Stairs and steps may sound boring, however when you start thinking about the materials they're made from and the shapes and styles that exist, you'll soon realise there's plenty of steps to keep you and your camera occupied. Be it a graphical shot of an industrial set of steps leading up the side of a metal structure or a spiral staircase in a grand house, if you keep your eyes open, you'll soon realise there's many interesting sets of steps and stairs around you that will make an interesting image. Here are a few tips to get you thinking about how you can capture shots of these subjects next time you're out exploring with your camera.
Photo by David Clapp
A wide angle lens will exaggerate the twists and turns of a spiral staircase while a telephoto lens is good for bringing staircases on the outside of buildings to you. Pack a polariser for stairs against glass or reflective surfaces and a tripod would be handy to help you make sure that the stairs perfectly straight.
Guide The Eye
As stairs take you somewhere they're naturally a great way to lead you into and through an image. They can be used to guide the eye to a particular feature or you could hide the last part of the staircase to leave the viewer wondering where the stairs may go to. Lines are a great way to lead the eye into the image and you don't get a better line than a long banister so use them to your advantage.
Stand at the top or bottom of a spiral staircase with your wide angle lens and you can get a great but rather overdone shot of the spiral shape twisting up. Try getting someone to stand or lay at the bottom or carefully peek over the banister at the top and use the spiralling stairs as a frame.
Photo by David Pritchard
Movement And Size
For your more normal staircases use your wide angle lens to exaggerate the grandeur of a particularly wide, long set of stairs or use a slow shutter speed if you're in a city and blur the movement of city goers as they pass through your shot. Zoom in and fill the frame with repeating patterns of stairs to exaggerate their size which will also give your image a more graphical feel.
Some staircases go up the outside of buildings so use your telephoto lens to bring them to you. This lens is also great if your stairs are reflected to give you symmetry in your shot. Try to stand so you're in the centre of the stairs and reflection to enhance the pattern.
For something different try to shoot through the spindles to the other side of the staircase or if you're outdoors, use them to frame a single building or a shot of showing part of the city. Try altering your angle, shooting lower down to emphasise the height and / or number of steps in front of you. Many cameras now have vari-angle LCD screens which allow you to frame your subjects from multiple angles with ease. Which means you won't have to get down on your knees or crouch when capturing low-angled shots. Use light and shadows to add depth, shapes and another level of interest to your shots and experiment with colour, too as turning an image black & white can really make the viewer focus on the shapes and textures of an image when colour's stripped away.
Photo by David Clapp
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