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Same But Different: How To Improve Your Photography By Coming Back to the Same Locations

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As travel photographers, we are always in search of new and exciting places to go to and to photograph, whereas the area where we live often does not seem as inspiring. Have you ever said to yourself: "I've been to that place so many times, I know it by heart, so what else can I photograph there?" If yes, then it's time to go there again and look at it with new eyes. Let's look at how to make the most out of familiar places and how to improve your photography by going back to the same spots over and over again.

1. Learn to be observant

A well-known quote from a Greek philosopher Heraclitus says: "You cannot step twice into the same river". We can add: you will never photograph the same place exactly the same way. Something will always be different: the time of day, the season, the weather, something different will happen, and even you will be in a different mood and in a different state of mind. Learn to observe the subtle changes in the world around you and even the most familiar place or subject will surprise you!

As a Photo Tour guide in Paris, I keep coming back to the same streets, parks and iconic sites on a regular basis. Together with our participants, I take photos, and guess what? They never look the same! There is always something that has changed since last time, or we come across different people, or we come up with yet another idea. To me, this is a proof that one can never stop exploring the same location through a camera lens, as long as one stays observant and sensitive to change.

In the photos below, the view seems to be almost identical: Notre Dame cathedral is photographed from the very same spot, using the very same lens, at the same time of day and even during the same season, but on two different days. Notice the slight change in the hues of the sunset sky - it is enough to make both of these two photos look interesting, each one in its own way.

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And now compare the above view to another photo: this time the differences are really striking, although the photo was taken in the very same area. Was it worth coming back to the same place again? Absolutely!

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2. Capture the differences

Once you have started noticing the changes, new photo opportunities will become more obvious and all you have to do is to capture them. Come to the same place at different times of day - in the morning or before sunset, or stay after the night falls. Get out there in different weather, rain or shine, hot or cold. Pass by with your camera in May and September, in January or in July, on a quiet Sunday morning or on a busy Friday afternoon. I can guarantee you will come up with a collection of images that will be worth combining in a series.

The famous Place des Vosges in Paris - I have been there countless times!

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A remarkable green mosaic store front on rue des Rosiers in the Marais can be captured in a variety of ways, whether on a rainy day or lit by a street lamp at night:

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Even the iconic Louvre pyramid conveys very distinctive moods when captured against a flamboyant summer sunset or in the cold November rain:

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3. Challenge yourself

Besides the circumstances and weather conditions, as a photographer, you may also initiate some changes. Each time you go to the same location, find a way to challenge yourself. Bring only one lens, whether it's a portrait or a wide-angle one. Find yet another angle for a familiar view. Try a new photo technique. Concentrate on a particular colour or think black-and-white. The possibilities are endless.

The two photos below were both taken in the Marais on the very same corner. Notice how one is dominated by strong contrasts and clear blue sky, while the other accentuates reflections on the wet surface of the street and bright spots of red and hot pink. Different focal lengths also enhance the differences:

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An architectural piece situated in the courtyard of Hôtel de Sully in the Marais is one of the favourite subjects for photographers. In the first photo, it is combined with a temporary art installation, while in the second a photo technique of zooming on slow shutter speed makes it almost abstract:

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So what is your favourite familiar place to photograph in the nearby area? Share your different photos of the same views with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.