Sunday, March 1, 2009

Make it a Moving Experience – Tips for Still-Life Pictures

Photo- Summer's End NYC 2008 by Ruben Natal-San Miguel

ARTmostfierce is way to busy these days and it is getting harder evryday to keep up with the pace of a fast blog like this one is set out to be. On that note...I would like to introduce you all our new ARTmostfierce contributor. Her Name is Sarah Scrafford and she usually writes on the topic of Associate Degree in Photography. Here is her first article :

Welcome Sara and enjoy!

Make it a Moving Experience
Tips for Still-Life Pictures
By Sara Scrafford

You’d think that snapping a picture of an inanimate object would be a snap, but only when you actually get down to the task do you realize that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to still-life photography. The subject of the picture may be lifeless, but it’s up to you as the photographer to add life to the photo. You must do the best you can with the lighting, angles, backgrounds, and frames to make your photo talk to its viewers – a bowl of ice cream must beg to be eaten, flowers must call to your love of nature, a water droplet on a glass of tea must deepen your thirst, and so on. Still-life photography is all about creating the right effect. So how do you get the result you want from a still-life photograph? Read on to find out:

Lighting Matters: When you’re shooting still life, you’re most probably indoors, either at home or in a studio. Natural light works best, especially when it’s diffused and not harsh. A translucent screen over a window behind your subject should work fine if the sunlight is not too bright. Alternatively, you could use artificial lights set at specific angles. If a natural scene or object outdoors catches your eye, use the lighting that’s available with the right kind of filters to get the effect you want. Nature offers a host of patterns that can never be duplicated to do justice to the original; so keep your camera ready for times when opportunities come knocking.

Composition is Everything: Stunning still-life pictures come about when you’re able to compose the perfect frame – you could use props, accessories and other paraphernalia to tell the story you want. Try out different arrangements with various props – set up your camera on your tripod so that you don’t lose your initial frame. Some objects are best captured alone while others are more effective as part of a group. Use your imagination and creativity in setting up the shot – you could blur some parts of the picture and emphasize the sharpness in others to show which objects are important and which must fade into the background, you could arrange objects in a certain order to create a greater effect, or you could use shadows to your advantage.

Background is Important: Unless you’re shooting a natural scene or outdoors object, you must create an effective background for your object. Plain colors like black or white work well, although you do have to be careful when working with white to avoid exposure problems. Use the right texture – paper, cloth, velvet or cardboard – to get the look you want.

Colors Count: Any picture that’s full of bright colors is bound to attract immediate attention. But that doesn’t mean you must fill your frame with random colors that portray no meaning at all. You could use the natural colors of various foods, like those that come in fruits and vegetables, to showcase menu items in an appetizing manner. The trick to achieving the right effect is to know the colors that match and the ones that don’t.

Techniques Help: Zoom shots are good when you’re indoors as is a tripod when you’re shooting objects that are really close and want to avoid the natural shake of your hands. It’s best not to use a flash for indoor photography to avoid the unpleasant shadows that are likely to appear. Use regular photographic techniques to achieve dramatic effects – for example, a simple droplet of water on a glass of iced tea that’s emphasized in the backdrop of a blurred glass conveys the impression of quenching thirst most effectively.

Picture perfect still-life photography is all about experimentation – with angles, lights, positions and frames. You have the advantage of models who never tire, so as long your energy levels are high, you can keep trying a variety of combinations until you achieve just the kind of look you’re looking for.

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Associate Degree in Photography. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address:

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