Photo Exercise: Something You Made

When we make something with our own hands, we not only feel great satisfaction, but we also bring more beauty into the world. All the care and attention we put into what we make is a form of love, and that love makes everything look and taste better.

As photographers, we like to make images. We find the elements, we stage them, we frame and compose, we shoot, we develop, we print, and we share our work to inspire others. But for this exercise, I invite you to turn your camera toward the other lovely things that you make. It might be a handmade card, a knitted scarf, your own chai blend, a painting or a meal.

Show your process. You can set up a tripod and trigger the shot with a timer, or you can ask a friend to model for you.

Pretty things and thoughtful details are ideal to photograph, and shooting the wonderful things that we make is also a great way to record the joy and sweetness that we generate for ourselves and for others in the most ordinary days.

What did you make recently that was rewarding and that made you proud, happy and excited? If you didn’t make anything recently, then make something and shoot it now. It can be something as easy as making a favorite dish, baking some cookies or creating a collage.

If you’ve made multiple items, use an overhead shot to show variations in size, color and design. You can also include related objects to tell the story of your project.

Exercise Instructions

  1. Style your shot with some of the tools, materials and ingredients you used in your project. They will add interest and enhance the composition of your shot.
  2. Put as much thought into the styling of your shot as you put into the making of your masterpiece. Take time to arrange all the elements to create a well-balanced image.
  3. When applicable, use additional props and/or models to show the scale of your masterpiece or its function. For instance, use a model to photograph a scarf you knit or a piece of jewelry you created—or place a pillow you made on a chair to show how big it is.
  4. You can also create a shot that captures the joy of sharing, wearing and trying out what you made. For example, you could photograph a friend enjoying a piece of a pie you made.

Techniques

  1. Either a fast prime lens or a macro lens is a good choice for throwing the background out of focus, which emphasizes the focal point of the image. The macro lens allows you to get even closer to your subject and highlight its details. If you’re using a compact camera, you can use the macro setting for close-ups.
  2. Use a tripod and self-timer or remote for a self-portrait of you working on your masterpiece.

Shot Ideas

  1. Photograph a tray of cookies right out of the oven with melting chocolate chips.
  2. Take a photo of something you knit or are in the process of knitting. Show your needles and wool spools.
  3. Capture your painting in progress and showcase the finished artwork.

Alessandra Cave is a commercial and editorial photographer living in San Francisco. She’s also a writer, a teacher and the author of Shooting with Soul, an inspiration and technique book with 44 photography exercises exploring life, beauty and self-expression. 

Excerpted with permission from Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave (Quarry Books, 2013), www.quarrybooks.com

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