Typography is an unusual subject to photograph. That’s partly because it’s so commonplace, making it easy to ignore. Even when letters or words do catch our attention, we sometimes only read the message and miss the photo opportunity.
If you spend time actively looking at typography, you’ll discover how striking it can be as a subject. With the right composition, you can turn everyday, unremarkable words into eye-catching images.
In this post, we’ll look at a few types of typography that can be interesting to photograph. These ideas should give you a good starting point for discovering and capturing great typography photos.
Graffiti typically has a gritty, unsettling atmosphere. It can give anything, including words, a different vibe than you’d expect. For instance, the phrase “Have a nice day” looks different graffitied on a wall than printed on a plastic bag.
Besides this twist, the typography of graffiti is often artistic and worth photographing in itself. Some consider it true artwork that deserves respect as well as copyright. For this reason, when photographing graffiti, be mindful of how you compose the photo so you’re not breaching copyright, especially if you aim to sell your photos.
Avoiding copyright infringement is simple: just make sure you’re capturing more than the graffiti alone. Make it part of the scene rather than the sole focus on your photo. Broadening your focus will likely lead to better photos, anyway. Your photo will tell more of a story if you include more of the environment.
Otherwise, if the identity of the graffiti artist is known, you can ask them for permission to photograph their work. This approach takes more time and legwork, but it will give you the most freedom.
Next to graffiti, funny messages are the easiest to notice. You see a sign that makes you smile, and you can’t help but grab your camera. In these situations, you might snap a quick photo without thinking about composition or lighting. It’s a spontaneous shot, not a masterpiece, and your main goal is simply to capture the message.
Sometimes, though, the cleverness is in the photo’s composition. Instead of shooting the sign alone, you can include more of its context, giving the photo more ambiguity or a stronger narrative. Focusing on composition takes more time and thought, but it can make your photo more striking and humorous.
A lot of travel photos are of landscapes, wildlife, and people, but typography can be a great addition to a travel portfolio, too. While a single sign won’t have the same awe-inspiring effect as an epic landscape, it can be an excellent complement to other photos. It’s like photographing wedding decorations. They’re not the main point of the event, but they help capture the experience and atmosphere of the location.
Photographing typography while traveling is also a good idea if you’re working on improving your Instagram feed. On Instagram, the quality of your photos is as important as how they look together. If you want to improve the overall look of your feed, you need to include a mix of subjects. In other words, if you only shoot amazing landscapes during your trip, your feed will look dull. Try adding a few typography photos, as you’ll immediately notice the difference.
You don’t have to travel far to find interesting typography to photograph. Once you start paying attention to words and letters, you can find a whole set of cool photos to shoot in your home. Everyday objects like keyboards, newspapers, and books are all great photography subjects to explore.
Just like with travel photos, everyday shots of typography can reveal the atmosphere of your home or the daily experiences you have. They work well with other subjects, either in the same photo or as a separate photo in a set, triptych, or Instagram feed. It’s a fun and simple subject to experiment with, easy enough to shoot on a lazy day at home.
Many of the above photos were selected from our community on Flickr. Next time you get a cool shot of typography, share it with the group so we can see your work!