A lonely figure sits in a coffee shop, observing passing cars with a ghost of a smile. Next, to the figure, a girl speedily takes notes, her hand a messy blur of movement. The scene is a delightful one, enhanced by the ever-changing window reflections: loneliness and busyness placed together, one giving in to the world it doesn’t fully know, the other creating one of its own. It feels like a film – or better yet, a cinematograph – a moment that seems to possess an indestructible eternity. If you were a witness to this fleeting moment, would you photograph it? If you would, your image’s atmosphere would stand out partly due to the aforementioned window reflections. Had you shot the scene in the coffee shop itself, the effect would’ve been vastly different?
Windows do not simply serve as passages to a person’s soul, as the famous quote says. Windows are also a brilliant way to enter the world different to your own, a way to empathize and reflect. Photographing through windows provides viewers with a personal look into someone else’s realm of thoughts, teaching them the importance of compassion and open-mindedness. Even nature, when photographed through a window, gains a quality unlike any other. Photos of this sort seem to be whispering a story as if listening closely could teach you spectacular things. And indeed, such stories do teach fascinating and eye-opening things.
It wouldn’t surprise me if you’d call window photos cliché. In fact, had you mentioned this even a year ago, I would be tempted to agree with your musing. However, in the very depths of failed shoots and impatience, I have discovered a beauty and originality in what many of us often render cliché. The world cliché, by definition, is something that is mindlessly repeated over and over again until its very existence is officially deemed useless. Approaching useless objects from new angles might reveal to you a helpful piece that was ignored by everyone else, a piece that is perhaps helpful to you only. Using this in your art will enable you to add your own usefulness to the techniques and projects that seem to have lost their value long ago. Thus, windows can be approached in ways unique to you and your creativity.
Here are a few tips on how to take compelling photos of people and nature through windows.
Taking photos of people through windows is a fun process as it gives the photographer unpredictable reflections on working with. If it’s a rainy day, the effects will be impressively abstract, since blurred foregrounds often make for stunning photo elements. Spraying water on a window could also work. In fact, the contrast between a droplet-stained window and a summery backdrop will give your photos uniqueness unlike any other. Covering parts of a window with paint or fabric could also work in your favor.
Some of the best photos taken through windows are spontaneous ones. A subject lost in their own thoughts combined with a reflection of a field tells a captivating, yet peaceful, story. Even a couple of silhouettes observing a cityscape could work. Don’t be afraid of including abstract shapes and lights in your images – these will enhance your style and make your images stand out. Literally reflecting your subject’s emotions and thoughts with the help of a window will strengthen the impact your work has on others. Your photographic courage will push other artists to reassess their own work and find new ways to challenge themselves.
Working with nature is almost effortless because it’s always around, it’s always waiting to be found. If you don’t have anyone to photograph when your inspiration is at its highest, use your surroundings instead. Look out of your window and try to find something you’ve ignored before – perhaps an exquisite little flower is growing right next to your window, waiting to be documented by you. Look near and far and find a story you could tell using everything that’s right in front of you. You could even document the view out of your window during various times of day, or throughout the year.
Working with emotional storytelling techniques will give you a brand new world to use in your art. Writing stories before a shoot might also boost your creativity and present you with an abundance of artistic possibilities. Regardless of the potential absurdity of your ideas, experiment with them and see where the results take you. It’s the unpredictable shots that end up becoming the most spectacular pieces of art.
There are a plethora of journeys you could take as a photographer. All you need is a window and a willingness to keep your eyes open, no matter what.