I love Mother Nature, and I’m always snapping photos of a beautiful sky full of clouds, or a garden of flowers. When I’m in the moment, I’m convinced that my photos will be awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, once I get home and load them all into iPhoto and put them into perspective, they seem so, so… average. I have thousands of pictures that I can’t seem to part with. When I go through them, they seem so trivial that I wonder why I bothered to take them. Then I remember that the day was beautiful, and the company joyful, and taking a picture to memorialize the day was the right thing to do. But the pictures themselves are often simply boring!
Today I was thinking, perhaps I could find a real use for them, even though they’re not front page material. Here are 6 practical uses for boring nature photos, where being ho hum might actually be a good thing.
Before Anything Else
Before you put your nature photos on the critical care list, try to perk them up with some basic Photoshop first aid. You can try some of the tips I’ve shared over here. Or, you might want to play with some Photoshop actions. There are a ton of them available for free at Deviant Art. You can even try these Instagram-inspired actions or these fun vintage actions from Wish Wish Wish. You might also want to visit Maybe*Mej — she knows a LOT about Photoshop actions.
Tip #1: Katrantzou-fy
I recently wrote a tutorial that showed how to create black silhouettes. To Katrantzou-fy a silhouette, we could use one of our nature photos as the fill instead of standard black. We can easily do this with clipping masks. You can see examples of Mary Katrantzou’s stellar work over here.
Tip #2: Use as a Background Photo for Text
This is pretty obvious but nature photos make good backgrounds for text, like the example above. If you’re unfamiliar with how to create a box outline in Photoshop, I’ll have a tutorial in a couple of days — check back!
Tutorials I Recommend:
Tip #3: Collage
If you have multiple photos, you might be able to salvage them by creating a collage-type image. For example, in the photo above, I isolated my neighbor’s bougainvillea and layered it over a random sidewalk flower box to achieve a completely unrealistic but pretty interesting image. I know that sounds kinda silly, but I can imagine finding a good use for this composite picture. :)
Tip #4: Borders or Frames
Another way to use a mediocre photo is to use it as a border or frame for a more interesting photo. I’ve seen this technique in some older issues of Nylon Magazine and recent issues of Bullet. Of course, their photos are always fabulous!
Tip #5: Kusama-fy!
In my tribute to Yayoi Kusama, I made some polka dots. For fun, I pasted one of those polka dot textures over my photo, changed the blending mode, and got this result. If you’re not into polka dots, you can use any other texture to get a similar effect.
Tip #6: Text “Cut-Outs”
Last and perhaps the best use for your nature photos is as a texture for text. You can achieve this effect using good ol’ clipping masks!
Tutorials I Recommend:
As for the quote, I was listening to Etta James on iTunes while I was creating my examples in Photoshop and the lyrics for At Last struck me as just right for this post. It’s such a sweet song!
at last lyrics by etta james
dot dot dot wallpapers (freebie)
rectangle label shapes (tutorial)
silhouette legends (tutorial)
remove backgrounds with masks (tutorial)
isolate elements with quick masks (tutorial)
blending modes (tutorial)
multiple exposure effect (tutorial)
clipping masks (tutorial)
basic commercial bold (myfonts)
adobe caslon pro bold italic (myfonts)
futura medium (osx default font)