Failing forward

March 19, 2012


Our assignment for photography class was to do a Still Life.  Hoping to avoid the standard bowl of fruit, I did an online search for images of still lifes. A plethora of ideas and inspiration. Almost any object can be the subject. Excellent!

I gathered some cool stuff from around my house: Buddha, Eiffel Tower, cup filled with colored pencils, ceramic bowl. But when I started shooting, it all looked terrible! Nothing like any of the examples I saw.

I studied the good images and realized it’s all about lighting. And then the excuses started. And the internal whining: I don’t have any lighting equipment. I don’t have a studio or the right location. I don’t have any experience. No one taught me. This is too hard. And, with that, I decided to blow off the assignment.

As I settled into my decision, my classmate, who has all the same excuses I do, sent me her very cool still life shots. She inspired me to try harder.

Need more training? I found a video on about photographing food that showed me some lighting tricks.

I tried the Buddha in a corner (I know, no one puts Buddha in a corner), draped a bedsheet behind him and took the shade off a lamp to get brighter light. Complete fail: total darkness. After a few more sweaty, frustrating attempts, I realized that for my homemade light sources, I needed a very small subject.

In the end, I chose this little piggy sculpture from Korea. My “set” was a sight to behold: two shadeless lamps precariously leaned against a small round table, a piece of plexiglass tilted against one lamp to diffuse the light, a draped pillowcase to create a shadow, and the tiny piggy sitting happily in the middle of it all even though the whole setup crashed down upon him time after time.

I knew the shoot was complete when a lamp broke in the final collapse.

I love the images that resulted. My first still life. I didn’t give up. There were lots of little failures in there but I learned from each one and did better, step by step. Thanks to my friend and my little piggy for inspiration.

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6 Comments on “Failing forward”

  1. Tom Knapik Says:

    It was a great photograph! You got it.


  2. Dickson Yit Says:

    Where the pitcher of your lighting setup?


    • gretchen Says:

      Welcome back. Yep, I wanted to get a shot of the wacky setup but it crashed one time too many and I couldn’t find the energy to set it all up again.



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