Photographing Your Own Backyard: Intimate Traveling and Meaningful Storytelling

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

This is folk wisdom at its purest. Being deeply relevant to all of humanity, this nugget of wisdom applies to photography as well. We love to dream about other places to travel and take beautiful photographs but, sometimes, we don’t give our own backyard the chance to become our greatest field of work.

Photographing Your Own Backyard: Intimate Traveling and Meaningful Storytelling

In photography, we begin by briefly practicing at home before we diverge and imagine all the possibilities we could achieve by traveling to another location somewhere in the world. While it’s good to dream big in photography, we can’t forget to look back because our own backyard just might be someone else’s “greener grass” even if we can’t always see it that way.

It’s time to change our way of thinking into a more humble and reflexive way. It’s time to journey into the backyard! But how?

Here’s a roadmap to jumpstart your process of creating meaningful and beautiful work in your own backyard.

LEARN more about local history

When we take the time to learn more about local history, the world around us tends to take on greater meaning. By digging deeper into that history, you’ll be inspired to travel locally where you are sure to discover a variety of potential projects that will ignite your curiosity and inspire you to look around your everyday world with a fresh perspective. When this happens, it’s time to capture your creativity and local history through the camera lens.

EMBRACE projects that have deep local meaning

Keep your eyes and ears open for meaningful stories about local people, places and events. Because you have the hometown advantage, you’ll be able to tell a richer and broader story by traveling different locations with a keener instinct for the history, community and culture. After all, no one knows more about a city than its lifeline—the locals.

EXPLORE the landscapes around you

Photography requires a lot of patience and passion. But, when it comes to true patience, Landscape Photography gives the word an entirely new meaning.

Landscapes are fantastic subjects that can be used as focal points or as enhancements to enrich social projects. For instance, landscapes are great tools to illustrate the context in which many of your hometown’s social circumstances occur. However, they are far from easy to shoot and require a great deal of scouting in order to achieve the results you want.

The equation is simple:

Great Landscapes Shots
Patience + Scouting + Several Site Visits + Weather Lookout

Now, imagine doing this when you’re traveling to an exotic location. The first variable that suffers is the ability to make several site visits due to time and budget restraints. When traveling locally, you have the advantage of fewer financial restrictions plus a familiarity with your surroundings. What are you waiting for? Get out there and explore your own backyard!

FOCUS on one project or concept at a time

When discovering the potential of your backyard (i.e. hometown, land, etc.), you’ll be blown away by how many ideas you have for future projects. But, it’s important to stay focused. Commit to a solid idea and avoid juggling multiple projects at a time so that every idea gets your full attention, passion and creativity.

Whatever you do, don’t take your backyard—your hometown—for granted. Explore it and let yourself be amazed by its magic and charm. And always remember that the key behind intimate and meaningful projects is patience. 

Inspirational Work

For inspiration, take a look at the amazing work of Harold Feinstein (1931-2015) who left behind an incredible body of work featuring his hometown of Coney Island.

by Federico Alegria
Federico is a professional photographer from El Salvador. Check out his work on his website.

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