Friday, May 22, 2015

It's Really Simple

by Dotti


Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
                                                                                                                                ~ Confucius

The first of this year, I joined Kim Klassen’s The Studio|On Line, as many of you did. This is a still life oriented gathering and as I’ve shared before, although I love a beautifully composed still life with beautiful props as much as the next gal, it is not the first thing I think to shoot.

But does that mean I don't 'do' still life?

What I’ve come to realize now that our garden is coming to life is that my still life photos are different than most of the still life photos one would expect to see. In the winter, I’ll do my share of gathering props, surfaces and backgrounds, but I soon tire of all the busyness of it. What I’ve learned is that I like my still life photos to be simple, photos that are filled with simplicity instead of props. It still qualifies as a still life but with a less is more attitude.

Composition is key in any still life photo and focusing on simplicity is no exception. In the top photo, I’ve used a lot of negative space to contrast the pink on the rose and placed the jar in the corner of the photo to lead the eye up to the rose. The white background is provided by the white prop chair that sits on my back porch. It couldn’t be any easier.


 Here’s another less is more photo but there are still a lot of things going on here: the leading lines in the bench create opposing lines to the curve of the flower and the neutral color provides needed contrast. Again, I’ve placed the stem of the rose out of the frame in the right hand corner of the photo to draw the eye to the color of the rose. And the bonus in this photo is the wonderful texture in the old bench. So what appears at first glance to be a simple photo really has a lot going on yet it was created with a minimum of fuss.


In my final example of simple still life photography, I’ve placed the rose still in the jar on top of the same bench in photo #2. But instead of using the leading lines of the bench, I’ve used a shallow depth of field to isolate the rose, bringing the eye to rest on that portion of the photo.

So if you’re like me and don’t like to spend a lot of time gathering props, backgrounds and surfaces for your still life photos, take a different approach. I find that this time of year is perfect for this kind of photography because the garden is coming into bloom and many days all I have to do is go outside and snip a few blooms. But if you don’t have a garden or you live in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s autumn instead of spring, be sure to visit the garden section of your favorite grocery store. For just a few dollars, you can buy yourself a wonderful and fun creative experience … without a lot of fuss.

And it doesn't have to be flowers. Cups of tea or coffee, cool drinks, book, the sky's the limit. Use your imagination! See what you can create using a less in more approach and then share it on our Flickr page. I'd love to see what you do!


12 comments:

Cathy H. said...

These images are beautiful, Dotti! I find that "really simple" still lifes impact me the most. Their simpicity brings peace and a feeling of quietness. I have such a hard time backing up and allowing some breathing room in my still life photos, but you do this perfectly!

kelly said...

dotti these are a breath of fresh air. i feel calm just looking at them! and please....that mossy bench....totally swooning! happy friday my friend! xoxox

Lisa Comperry said...

I love your pretty photos, they immediately caught my eye! I also joined the be still 52 class and have yet to delve into it..I am glad it is self paced! I also tend to do my stills outside with few if any props ..With that said, I have a trunk full of odds and ends in case I am stuck inside and get ambitious with my camera :-)

Lisa Comperry said...

Your mossy bench photo reminds me of a still life image I shot a few months ago :-) http://lisacomperry.blogspot.com/2015/02/follow-light.html

Cheryl McCain said...

Love your images and the simplicity! Simple is a great way to go when you're "not feeling" the shoot too.

terriporter said...

Oh, Dotti, thank you so much for permission to keep it simple! When I started Be Still 52, summer was just starting and it was a perfect way to have things to shoot indoors (yes, summer is our indoor season here in the desert!) But as things went along, the still life photography that everyone was doing required so much set up -- a book, some flowers, a pair of scissors, a background, etc. There just wasn't time for all of that and so my still life photography was put on hold. Now you are telling me that all I need is a flower and a shallow depth of field and that qualifies as "still life"! I can do that! What this is telling me is that I'm too influenced by what the other guy is doing and not having the conviction to do my own thing, as you definitely have here. Your shots are so soft and beautiful and I'll join Kelly in coveting your bench! I think I just might pull out a flower and a vase and set up a little shoot today! Thank you, my friend!

Susan said...

Great post Dotti! Still Life has been very hard for me for those very reasons of not having any props! I search and search for that perfect prop and end up giving up on the idea. Thanks for sharing your simplicity of still life. Your photos are gorgeous!

sherrygaley.com said...

Yes, yes, yes. I'm a lover of simplicity too Dotti and these are fabulous examples. I totally enjoy and appreciate the more complex still lives I see on Facebook and on blogs of dear friends but I'm not drawn to creating them myself. I find I am pulled toward distilling my images ever simpler -- both still ones and landscapes and other types. You're totally right. There can be so much going on in what looks like a very simple image! Great post.

heyjudephotography said...

I really loved this Dotti. Not being a big fan of still life photography (the doing of it, I love the viewing of it), I think that this may just be the trick for me. Keeping it simple. Thanks!

Roxi Hardegree said...

I shot more 'less is more' still life than the other. Because it's simple, straight forward and doesn't require a ton of time and prep. And mostly because it's real. Sometimes styling a photo can get to be such a downer when it's not working. Yeah for you! I'm glad you posted this.

Kim Klassen said...

these photos are truly beautiful....

wonderful post Dotti....

I love to style stills... it brings me so much pleasure....I never think of gathering and placing props as fuss....it never feels like work......
it's one of my greatest joys....
but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a simple still.... and when I'm feeling stuck I almost always go simple....
especially love all the beautiful possibilities of spring and summer..... (can't wait for the peonies)

I think it's so important that we follow our own heart...do what we love....
I would never want people to think there's only one way to shoot stills.... ultimately .... stillness is the key. : ) xo Kim

Sarah Huizenga said...

I have always liked simple no matter what time of year. Less is always more for me.

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