Updated: May 4, 2020
During these difficult days when many of us are having to adjust to spending more time indoors it's tough trying to think of different ways to keep yourself entertained and stimulated. It's at times like these that I am thankful to be a photographer. Photography can be so versatile. Getting out and about to explore and capture the world and it's population is great but in times like this when that's just not possible you can be just as creative within in your own home.
I'd like to share with you what I have been doing during lockdown to keep myself creatively stimulated. The above image is a bit of low key table top/still life photography using tomatoes, pasta and some chopped green beans. You can use anything you happen to find in your cupboards. I placed them on a roll of black paper to act as a back drop.. You can also use card or just a plain surface/table and a plain wall if these are not available. Lighting was from a single speed lite flash mounted in a soft box. You can use natural lighting from a window, or a lamp. The brilliant thing with still life photography is that the subject matter will not move or complain and get bored. It's an excellent way to just experiment. If you can master the lighting of a tomato then you are well on your way to mastering the lighting techniques for portrait photography as well.
Above image was taken on a Sigma 105 Macro Lens, Canon 7D mkII body, ISO 100, f11 aperture and 1/125 sec shutter speed. Enhanced and edited in Adobe Lightroom and DXO Nik Collection.
Using the same technique I also photographed some apples. Notice there are three. When thinking about your composition, three's can make for a more pleasing and interesting image.
This was taken from a bouquet of flowers I was given on Mother's Day. Same technique but with some additional editing in photoshop to give it a painted look. Photoshop has a set of gallery filters which are great fun to play around with and can produce some interesting effects.
This is a more extreme gallery effect. The original image wasn't anything too special. The background was too distracting and not much detail in the petals so I used photoshop to do a bit of swirl distortion in the back ground and gave it a very exaggerated painted look. There is an argument that a heavily edited photograph is no longer a photograph. My personal view is that yes it is no longer a record image but photography is a form of art. There is nothing wrong with getting creative and producing art from your photography. There is also nothing wrong with producing a record image straight from camera with little or no editing. I have always tended to do both depending on the subject matter.
You don't have to use fruit and veg. Any old keepsakes around the house can make a great composition. Over the years I have collected a lot of little trinkets such as this candle holder and ink well. I could see their potential for photography props. I think they work really well with the old book, which is a copy of "The Hobbit". This image was lit purely just with the light from the candle. Very tricky to get a fast enough shutter speed to not blow out the flame too much but still get the exposure for the rest of the items and not impact depth of field. I didn't use a tripod, I would recommend one for this type of shot I was just being too lazy so instead had to compromise with my ISO and aperture as a result. Settings for this image were ISO 800, aperture f3.5, shutter speed 1/25 sec. Using a canon 50mm prime lens.
We have seen so far examples of photography with low key lighting, some times referred to as Rembrandt lighting. The alternative is High Key or bright lighting. For this I took some tins out of my cupboard. Just happened to have two tomato and two vegetable to even things up a bit, I swapped the role of black paper for white, Used two Speed Lite flash guns mounted into soft boxes to give a "clamp" lighting effect. One to the right above the tins to light the lids and create the soft shadows at the base. The second lower down to the left to even up the light on the front of the tins. When I first started this type of photography I was obsessed in trying to eliminate all shadows. The problem with that is you can end up with an unrealistic look of objects floating in the air. Unless the surface is different to. the background a little bit of shadow shows the tins are actually sitting on a surface. Settings for this image were ISO 100, aperture f11, shutter speed 1/125 sec. Lens Sigma 105mm macro. Using the Macro lens mean't I could get nice and close to capture the detail on the labels.
I am very lucky to have a garden. This time of year the sparrows are very busy mating and building their nests. Wildlife photography is not normally one of my usual genres. I appreciate and admire many wildlife images I see but I just don't have the patience required. The idea of sitting around for hours waiting for a split second moment that may or may not happen does not really appeal. Due to this I don't actually have a decent enough lens to be able to capture small fast moving birds at great distance. My largest zoom is a Canon 100-400 mm Mk1. It's not my favourite lens especially when I consider it's the most expensive in my kit. This image was one of hundreds taken in my garden one afternoon recently. I do now have a bit of bug to improve my wildlife photography so I shall probably look to invest in some extension tubes for the lens in order to get a sharper image with less cropping. Settings for this particular image were ISO 100. f5.6. 1/640 sec. Then cropped in considerably.
Moving back indoors. I am fortunate to live in the same household as this young man, my 20 year old son, who also just happens to be my favourite model. If you want to practice your portrait photography find yourself a willing household member, and do a portrait photoshoot with a difference. We used the props in the earlier image and created a vintage theme. We also decided to take advantage of his mop look, haircut, which apparently is not going to get cut until his hairdresser opens up again. We used a small coffee table and a black paper backdrop. One speed lite flash gun was mounted in a soft box, concentrated to spread the light on Jamie's face. I used a 50mm prime lens with the following settings. ISO 100, f11, 1/125 sec.
For this image we used the light from the candle plus a rotor light with an orange filter, just to give that little bit of an extra boost on the face. Again I used the 50mm prime lens with the following settings. ISO 400, f2.8, 1/15 sec. The slow shutter speed and wide aperture has given the image a bit of a soft look. I didn't want to get the ISO too high as I was trying to minimise noise which can be more noticeable on a very dark image. I think the soft look has worked here.
And here is my final image, which I call "Looking at the Light during these Dark Days". It totally sums up our current mood. Same settings as the above image but it just seemed to work better in monochrome.
I hope this has given you some ideas to help you get creative with your photography during these difficult times.
For more information on my workshops and tuition courses please visit my website at https://www.louiseehubbardphotography.com
Telephone 07493 070207/01634 711275