t like anybody else’s. If he had already seen another photo of a scenery, he would go out of way’s length to find a different angle, something distinct. He wanted to capture unique images.

That is a worthy approach, something most of us aspire to. However, in retrospect I thought a little more about the desire to create original photos. You see, there is a danger. In wanting to be original, we might just end up been possessed by what is different, and instead of capturing something unique we end up with a result that is rather contrived. Maybe different, but most likely uninspiring.

We risk losing ourselves in the search for the different.

All good photos emerge from a personal engagement; they materialize through our hearts. In fact, that is all it takes. Yes, you still need to know you craft, understand the visual language, be able to use your camera, but to create captivating and compelling images; you need to become emotionally engaged with your subject. If you do, you don’t have to “look” for the different.

You are unique. Your person is exceptional. No one is like you. That’s where the creative uniqueness surface from. Be yourself, involve yourself, lose yourself in the process, and your photos will be yours, different from anyone else’s. The point is; everything has already been done, been photographed. However, nothing has been done with your eyes and through your emotional filter.

That is the secret to captivating, compelling—and unique photos.

67 thoughts on “Capture Unique Photos

  1. Great insights and observations Otto! We are all unique. We all have a story to tell. We don’t have to work that hard to be different. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Otto, you’ve verbalized why I get annoyed when a certain acquaintance always calls my photos either “different” or “clever.” Different from what? And if my work is merely clever, then what kind of artist am I? You want to send some people a thesaurus to expand their vocabulary…

  3. Dear Otto,
    “We risk losing ourselves in the search for the different.” What a clever insight.
    Your winter picture makes me envious.
    Thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. lovely post Otto, do you think that my photos are different from everybody else’s? coz i set out to be boring and bad? lol then i usually end up liking my ‘contrivances’ lol

    1. Your images are definitely different. And who cares what the motivation was in the first place. It’s the result that matters. I and do so much enjoy what you end up with. 🙂

  5. All , so true, so useful. I am aware that in the search for that something special one could easily overlook the ordinary on one’s doorstep. It is more difficult to spot things special when one is so familiar with a given area. The rewards are great though.

  6. Otto, I really liked some words in your post. ” nothing has been done with your eyes and your emotional filter” , especially the words of emotional filter, struck home with me. It is often in my work that the “emotional filter’ happens to be my guidance. So thank you Otto

  7. Kloka ord Otto! Jag tänker ibland att jag bara upprepar mig när jag inte har möjlighet att komma till nya platser att fotografera på. Men ändå är ju varje bild unik, sedd genom min kamera och med min blick just då.

    Din underbara vinterbild fångar mig genast, så härligt med allt detta vackra vita och och människorna som njuter av snön. Men jag blir konfunderad av den övre bilden, förstår inte riktigt vad det är jag ser. Under fören på en båt mot ett annat fartyg? Intressant bild.

    1. Du har oppfattet det første bildet helt rett. 🙂 Noen gang liker jeg å gjøre bilder mer gåtefulle… Ellers, når det gjelder å komme til nye steder, det er ikke det som gir grunnlag for det nyskapende. Det ligger i deg selv. Som du også viser i mange av dine bilder.

  8. Beautifully said…And I hope all of your family is well in this crazy time.

    On Mon, Mar 15, 2021 at 12:25 PM In Flow with Otto wrote:

    > Otto von Münchow posted: ” In the first months of 2021, we have been > blessed with some lovely winter here in Bergen, Norway, where I have been > grounded for the last year. Blessed for those of us who like winter, that > is. Right now and for the recent weeks, winter is receding, t” >

  9. Very good points. You have two pictures in this essay however both quite differ but their unique way. I really like them both. The first one gives me an impression of vintage feeling but very interesting framing with various objects – many things to explore. The last one is very pleasing look even it is a winter scene and only bright colors from clothing worn by the only two people there. Cool!

  10. This is a good essay, and good shots to bear out its advice, too, I like the beautiful arc formed by the prow of the ship, and the 2nd one, the snowy scene with the black & red figures, might be an idealized setting for a winter’s tale.

  11. Classic perspective. That is a fair bit of snow-and looks so pretty. We have had a mild winter except for a big chill for 2 weeks, and like you, could get sporadic “dumps” yet for a couple of months but worried about forest fires later in spring because it is so dry.

  12. Your beautiful winter photo is exceptional. The perspective is so compelling, Otto. I really appreciate the spirit of the message of encouragement you’ve conveyed. Thank you.

  13. Love your winter images. I’m always drawn to snow-laden landscapes. Don’t know why. Maybe the minimal colours and tones and simplicity of the scene in winter. Maybe it’s what is not in the images – details & colours – that appeals.

    Snow-laden winters hold secrets and leave much to the imagination.

    I think if you’re copying other photographers, trying to capture exactly the same image (in light, shadows, colour saturation & composition) then maybe you’re wasting your time and energy. Just buy a photography book.

  14. I’m glad you have been able to enjoy and capture Bergen in its wintry garb, Otto. I have only seen it in summer but imagine it would be beautiful in a blanket of white.
    I enjoyed your advice about each person’s uniqueness, thank you.
    Best wishes,

  15. So very true Otto and the same can be said for writing also. Everything and every place has been written about before and yet each persons perspective is different so it’s always unique. Writing and photography from the heart, that’s totally what it’s about. Great post.

  16. Enchanting photographs Otto. Bergen is a winter wonderland and you’ve captured that so beautifully, Not a scene I get to see here in the Tropics. Thank you for the engaging narrative and amazing photography.

  17. “We risk losing ourselves in the search for the different.”
    This is a valuable sentence Otto! I must say being in my twenties I am really trying to define who I am in this adult world and gosh it is not easy at all. However seeing some wise words like this really help:) Thank you for the post.

    1. It’s always hard to define oneself. I have come to a place where I see myself as whatever I am (but still try to improve what I see as negative sides to my character).

  18. Looking at your photos here I realise how much do I miss the sound of the snow under my boots…
    Interesting point you make, we can all tell the same story but everyone will use different words!
    Thanks for what you say, always food for furthes thinking !

  19. By the time I finished reading your essay, I was thinking about a good example of the point you were making: a photo that turned out to be quite famous. I’m thinking of Annie Liebovitz’s photo of Nixon leaving the White House in disgrace. Most photographers focused on Nixon walking to the helicopter, getting on board, and so on. But Leibovitz caught the Marines rolling up the red carpet: one of those “in-between moments” that she likes to talk about. The effectiveness of her approach is clear, given that non-photographer me has remembered it over the decades. Even before I’d picked up a camera, it impressed itself on my memory, and now I understand why. It truly was unique.

    1. That is indeed a good example of what I am talking about in this post. And it also goes to show how good Liebovitz is. I have been photographing on many occasions when journalists and photographers have to stand next to each, for instance during press events, and know how difficult it is to come up with some different from the rest of the pack.

  20. An excellent post Otto. I suspect the photographer you met is suffering from ‘creative growing pains’, often aggravated by the acquisition of new or more advanced equipment, You make the point wee: ‘We risk losing ourselves in the search for the different.’

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