Signs aren't the most difficult subject in the world to photograph but there are a few things you can do to ensure your shots are perfect.
Why Photograph Signs?
Signs can be interesting and / or funny in their own right and they can give the person who's viewing your work more information about the areas you visited too. Older parts of towns will have signs that look a little more battered while newer signs which look less worn and more modern will suggest you spent quite a lot of time in newer areas of town. They also suggest if you've ventured beyond the tourist areas as signs tend to just have the language of the country you're visiting once you're over the edges of the tourist trap. These in particular are the signs that can be funny too due to the different language or images used to illustrate what the signs telling people. You may also find people have added their own diagrams to the signs which can often bring to odd grin or two.
Give Your Collection Direction
As well as having them as photos that sit among your collection you can use signs to organise your galleries, albums and portfolios. They make great headings that will help the viewer understand they're moving into a new collection of images.
To Zoom Or Not?
If the sign is particularly interesting or tells a story on its own without its surroundings you'll want to fill the frame with it, making use of your zoom if you can't physically get close to the sign. If you're using the sign within its surroundings you'll probably want to use a small aperture to ensure front to back sharpness. Double-check you can still see what's on the sign too as, after all, it's still our focus. Where possible, try shooting straight on to the sign too so it's easier to read.
Modern signs are more likely to have a reflective surface and when you're working with bright sunshine or flash, glare can bounce back off the sign spoiling the shot. As a result, it's usually best to turn the flash off or if you're using a flash gun leave it in the bag. If sunlight is your problem then try a different position to see if the glare goes away or return later or come back early the next day when the sun's moved positions.
If you come across an interesting shop sign chances are it'll be high up and shooting from the ground, looking up won't look right in the final shot so if you can, find something to stand on to give you more height or stand further back if that's not possible.
Photo by David Clapp - www.davidclapp.co.uk
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