Starting Still Life Photography

Title photo for Journal entry "Starting Still Life Photography"

I’ve been thinking about shooting stills for a long time already and now I’ve started doing so. I enjoy images reminding of old paintings and Vanitas imagery and couldn’t help but growing the desire to make some own works in this direction. Firstly I love arranging things and make them look good together. That’s why I’ve often created the whole set design when shooting fashion by myself. The problem here is that you need to focus on too many different things and also spend a lot of budgets when you rent a studio AND all the props (given that it is a free project). So you have to be quick and it kind of gets dirty through that.

I’ve tried to shoot still life as cinemagraphs about 2 years ago already, but wasn’t quite satisfied and so I had put this on hold. And although the special feeling of still life with a moving element inside is quite exciting and beautiful, you get lost in the process of doing several things at the same time again: arranging the composition and bringing in some movement, as well as filming and making the loop work. I also realized that it’s kind of just a special effect for the viewer instead of a quiet moment of pausing and experiencing the whole image in all its details.

So when I’ve been visiting my family for Christmas last December and I knew in advance that I’d have about two days off to do whatever I wanted, I decided to bring my “traveler” camera, a Panasonic Lumix bridge-cam. My mother possesses many beautiful and cheesy decor items, all collected over the years, and I mean this in a positive way. A lot comes from Romania, where she grew up. All that stuff was perfect for visualising my first still lives (well, maybe not the very first ones, because before fashion there were a lot of stills, but the style here is new).

The problem was, of course, the light. My mother doesn’t have any professional light equipment at home and the only (movable) lamp was a small nightlight from her bedroom. My idea was to just use a little bit of lighting anyways, so I thought it would do. But as I couldn’t find anything like a white surface (like the styrofoam you use in studios to lighten the shadows a little bit), I had to use the ceiling light additionally, otherwise, the shadows would have been too rough. The result was a rather poor illumination with flowing color temperature. A photographer’s nightmare… So I had to work with high ISO and edit the colors, later on, to make it look okay. Anyways, this was meant to be a test and with no pressure. It was rather relaxing because arranging stuff can be so meditative…

When not looking closely, the result is quite nice. I like the style and atmosphere. When looking closer you can see the noise coming from the high ISO and low key lighting. But it gets better.

After Christmas I’ve been shooting more still lives, some at home, some in-studio and I’m selling my few first results on Adobe Stock/Fotolia and Shutterstock already. Sadly the requirements for commercial still life photography sometimes differ from the artistic mind’s ideas. But the next goal is to find a way and combine it all together. I’ve been working with flowers recently, which I love, and here is a selection of the result:

I’m planning on doing more and try different backgrounds, tables and different motives, like e.g. fruits and other food, skulls, etc. After I’m satisfied with the vintage-inspired styles, I’m thinking about doing still life editorials that tell a story just as my fashion editorials always do. I love dealing with different topics and finding a way to express my feeling about them through photography just makes me happy. I may also try some more abstract still lives – but first things first.

I’m also very excited about combining fashion with the Vanitas still life style. A concept, which I’ve been working on last year and it’s at the ready to be shot this year if everything works out. I hope so.


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