Fall is in the air big time in the PNW, leaves are changing, crispness to the air, all the good warm, cozy feelings that come with the arrival of Autumn. Michelle and I have been studying the way films are toned, we both love a cinematic image, they always seem to evoke more feeling and depth than a S.O.O.C. (that’s straight out of camera*). Although we both feel strongly about getting it right when you shoot (Michelle is much better at this than me), I have started striving for it as well, since I no longer have copious amounts of spare time to fiddle in Photoshop. With that idea in mind that neither of us wants to be sitting in front of our computers editing longer than we have to, we created a mini set of Photoshop actions to quickly (one click) tone your images for a more fall ambient feel, we chose a cinematic technique to create the actions that we are super proud of discovering. We haven’t released any post processing tools prior that are toning specific, we wanted to make sure that any effect we created maintained the integrity of the original image and was just an enhancement–subtle, simple and beautiful. The best part? We are sending one of the actions to you for free! That’s right! Sharing is caring and we are all about the share. We will send you the Autumn Tone Evening action as soon as we are ready to launch. There is a small catch, it will only work in updated versions of Photoshop CC 2015.5. We both have subscriptions to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, its only $10/mo. and you also get Lightroom CC and all the future updates free (unlike the previous model where you had to pay a ransom to upgrade). For anyone editing images on a regular basis, it’s a tiny investment to make, to get the latest and greatest from Adobe (insert heart eyes here for me). Click here to have your action sent to you soon!
We will pop in again this week!
*I do have to add here Michelle has a mirrorless Fuji and her S.O.O.C. images have that beautiful Fuji film quality, and seriously have me contemplating giving up my Canon. I think I am going to be renting one first to give it a go, Michelle says the focus system is really powerful and though I love me some blur, I admittedly am getting frustrated by ALL the missed focus images I am getting from a toddler that is constantly in motion. There’s so much to love about this camera and it is quite good looking to boot!
Michelle and I are finally on the other side of our focus angst (we promise to share the step-by-step on how we got here). One of the most exciting results of this is that we have freed up a ton of mental bandwith and you know what? We are both feeling more creative than we have in years! I have to say being able to pour our creative energy into one thing instead of spreading it amongst a million little things has been an eye opener. I have always succumbed to my every interest and whimsy and they have been far and wide with no real connectors except for maybe me sharing them here on the blog with you. We have been doing a ton of experimentation with different techniques, just trying to think as outside the box as possible and not worrying if the results will be a success. Happily we have had a bunch of little victories and it makes us feel like we are ‘on to something’. We even have a new Foto Rx Photoshop action set that we think will bring out the inner artist in you, we can’t wait to share it! We just finished the first beta action on it today, we were giving ourselves high fives all around (in our new studio space that is oh, so very beautiful, thank you very much). We hope we are not being too evasive with you right now, we definitely will share our focus decision soon and we do hope that we can help others that are struggling as well to find that mental sigh of relief.
P.S. If you want to be the first one to know about the upcoming new FotoRx Photoshop action release (it will be a goody) and be privy to amazing freebies and tutes than sign-up here to be in the know!
P.P.S. We will be giving away free sets to a few lucky winners on our mailing list when it’s closer to launch date!
Still life photography equipment can be as simple as your iPhone and a kitchen counter, but if you find yourself falling in love with the possibilities of still life as I have, you may want to invest in some equipment that will help you take your photos to the next level. Honestly, I wish I’d purchased the backdrop stand and accessories much sooner! I came up with all sorts of ways to rig up my backdrops, when I could have just purchased this simple backdrop stand for under $40. Live and learn right?
Excluding the camera and lens, this still life studio equipment rings in at under $200. An easy investment to step up your still life game!
// STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT LIST //
Backdrop Stand | Hello game changer! It’s expandable which means there’s room to shoot giant bouquets, or even portraits!
Sandbags | A safety necessity – if there’s anyone other than you in the studio (or if you ever accidentally bump into your backdrop stand – ahem) you’ll be glad your backdrop stand is stable.
Clamps | for holding the backdrops to the backdrop stands. I also use them to clamp blooms to backdrops.
White Backdrop | This fabric will never be perfectly smooth, but I’ve come to love the texture of its stubborn wrinkles.
Black Backdrop | I ordered 5 yards.
Tripod | I’ve mentioned this tripod before, it has held up so well, I think this price is a steal!
Camera | I’ve made the switch to Fuji mirrorless and LOVE it!
Lens | 35mm prime lens.
// EDITING TOOL //
You probably guessed but of course I used our very own Foto Rx! Foto Rx | First Aid Kit is always open in my Photoshop Actions menu – I really do use it all of the time, it’s just so fast! The image for this post took 3 clicks to edit: Slight Light, Add some Pep, and 20/20 Vision on the Spot (applied to the lemon and the pitcher) – and voila!
Let’s demystify still life photography shall we? It’s such an official sounding category, and I must confess, it took me awhile to realize that most of my images are indeed still life. Flowers placed on a table or arranged on a background? Still life. Herbs on a white background? Still life. Flat lays for Instagram? You get the idea.
There are a lot of complicated definitions out there, but the way I think of still life photography is simply this: an image with thoughtfully composed inanimate objects (or even just a single object). It can be anything from scissors, to lipstick, to a bountiful harvest spread.
Here are our top 10 tips for a successful still life photography shoot:
- Choose a subject that you have some sort of appreciation for. It could be simply because it’s stunning, or you are drawn to the color, or it belongs to someone you love – anything, as long as it speaks to you on some level.
- Start with one item arranged on a tablecloth or piece of paper. At least start here, you can always build with more items as you go along!
- Have a plan. Decide on the tone you want to convey in your image. Do you want it to be moody or cheerful, simple or lush? Keeping a key word in mind will help guide your decisions as you shoot.
- Keep backgrounds neutral. Backgrounds are hugely important, they ground your subject and set the tone for your image. A neutral background will let your subject shine.
- Consider how the color of your subject will look against your background. Bright red cherries can feel moody and dramatic on a black background but cheerfully optimistic on a white background. Refer to your plan to make sure you are getting the result you are after.
- Natural light works just fine for still life photography. I like indirect side light to emphasize shadows, so I set up next to a north facing window. You don’t have to use indirect light, back light (light from behind your subject) or even an angled sun ray can be quite dramatic. Tristan and I were recently swooning over this shot by Alice Gao!
- As with any photo, composition is key. Familiarize yourself with the good ‘ol rule of thirds. Many cameras (and apps! including the iphone native camera) have a grid setting to give you a visual as you shoot.
- Anthropomorphize your subject. Ok, I know it sounds odd, but I use this technique a lot! Ideally, people who look at your image will feel something, and you as the photographer are directing them toward that feeling by how you’ve shot your subject. It helps to think of your subject as capable of conveying emotion.
- Switch things up if your original idea isn’t working. So you’ve diligently noted all of the steps above and your image is still not what you’d hoped for – what should you do? Change it! Start by adjusting your composition, if that doesn’t help, change the light, maybe even revisit your subject. Let your shoot evolve. Some of my favorite images came about after extreme frustration.
- Stop! Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Meaning, if your images aren’t what you were initially going for, don’t delete them right away. Step back and try to look at the image with fresh eyes later. It may not be what you were trying to accomplish, but it just may be better!
Hopefully these 10 tips make still life photography a bit less mystifying! We’d love to see your still life photos, if you use the hashtag #bbstilllife on Instagram, we will come take a look!
// RESOURCES //
#flatlays on Instagram
Rule of Thirds
Turning on grid for iPhone
There’s something extraordinarily comforting about having someone know you so well, so when Michelle sent me the link to Milk Books and said we need to write about this I knew it was going to be awesome. As you can see from the photo, the presentation is beautiful, sophisticated and unique, this is a keepsake gift for yourself or a loved one. The price is also incredible, starting at a mere $95 usd! Yes, they do have an app, and you can also log on to their desktop site to upload as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Artifact Uprisings new lay flat albums, the albums are cloth covered, the blush colour is perfect (my fave) and you can even get the cover hot-stamped in gold or copper foil, white or black! A beautiful, beautiful presentation. Speaking of presentations, I know a number of photographers that have started using them as their portfolio, so if you are stuck for portfolio ideas something to consider!
We have a few more resources for you, so check back tomorrow and feel free to add any of your faves to the list!
Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography editing tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.