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I Spy Game Photography

Updated on December 16, 2013
(See if you can spy Dora the Explorer) Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
(See if you can spy Dora the Explorer) Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source

I spy with my little eye is not my idea, actually I think it comes from a very popular children's game, which goes by different names and variations in many parts of the world yet this, like many other things, can be turned into a photographic project.

"I spy is a guessing game usually played in families with young children, partly to assist in both observation and in alphabet familiarity. I spy is often played as a car game"...."One person starts by choosing an object (a cow, for example) and says "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C" or simply "I spy something beginning with C." The other players look around and suggest things it might be: "Crow" (no), "Car" (no), "Cloud" (no), "Cow" - yes. The person who guesses correctly often gets to choose the next object." Wikipedia

Mostly suited for still life projects, this technique can be adapted to a wide array of situations and subjects. For example you can use a model and various styles of make up or body paint and among the painting you can place a small design, image, gemstone etc and the audience's job will be to locate this time within the photograph.

As you can see, the main idea of the project is not only to record images but to keep an audience enthralled and focused on your image for an extended period of time. This technique is one of the oldest marketing ploys ever devised; the longer they look the more they will remember.

The project has a few variations. One would be to simply hide something within a larger image. Another would be to hide things that start with the same letter withing a larger photograph. Other variations could focus on similar colors, similar genres like pictures of flowers, man made objects hidden in a nature theme and so on.

Photographing it should not be difficult unless you choose to make so. If using still life be conscious not to make it too difficult for a viewer to locate the clues or subjects but by the same token you cannot make it too easy either as you risk a viewer quickly losing interest.

The images should be recorded in close up if the subjects are rather diminutive or in a regular format if average size. The setting will also dictate the format as well as the medium; color works best.


For example if you are hoping to take the images in a natural setting such as in a garden, you can hide glass pebbles or fake butterflies among the flowers but be mindful if your fake butterflies look so real as to be confused with real ones.

You will need to be creative, you just cannot thrown a pebble in the grass and have an audience look for it, this would be too simplistic. Instead how about placing the pebble in the center of a flower so that it looks like it is a part of it.

Another good idea is to place a distinct leaf shape in a mound of other different shaped ones; a heart shaped leave on a mound of rounder looking ones.

Also practical to do is to take long shots with a zoom lens like of a mountain scene or any other landscape where there is a single subject and with the help of the lens and careful placement of this subject, can be made into the hidden item. An example would be a small wooden cottage almost hidden inside a forest whose image is recorded from some distance away.

Other good subjects can be using very elaborate and colorful graffiti art and within hiding smaller designs like a black & white drawing inside a colorful street art piece.

This project is only limited by your imagination and to some extent by the availability of subjects. It is also a great undertaking to do during inclement weather scenarios and it is a great project for kids too.

If doing close ups and still life also keep in mind to use a tripod and diffused light to avoid blurring the image and to prevent harsh shadows. Also arrange your pieces in several different ways just do not be satisfied with your first arrangement. Do many and choose the best.

Mary Ellen Page's Halloween Town 2009 (See if you can spy a dinosaur) Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Mary Ellen Page's Halloween Town 2009 (See if you can spy a dinosaur) Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source
(See if you can spy Jack in the Box) Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
(See if you can spy Jack in the Box) Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

These photographs are specially suited for the greeting card industry, the poster industry and photographic stock houses.

They can also be used by some book publishers and by general photographic publications.

Be mindful of your intended audience and which themes you will be using. Some scenes and subjects are not suitable for everyone.

The more general the scene is the more clientele it can attract.

The more specialized your scene the harder it will be to locate suitable buyers.

However, once you find them and make yourself known to them making sales is almost a sure thing.

Again, everything is assuming your images are well composed, creatively done, technically sound and pleasing to look at.

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez

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    • JEOrtega profile image

      JEOrtega 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      Hi Luis,

      Another great article, thank you!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      I meant the second photo...lol That dark spot is a deer? I thought it was just the shadow from the trees.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Lynn: Thank you

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 

      6 years ago

      Very fun way to take pix, but could also be a fun party game. loll!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: It's a deer in the second photo

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      The first and third photos confuse me, I didn't see anything but trees in the third...lol The first one...I didn't even try hard enough because there were more than one dolls...lol

      This is so fun to choose the object from the photos.

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