One of the most difficult things that I find when thinking about shooting a Still Life photograph, is what props to use.
Finding materials, textiles and objects that help to layer a Product and Still Life shot is a task that requires a lot of creative thinking and testing.
It's about what colours match. Is the textile too elegant or raggedy for the particular product I am shooting? What else do I need? Shall I go out shopping for materials? Do I need to order the props online and wait a few days before taking the shot? These are all questions that I face when I create a Still Life image.
Take these 'Spoilt' High Heel Shoes; I started out with these shoes placed simply on colour matching card, and I was quite happy with the lighting but after a short period of post production, I realised that there was nothing pulling me in any emotional direction. Even after adding texture to the background, the composition was basic and boring.
For me, just having jazzy colours in the background, 99% of the time, simply won't do.
These shoes are elegant so they needed some elegant layering.
So I go out shopping in search of inspiration and I find a silky looking red cushion. A few pink flowers later and I have a composition that is pleasing to me. I use a paper background that has indented texture and I work on an approximately 40 degree angled overhead shot that looks down on the shoes and flowers.
The placement has to be perfect. If the flowers are not in position correctly, if they are two far apart, or not centred, or too centred, they will not flow with the rest of the image and they will be noticeable as separate to the composition. They will stand out.
So I take the time to get them just right. I adjust them to fit into the background.
The same goes for the positioning of the shoes on the cushion. How far forward do they need to be? Am I aligning the shoes in accordance with the Rule of Thirds? are they too near each other, or too far apart? Do my eyes connect with the tips of the shoes? I work on the exact positioning to get a flowing composition.
Then the background. How much blur do I want? Do I want some texture or just very slight? I want the shoes to be tack sharp, but how much focus do I want on the flowers? Selective focus can be a very interesting and creative tool. This can help me enhance the image.
By tethering my camera to my computer and watching the whole process on Live View I am able to slowly adjust my composition, styling and lighting in a challenging and deliberate process (whilst listening to Country music :)).
These are all considerations that need to be made when working on a composition. It is okay to make changes, experiment and try different techniques to get the image that you want. But you have to find the right props for the job and make them blend into the image seamlessly. This requires patience and it can be as challenging as any other part of the shooting process. Where Still Life Photography is concerned, at times it can be even more so.