Thursday, November 09, 2006

Assignment 10: Still Life

Previous Assignment: Critique

This week, I want you to try a still life shoot. This will help out your photography skills immensely. It will teach you about composition and color, and will bring together many of the other lessons you've learned.

Still life is probably the easiest form of photography. This is because you can move your subject around in any way you choose, rather than just having the option of moving yourself and your camera. And I recommend that when you do it, you move your subjects around quite a bit, to find the most pleasing arrangements.

Note that you'll probably need a tripod, since you'll be indoors. Make sure to turn your camera's flash off, and most of the time you'll want to make sure your camera is set to focus on closer objects (on many cameras, this autofocus mode will be called "macro mode" and may be represented by a flower icon) or that you're using manual focus.

To do it, first figure out what your subject will be, and how that will affect your choice of a background. You may want to just go to your desk and arrange the things you find there into a pleasing composition. There may be other locations in your house or office that have the elements you need in a location that will work. In the alternative, you may want to do fruit or flowers. If so, find a location that will work for that. If you have a nice-looking table, then you may want to use it. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to get a piece of poster board, probably white poster board, to eliminate any background distractions. Or you may want to use the information in my post entitled How-To: Floating in Space.

Wherever you decide to do your shoot, it may be a good idea to have light that you can move around. It would be ideal to have professional lighting equipment, but a simple lamp will do the trick.

Your next step is to bring all the elements together. If you have antiques, like antique cameras, typewriters, or whatever, they might be a good first step. On the other hand, you may want to go to a grocery store and buy some nice, ripe, unbruised fruit. When you choose it, don't think about taste, as you normally would when shopping for food. Think in terms of pleasing colors and textures, or unusual shapes. If you go with this route, you may want to pick a bowl that will complement the backdrop and the fruit.

Arrange your subjects, and shoot. If you're doing fruit, it's a good idea to start by taking pictures of the whole fruit first, and later to slice it open to reveal the inside goodies. After you cut it, remember that many fruits (such as apples) will start to change colors rather quickly, so don't mess around.

While shooting, make sure to move yourself and your subjects around to find as many pleasing compositions as possible.

Here are a few examples, just to get you thinking about color, texture, and arrangement:

Orange Bell Peppers

Snail Shell

Green Beans and Raspberries Daffodil Stems in Vase Orange-Lime
Bamboo from Below Jack Daniel's

Now go out, shoot, and share!

Next Assignment: Do Something Different


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