For those of you that know me, it’s no secret that I enjoy learning about new things, and expanding my knowledge on topics I’m already familiar with. Late last year you might remember I took a collage class which was, to put it bluntly, eh. When I saw that the same facility was offering a photography class, product photography to be exact, I thought it might be fun.
So I plopped down the fairly substantial tuition and registered for the 3 day (1:00-4:00) class, located in Stockbridge about 50 minutes away. The class was held in a large room with very tall ceilings and a fair amount of natural light, but not nearly enough for what we were about to undertake. I noticed the instructor was setting up rather large, professional looking lights and wondered if he was going to show, or at least explain, how to get good results without all the bells and whistles.
Like many of you, I want my photos to look good, but I’m not, nor do I aspire to be, a professional photographer. It’s enough that I’ve invested in a DSLR, three lenses and a tripod, among other things, so I was curious to see what was in store.
Well, the first half hour was spent waiting for him to access his Dropbox account. (He had forgotten his password.) Once he was able to access it, I wish he hadn’t. We spent the next 2+ hours looking at photos and critiquing them. I thought my head would explode. All I kept thinking about was how beautiful it was outside, how I could be working in my garden, kayaking or getting my fingernails pulled out.
We took a short break then things got a bit better. The instructor had asked us to bring in some objects we wanted to photograph, so I brought in this decoupaged bowl I had made a couple of years ago. So here’s the first lesson I want to pass along:
1 – Backgrounds are important!
(and don’t overlook black)
The instructor used grey paper as a background, and we all agreed (there were only five in the class) that it didn’t do the bowl justice. *ALL THE PHOTOS ARE SOOC (straight out of camera) WITH NO EDITING*
For this next photo I increased the exposure a bit and I like this photo a little more, but it’s still not the winner. I find the shadow, which is created by the lighting and almost impossible to eliminate, too distracting.
I thought since the bowl is primarily white, black would be a nice contrast, so the next day the instructor brought in some black boards (black felt would work well too). Much better, don’t you agree?
You can still see a shadow, but it’s not nearly as prominent in this photo as the other two. I’m going back to my original post on this decoupaged bowl and changing my featured image :).
One of the other students in the class was a woman who takes photos of antiques for a living. She brought in these pretty shaker style boxes and while working with them, I discovered lesson number 2:
2 – Details Matter!
There isn’t a huge difference between the next two photos, but you might notice in the first one the boxes aren’t touching. Whether you prefer the first one or the second one doesn’t matter. There’s no right or wrong.
(Unless you like the first one, then you’re wrong).
Photography is an art, and we quickly learned what one person finds pleasing might irk another. For me, my eye went directly to the open space between the boxes. Although I do prefer the lighting in the first photo, overall the second one is a keeper.
We then went outside and photographed some peonies in soft light, (otherwise known as shade), which is typically considered the best light to shoot in to avoid harsh shadows, but you can also get some interesting effects with direct sun.
So here comes lesson number 3:
3 – Don’t be afraid of direct sun
Sometimes the shadows they create, like the photo below, can add drama. Looking at this photo now I would have moved the fallen petal into the light, but you get the idea.
Just across the street from the school was a church with some beautiful peony bushes. I suggested we take the vase over there and I got this shot, deliberately blurring the background.
Lesson number 4:
4 – Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty
Some fairly interesting shots can be achieved just by sitting on the ground. One of the students said this reminded her of a wedding shot, and I agree.
Another student in the class was a sculptor. Can you guess what this is?
I couldn’t either, and I was right there! It’s cardboard that’s been soaked in water, proof positive that sometimes everyday items shouldn’t be overlooked.
So that’s what I learned.
What didn’t I learn?
Well, I really didn’t learn how to work with ‘non-professional’ lighting and achieve professional, or semi-professional results.
By the third day we still hadn’t talked about taking photos without fancy equipment, which was kind of disappointing. I asked the instructor and he simply said to get what is called a ‘shop light’, which is available in almost any home improvement store and make certain all your lighting has the same type of bulb, which preferably is halogen.
So that was my big ‘take away’.
In case you’re in need of an easy, el cheapo alternative to fancy lights, a while back I showed you all how to create a diy lightbox, and I have to say I use it a LOT for some of my food photos, but if you don’t want to go that route, just a white board held at the right angle can make a difference in your shots. If you sell on Etsy or Ebay you may want to consider one or two professional lights, but you can make do with some less expensive alternatives.
Now on to the pastel class. This one is almost embarrassing. You see all those marks?
(Either that, or I kept spilling water on the drawing because I didn’t like my hands being all chalky and kept using a paper towel soaked in water to wash them and of course got it all over the drawing.)
I guess the Met won’t be knocking on my door anytime soon.
Now do you want to see some artwork actually worth displaying? How about this watercolor my friend Cheryl painted and gifted me with?
In other news…
We bought, painted and installed some wood boards just over the stone steps and it looks a lot more pulled together. We’ll be starting on ‘Phase 3’, the side of the house, sometime in July. I’m not 100% sure what I want to do there yet, other than have some grass and a path to the back. Maybe I’ll ask for opinions soon.
Oh, and Earth, Wind & Fire was great! We danced like knuckleheads, ate like porkers, and drank way too much. All in all, just another night. 😉