Need to build your photography portfolio? Here are 10 subjects you can find close to home.

Subjects for new photographers

Being a new photographer can be a bit daunting. Especially if you don’t yet have a defined focus or style.

One of the best ways to study photography is simply to pick up a camera and take as many photos as you can.

This will help you get your footing. You will learn what excites you, what style and equipment you prefer, and other key things that can help define your path.

If you get stuck finding subject matters to focus on, here are 10 things to photograph to get back on track.

1. Things around your home

These inanimate objects may seem uninteresting at first, but you can use perspective, lighting, depth of field, and other photographic techniques to breath life into everyday items. You can even start to combine materials to create a unique image and tell a story.

2. Landscapes 

Find a local park or overlook to take in some natural scenery — and consider going at sunrise or sunset. These times of day offer beauty, color, and more diffused light than mid-day sun, making it the optimal window to shoot outdoors.

3. Architecture

If you prefer the urban jungle, take pictures of stylized buildings. Old, classic architecture can offer ornate details and options for close-up images. In contrast, modern structures are best captured from a distance — to appreciate the clean lines and overall aesthetic.

4. Food

Take advantage of what’s in front of you — be it your own culinary creations or that fancy date-night dinner — and practice arranging food in a flattering and appetizing way. This usually means getting up close and bringing out the vibrant colors. If at home, take pictures as you cook to demonstrate the full steps of making a meal.

5. Animals

Once you have mastered photographing objects, take it one step further and move on to pets. This is a bit more challenging, so be sure to have the photo planned out before getting your furry friend to participate. Encourage them to sit still and look at the camera by holding a treat above the lens. You can reward them after each click of the shutter.

6. People

You can start by taking self-portraits, or solicit help from willing family and friends. Since it can be intimidating to be in front of a camera, be sure to give your subjects some direction. Talk to them and make them feel comfortable. You will get a more graceful portrait.

After checking off some of these literal subjects, challenge yourself with more abstract ideas, like the ones below. Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Projects can provide additional inspiration.

7. Silhouettes

Photographers are almost always looking for the light. But try flipping that rule on its head and make shadows the focal point. In order to create a clean outline, use a recognizable shape and have the light positioned directly behind your subject with a non-distracting background.

8. Motion

Capture something as it is moving and try different techniques. There are primarily two different approaches. The first is to take a picture with a fairly slow shutter speed and have the object in motion be blurred as it goes by. Conversely, you can use a technique called panning to move your camera in time with the moving subject, so that they are all in focus and the background is obscured.

9. Night photography

Add another level of difficulty by shooting at night. Capture natural light from the moon and stars or from artificial lights. Of course, less light means adjusting your settings to a longer shutter speed, so use a tripod or other flat surface to avoid blur.

10. Design

Rather than thinking about the subject itself, consider the things that make up the focal point. What makes it visually interesting? Maybe you’re drawn to the color, texture, balance, negative space, rhythm, or overall form.

All of these will help you better understand the many aspects of photography and hopefully find your favorite subjects in the process. Happy shooting.

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Author Kim Garrison’s official title is Account Specialist at Cision. She is also a snowboarder, photographer, and Washington Capitals fan. 


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4 Responses

  1. tania says:

    Hey! Really nice tutorial! I really love the mysterious and surrealistic effect you created! I’ve been looking for a tutorial where I could learn a little bit more about artistic works because I’m graphic designer enthusiast and so that’s not my main field, but finally I found a very useful tutorial!
    Keep the good work!

  2. Elina Gomez says:

    This kind of 10 photography category is so effective in build-up a photography portfolio. Here I personally suggest some categories from this article. Like those landscapes, food, animal, people, etc.

  3. Alex says:

    This really very nice and informative post for photography portfolio. I most like the categories of landscapes, people and night. Thanks

  1. September 25, 2020

    […] think twice before snapping photos like there is no tomorrow. This will make you spend more time to study your subject and adjust your settings. It will teach you to be patient so that you can finally start […]

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