Taken in Alex’s Bothy

On Monday I had the second part of my photography training with my friend Alex who is kindly encouraging me to put a little more effort into this area. For our second session we indulged in studio work. Alex inherited a lovely out-building which she has set up as a place to do her hobbies, and this includes using it as a studio space where she takes many fantastic floral shots. I soon learned she is quite right to say that time passes differently when you are out there and it’s easy to get completely immersed in your experiments. Alex is also a keen gardener, not to mention collector of pretty decorative items, and whilst I was taking photos she regularly popped up with another little flower or prop to ring the changes.

I fear I may not be as good a student as I should be, but I learned a lot from the afternoon and it has certainly got me thinking about what I want so far as my own photography setup goes. This is all entangled with the kind of photographs that I most enjoy; my own eye, if you like. I also need to bear my limitations in mind, particularly the amount time and energy I’m prepared to put in, because photography is never going to be near the top of my hobby list and added complexity is the surest way to put myself off.

Some of the things I learned from our session were:-

  • I prefer dark backgrounds to pale ones
  • I like a natural wood background
  • I have a definite preference for the tight close-up
  • I may not always prefer the “correct” lighting setup or direction
  • I want to put all of the things in the shot!
  • I can’t shoot a straight image to save my life (but then I knew that)

We discussed what might help me in my own setup and identified two main areas to concentrate on. As I often dislike the background in my photos, Alex suggested I buy a background board in a colour that made me happy. Consistency of lighting has been another bugbear and I have often been defeated by the combination of getting the background I want in a position where the lighting pleases me. I knew that I wanted to sort out a good place in my flat where I could shoot the majority of my photos. I don’t think it will surprise Alex, or probably anyone at all, when I reveal that I haven’t bought a background board and the place I’ve chosen in my flat is quite the opposite of the one I was thinking of.

My new home setup

If I was to buy a backing board, I would choose one similar to the wood of this lovely old table which, despite the scars it bears, is as close to perfection as I want to go. The height of the table is bonus – it’s tall enough to mean I can stand, but low enough to be able to set up the tripod comfortably for top-down shots. It’s easy to change the decorative elements, but I think the woods of my jewellery box complement the whole setup nicely and this will probably be a frequent fixture.

Experimental shot in my new home setup
The Regia sock yarn photo you should have got on Monday!

A big part of the fun on Monday was using a variety of different objects and seeing how they changed my ideas about the layout of the shots. Whilst I was supposedly trying to take photos of my pens, I enjoyed seeing them become peripheral whilst other objects took centre stage. Plenty of food for thought there, and I foresee a lot more experimentation in the coming months. Let’s hope that translates into some better photos on the blog, too.

3 thoughts on “Close encounters with a camera

    1. The cell/mobile phone is brilliant for putting a good camera in your pocket and, like with most things, going beyond that is purely personal taste – there’s no real need for it. I wonder if, in the long run, the actual camera I’m using will prove to be as important as simply having an area that allows me to take my indoor photos more consistently. I’ve mentioned previously that over the years the photos I get from my phone camera seem to be becoming too stark and contrasty for my taste, but that is just as likely to mean that I should learn more about adjusting the phone camera and using it properly as it is to indicate that I need my DSLR.

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