Life lessons from camera club!

  Posted: 08.09.21 at 23:02 by The Editor

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IN the latest monthly contribution from Thurrock Camera Club, Nub News readers are given advice about still life by experts from the club, which is moving ever closer to its centenary celebrations which are poised to begin later this month, running through to next year.

The club recently met for the first time since the Covid pandemic lockdown eased and are now gearing up to mark the special year.

In this month’s tip we offer some ideas about the photographic genre referred to as “Still Life” which includes a variety of styles, from the simple “art school” bowl of fruit to the visually interesting digital creations you might see online.

For many people, ‘Still life’ photography might be considered more closely akin to a painting than to what most people think of as taking a photograph. The subject matter is inanimate and often comprising commonplace objects and given that the photographer has control over both lighting and the subject matter, composition is the key to producing interesting and quality images.

Basically, unlike other photographic genres, when practising Still Life photography, you can set up the subject of your image any way you like, and you have complete control over every aspect of the composition.

Fortunately, you don’t need a studio or a fancy location to make a start with still life photography. You can begin by simply using a space at home, such as a table placed by a window, along with a simple backdrop and utilizing a couple of lamps.

Given that many of the objects being photographed may be considered mundane, to produce successful still life photography, you need to find ways to make your photos interesting. That also means it’s potentially a great style of photography for learning new skills.

Some of the sub-categories of Still Life might include the following:

Tabletop Photography – probably the most common type of still life. This category is about shooting objects that are small enough to fit on a table. The objects can be anything the photographer desires, as long as they’re inanimate.

Product Photography this too involves shooting inanimate objects. However, where the two categories differ is that with product photography, the main goal is to show off a particular product with no distractions.

Food Photography – here the main goal is usually to depict food in an attractive way. However, when compared to product photography, food photography often also involves setting the scene by arranging other food items and tableware around the subject.

Found Object Photography - this usually involves modifying an object or placing it in an unusual context

How should you approach Still Life photography?

When composing your photograph, you need to arrange the objects in a pleasing composition. You may wish to consider using some of the composition techniques that we have listed in previous tips such as the “Rule of Thirds,” “Leading Lines” or “Frame within a Frame” for ideas of how to best compose your pictures.

Illumination of your image is another important element to control. Using a flash is likely to result in some very harsh lighting and deep shadows. To avoid this, professional photographers usually use a soft box or a light box to shoot their still life images as these lighting tools provide even light spread across the subject. However, you can also get a good quality of light by setting up your photo shoot outside. A high overcast or bright sky can create a natural soft box effect without having any of the harsh shadows.

To maximise the impact of your still life pictures, always remember that your subject should be the only thing that you see in your image. Accordingly think about removing any distractions or clutter from the background so you can capture a clean and close-up image. Electing the correct aperture to capture an appropriate Depth of Field can assist in helping to make your subject stand out from the background as explained in a previous tip.

Also try to look at your subject from different viewpoints. Instead of shooting from your height, hold the camera so that it is level with your subject and try shooting from a variety of different angles.

In the attached example, “Still Life with Fan, Ball and Hat”, the photographer has taken a series of disparate objects create an interesting image. The colours of the towel has been deliberately selected to compliment the fan and the angle of light has been utilised to capture the shadow of the fan to create additional interest in the image. The capture of the shaded areas within the image also helps t create a sense of texture for the various items within the picture adding further interest for the viewer.

In the 2nd example, “Guinness original” the photographer has presented a simple product related image utilising traditional elements associated with the product branding to add additional interest and colour. The darkening of the background helps to avoid any distractions that might detract the viewer’s attention from the main subject of the image.

In the Final example, “For the teacher”, the photographer has deliberately created a very dark background to allow him to create the appearance of the disembodied hand placing the apple in the tray to create additional interest in the image. The dark background also helps to promote the colours of the various fruits and vegetable shown in the image. Finally, the title helps identify what the author wishes the viewer to consider as the key element of the photograph.

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