Still life photography
by Anna Remarchuk
If you’re on Instagram longer than a month, there is no chance you haven’t seen at least one picture of the #envelope_series, a beautiful flower arrangement around an envelope, a simple simple idea poured into such an eye-catching image. Today the author of the famous series, an amazing photographer Anna Remarchuk (@annaremarchuk on Instagram) is sharing her photography secrets with us.
Let’s talk about the genre of photography that has become particularly popular due to Instagram. Perhaps this might come to you as a surprise because nowadays there are different trends on this social media, however back in 2014 Instagram were very supportive of accounts that featured what later was called “layouts” or mini-scenes. These were fairy-tale-like moments of life without the presence of the human – or at most with a hand in picture – captured in a creative way.
There were several reasons why Instagram supported this kind of accounts. First of all, such pictures were mostly taken with a mobile phone (at that time the app the format of professional camera pictures). Secondly, pictures on a such a page were all taken by one single person. Instagram perfectly understood that there were good photographers that could show life beautifully with means of Photoshop. But there were much fewer of those, who were able to take relatively simple pictures, which were also quick to create, only using their phone and at the same time to show the aesthetic and quality. Even nowadays, while it is much more interesting for the audience to observe bloggers’ personal life, rather than on their cups or hands, still life photography is still highly valued. This genre will live as long as companies sell cosmetics, jewellery, bags or perfumes. All these companies need beautiful pictures to showcase their products meaning they also need people who can take those pictures.
I’ll tell you about some practical tips that I use in the still life photography, and maybe this could help you develop your Instagram page, gain following and even work with brands, just as I do.
To begin with, in order to create a high-quality image, you must have an idea of composition. Understand exactly what you want to shoot. I bet you spend quite some time on Social Media (who doesn’t nowadays?) so put it to use, remember to save pictures from accounts that you really like. This is how you will develop your taste and collect useful tips, it should be something that you could look at and get inspired. Later you can look at those images and create something similar but in your own unique style. At my workshops I tell my audience that artists (well, photographers are artists) repeat the work of the masters before they develop their own style. This is not plagiarism, it’s a learning process. You also have the full right to study this way, but remember, not by replicating the photographs that inspire you but by adding your handwriting to them. Because who would be interested in looking at a copy if you can look at the original? So let us work on our own unique sense of style and color, let us develop and learn through books and similar courses!
Let’s talk about the practical advice.
First and foremost is light. A lot depends on the light. We need to find a place in the house with most of the daylight. I work almost always with natural light. The best place in any house is by the window. I always shoot on a table that I can move around.
Then you need to think about the background. You can buy it in online or you can get creative. The background I use is not only paper but also wood of different textures. It can be a table or wooden boards painted white. A marble surface would suit too. You should try and see what works best for your own pictures.
In my case, it’s mostly paper that I can buy in large quantities and pretty much of any colour.
I have only one rule of choosing the background, it has to be light. I usually go for white, grey, tender pink or kraft. Years of practice in this style have proved that it is the bright background that catches the eye best. These are also the tints that the brands tend to order.
Sometimes I build up a huge structure for just one picture. I put up a white sheet of paper on a windowsill so that both the background, on which the flowers rest, and the wall behind the still life is white. So for me it is much easier to work in an interior with white walls.
Then I build up the composition. I think what I want to see in the frame. If I am shooting flower for my Instagram page, I usually fill an envelope with flowers or make an accent on flowers with another object.
I always photograph standing parallel to the object. If I am working on an image for a brand, I first think of how to include their product in the frame or just follow the brief that the brand provides.
When there is not enough light or it’s cloudy outside, I use a reflector, which I put up so that indirect rays of light lay on my background. This was I get more light for my images.
It is also important to ensure there are no harsh shadows because they wouldn’t suit this genre of photography. Well, and you cannot take pictures when the sun is bright. So yes, we use only soft morning or late afternoon light that will not overexpose our image. It is crucial to pay attention to that because it is particularly soft light that will show the objects and products the best way. It is also the soft daylight that will help you to show the texture of the flower, it’s petals and colour.At this moment of my photographer career I use my phone to take pictures. With all the apps available for editing using your phone for the professional purposes has become much easier. To edit my pictures, I use the app called VSCO with the A6 filter, which pretty much always shows natural colours. Afterwards I add finishing touches in SnapSeed.
For me, a still life image is a story in itself. It is a story that you can put your soul in. It is a story that surrounds you at home!