Photography tip – producing eye catching images on dull days


In this blog I’m going to explain a simple photography technique I use to identify an image worth taking for that stand out image. This works particularly well on dull, uninspiring days. I first scan my environment to find any interesting light or colour. These two elements are key to finding that seemingly illusive eye catching image on that otherwise uninspiring day. I may find a neon sign, a shaft of light, a reflection, some graffiti, a brightly coloured letterbox or someone wearing bright clothing. The duller the day the more any artificial light will show up. For example reflections of illuminated signs in puddles or water features work really well on dull days. Isolating these sort of subjects from their environment, like going in close, can make for some great abstract images. Smartphones are great for getting in close to your subject.

Colours are much less saturated on dull days so I have to work harder to find a good image. Using this simple technique of scanning my environment makes that job easier Being able to identify these key elements in your environment will help produce simple, striking images making them stand out. I also keep the elements within the image simple – the simplicity of the image will add drama to the content and grab the attention of the viewer.

green flag

Recently I was outside with a group of students on a cold, dull day. I sensed beforehand that they didn’t really want to go out but as a teacher I know that photography is an art best pursued with plenty of practical sessions so I get out at every opportunity. Once we’re out I always give the group a brief, this time I kept it simple – ‘colour’. It’s an easy word to interpret in a dull and grey environment. I demonstrated how easy it was to scan the area, picking out anything which was colourful. Once I’d spotted something that’s where I’d head to start the session.

One of my favourite photography quotes, from American photographer Elliot Erwitt:

  • “All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice”

In other words you could have the best camera in the world but you won’t get the shot if you don’t see it. Having been immersed in the world of photography for some time now I try to impress on my students that it’s the person behind the camera who produces the good shot not the camera. A great shot can be obtained with the simplest ‘point & shoot’ camera if the photographer has spotted some great content

street party

Many years ago I remember ‘freezing’ when faced with an uninspiring or even overwhelming (busy) environment and I couldn’t see anything to take pictures of. I see it in the students I teach. However nowadays I found the best way to move forward and to ease myself into my environment is to perhaps sit quietly, not worry about taking any pictures for a while and just look. The pictures will come to me once I’ve settled into my environment


So some things to remember on dull days:

  • go out – don’t use an excuse – you can get great shots on dull days
  • don’t panic if you can’t see any shots – slow down, sit, relax into your environment
  • use a simple word like ‘colour’ or ‘light’ to create ideas for pictures
  • remember close ups; flowers, graffiti, textures, street furniture etc – smartphones are great for these shots
  • keep the content simple; one flower, a detail on some graffiti