Friday, February 27, 2015

On Still Life Photography

by Dotti


True confession time: still life photography is not my strong suit. Oh, I could take pictures of flowers all day long but when it comes to little vignettes – no, definitely not my strong suit. And it’s really easy to let ourselves get in a rut, photographing only those things which come easily to us. Or, as Kelly told reminded us on Tuesday, not stepping outside our comfort zones.

That didn’t stop me from taking Be Still and joining The Studio with Kim Klassen. I’m sure you’re shaking your head and wondering why sign up if still life is such a struggle. Well, I’d like to tell you it’s because I love a challenge but the truth is, I just love Kim’s work and I like all the free textures and presets she makes available. I’m also very much inspired by the work other photographers in the classes do.

So, this winter, I decided to tackle the problem because after all, what else is a gal to do when she lives in a place where winter is not conducive to outdoor photography? {I’ll confess to being a cold weather wimp.}

Part of my problem, I decided, was that I just couldn’t find a good place in my house to shoot. When the sun is shining, I get some beautiful light but you know how it is. When you look around your home there is something messing up the background.

After seeing Kim’s humble set up by her window, I decided I could create a studio of sorts in the dining room. It worked well enough but it really was inconvenient. All the props and my camera gear were elsewhere in the house, making for a lot of walking to and fro.

Light bulb moment!

The window in my office faces the same southeast direction as the dining room window. With a bit of tweaking here and there in the room, I was able to create an easy up/easy down place to shoot. And I had the added benefit of light control with the shutters on the window.


Here you can see what I’ve done. With a small table and old wooden board, I’ve created a surface that can be covered with the black blanket you see here or any number of other textiles and trays that I have. Many of my props are everyday items and they live where they are used. But for those that are pure props as well as the textiles, they’re stored in the closet in this room. And all of my camera equipment is here, too. {No, I'm not going to show you a picture of my closet.}


The convenience and ease of this setup has resulted in more productivity and {dare I say it} an increased interest in shooting still life.

Still though, this type of photography is really a struggle for me. While writing this post, I spent a couple of hours working on a vignette that I thought I’d nailed. When I looked at it in Lightroom, I realized that it had real problems, problems that I couldn’t correct in Lightroom or Photoshop. Maybe it was my inner critic operating in overdrive but I just trashed the whole shoot.

Then another light bulb moment: try shooting in the afternoon when the light was less bright. That’s what I did and the results were much more to my liking and it took only about ten minutes from start to finish. {Some of you may recognize this as 'editorial-ish' from The Studio. Or at least my rendition of it.}


It’s going to take a lot more work to make myself a good still life photographer but if it gets me out of my comfort zone and stretches me, it has to be good. However, I’m not sure I’ll ever like it more than shooting the beauty when I find it around my home with all its imperfections. After all, that’s where the story of our lives is written …


10 comments:

Jan Adams said...

I think these photos are absolutely beautiful! I'm so glad you have found a workplace that is so lovely! Your article is very encouraging to me as I have never really concentrated on this, but your photos are lovely and have genuinely created a true desire in me! Thank you for this delightful first read today!

AFishGirl said...

Wow!!! You've really created a wonderful spot for the still life work. I'm very impressed! I was going to chant SHOW ME THE CLOSET SHOW ME THE CLOSET. Haha. You know me. The tea shot, swoon. Beautiful work, Dotti. Bravo to you for bravely going forward in this crazy winter weather and doing this creative work. Yay!

kelly said...

dotti! oh my goodness these are beautiful. like you, still life photography gives me something to work on while i wait for my spring garden. and plus for me it's like it works a different set of creative muscles. :) i absolutely adore your creative space - camera gear on the shelf!!! - i need to do something like that. oh now i feel all happy and inspired...what an awesome way to start the weekend. big hugs. xoxoxo

terriporter said...

Oh, I need to find a place and do this! Still life photography has been a challenge for me too and I keep thinking if I only had a studio, I would be able to master it. Thanks for showing me that I can find a place in my own home and set up a spot for shooting my still life images. I have fallen a bit behind in Kim's classes but this is giving me the inspiration to get back into it. Love your space and what you are creating there. And, of course, you know I love those spoons!

CarolHart said...

What a great space you have created for yourself! I just love all the pictures of the Life Sisters. Cheers!

Barb Brookbank said...

I loved getting a peek into your "studio" and I applaud your ingenuity in making it work for you. It looks like the perfect space.

Barb said...

I especially like the way the light gleams off those pitchers. I don't do still life photography - I just can't get interested in setting it all up. However, I enjoy what others are doing.

Cathy H. said...

Love your still life images! You certainly don't look like you struggle!! Love your studio, too! It is such fun to see your creative space.

Roxi Hardegree said...

Yeah for you! I LOVE that silver pitcher handle shot. (Swoon)

Carol said...

I love to see where people work, and all their inspiration around them. Its much easier to do still life once you have found your spot. I struggle always with wanting to put too much in the composition, and with losing my colors. I dont usually use as much color as you do, but I do love my muted tones, and its hard to desaturatemthem! Your shots are beautiful and I love the black background. my mother's hous eis full of antique treasures -cant wait to do some still lifes there!

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