Sign In, Please

By Roger (2 November 2015)

When I'm traveling with my camera, I like to grab some photos of the more unique parts of wherever I am: street scenes; local events, like parades and festivals; tourist sites; and, of course, signs. Signs? Yes, signs.

I've been doing this for a long time. They have been used in my personal slideshows and, sometimes, for work, as the sign below. Most of these photos won't end up in your portfolio, but, hopefully, that isn't your prime motivation when you take the camera out to play. There are still many reasons to snap photos of signs.

Gone, but not forgotten

Since signs are everywhere, you won't have any problem finding them. You won't be able to miss them once you start paying attention. I rarely return from a photowalk without one. Make it one of your challenge photos.

While most people don't make slideshows as often as we used to – and millions of family members rejoice! – today's technology has made them much better to sit through. Lightroom can help you put together a nice slideshow, with transitions and accompanying music. You can also use a small sign photo, in a photobook, to give the reader the a location marker or name of a building of the photos they are viewing.

Virginia has many “Love” signs, from the old “Virginia is for Lovers” tourist campaign to draw tourists. They're all over the state. I've seen, at least, a dozen of them. I'm not sure how many they put out there, but three of them are within an hour of my house. They have all ended up in my camera.

The Luray, Va, sign is near a playground, so, obviously, it fits well with photos of the grandchildren standing on it. That reminds me, we'll need to go back there to update the photo with the two that weren't born when I took this photo.

The perfect sign for grandchildren

You can use a sign photo to remember facts about events or locations. As a history buff, I'm always interested in those historical markers along the road and have stopped at many. But when you don't have time to sit and ponder the world as it existed back then, take a quick snapshot. You can finish reading about the location in your office.

I don't want you to think I never put any thought into my sign photos. I'm always on the lookout for something more interesting than a simple snapshot. When the conditions are right, signs can be captivating subjects, especially advertising. They are usually colorful and designed to catch your eye. Throw in some reflections from a window and a freshly rained-on awning, and you get something nice.

Memphis, TN

How crazy can you get with this stuff? Well, Mark and I went to the neon sign graveyard while we in Las Vegas. They took our money and let us into an outside enclosure, with signs that had been discarded by the casinos. And we had to sign up for a designated time to get in because there were so many other crazy folks who wanted a chance to look around. Believe it or not, it was worth it. (You can see more of those photos here.)

So, give those signs some of your time the next time you're out there. Just the process of looking for the good ones will help you exercise your eyes and challenge you to make something of what you find. We can all use some of that to keep things fun.

Don't forget to move in close, sometimes