Thursday, February 2, 2017

Exploring Self-Portraiture and Still Life Photography

I spend most of my photography life chasing around a toddler and a dachshund, and sometimes I long for a simple, stationary subject. I thought long and hard about what I could photograph that would cooperate, make for a compelling subject, and still reflect my daily life. I decided that I had to invest in a good tripod (my old one had a broken leg) and a wireless remote. So for the past month, I've been putting myself in the frame. In addition to self-portraiture, I've been trying out still life photography. Let's begin by discussing self-portraiture.

Like everything else in photography, light adds everything to your images (of course they literally couldn't exist without it). To make self-portraits look less like a headshot and more artistic, you have to seek out an interesting light. For the following image, I happened to notice the beautiful light pattern on this particular wall- it starts to reveal itself more or less every day around 2 pm. The light separators on the window provide a nice opportunity for framing, and because there was little chance of getting my toddler to sit still in that exact spot for a photo, I jumped in!  Challenge yourself by being cognizant of the dappled light in your home, and place yourself in the frame!

In the winter time, there are very few opportunities to capture a pretty sunset. When I looked outside the other day, I loved the slight golden hue of the setting sun and how it illuminated the bare trees. I had my daughter and our dog out on the deck with me, but neither would stay put, and I envisioned a serene image. I grabbed my tripod, remote, and a brewed a quick cup of coffee...why the coffee? Portraits, whether they are photographs or paintings, reveal information about their subjects through devices such as clothing, setting, and objects. Wearing a sentimental piece of clothing or jewelry, or even posing with your pet, provides storytelling elements that tell the audience about who you are. In this instance, I grabbed my favorite coffee mug and kept my appearance simple. I wanted to show a glimpse of my every day- which often includes copious amounts of coffee.

Below is another self-portrait that includes a mug, but this time I took advantage of the soft indoor light. I purposely wanted the red phone included- the previous homeowners left it behind, and it's become the mascot of our new house, a conversation piece. So as you set up your portraits, be sure to include environmental elements that contribute to your story.

While objects can be an important part of portraiture, they are the key subjects in still life photography. I love this genre because I fondly remember learning to paint from still lives in my art classes. The best part of still life photography is that you can stage it as you please and shoot at your leisure, the composition can be as simple or complicated as you like. In this image I've gathered objects that remind me of my daughter's first year...a doll I bought for her, her first pair of shoes, and a favorite storybook. As with self-portraits, be mindful of the light. I sought light that was dynamic yet soft since the subject matter involves a child's beloved objects.

The next photo was shot with a wide angle lens because I wanted to emphasize the simplicity of my subjects by creating negative space. Don't forget to experiment with different focal lengths to show intention and point of view.

In this final photograph, I purposely used harsh light and shadow- mainly because I wanted to emphasize the reflections on the film, but also because I knew I wanted to convert this one to black and white. With still life photography, you can shoot with intention and not worry about missing the moment. This gives you the ability to try different angles and experiment with photographic techniques pressure free. Have fun and stay inspired!


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