Do you find yourself lacking inspiration? Without new ideas? Or just unsatisfied with your average looking images? Pablo Picasso – the famous and talented artist – once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” This exercise is designed to help you achieve exactly that, and awaken your creativity.
An old English proverb says, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. So following this principle I came up with a routine for your photographic health. Something to keep you busy so that inspiration can find you working, as Picasso suggested.
Step 1: Photograph an apple
Why an apple? Well, because I found that many times the excuses that we use are linked to the idea that we don’t have an interesting subject, or a nice-looking one, or an expensive one, in other words something worthy of photographing. So don’t procrastinate at the market looking for the perfect red shiny apple that looks like one from a fairy tale, just get an apple. An apple is something we all have access to. It’s not particularly expensive, and as you will see, also very versatile.
The first part of the exercise is to photograph your subject, in this case the apple without altering it. In other words, you are the one who is going to adapt in order to get the most out of it. For now you don’t have to worry about the technical part, so you can just leave your camera on automatic mode and shoot away. Photograph your apple from the top and from the bottom; from afar and in macro; with a wide-angle lens and a telephoto – anything you can think of.
Once you have done this and you can’t think of any other ways to photograph the apple, push yourself to do at least two more. Yes, it may take some time to come up with them, but trust me, those will be the best ones! Why? Because photograph has been around for almost two centuries, and lately thousands of images are done everyday, so most likely the first images you can come up with, are also the same ones everybody thinks about. That is why you need to come out of your comfort zone and exercise your photographic mind and eye.
As you can see, the color and exposure on each one is different. This is because the camera was set on automatic mode. This way the settings adjust to the information it’s receiving. If most of the frame is covered by the warm colors of the apple it sends different information than a frame mostly covered by the white background. This is why the next step is very important.
Step 2: Put your technique to good use
Now that you have found the best angle for photographing your apple, you can move on to the next level – make it professional!
When you had your camera on auto mode it made the decisions by itself. Let’s be honest, with the cameras that exist on the market today, it’s very easy to get a well-exposed photo. However, what I always say to my students is, “We learn photography not to make it good, but to make it our own.”
If you use the automatic mode of your camera, it might come out a good photo, but it won’t be your photo, because you didn’t make any of the decisions. In this part of the exercise you need to put your photographic knowledge – no matter how much that is – to good use.
If you know about bracketing (the process of making the same photo with different exposures) then do that.
If you know about lighting, then play with your lights. Use a direct flash to create a hard shadow for one image, then use a flash and a reflector to soften the shadow, and so on. Even if you don’t have a professional set of lighting gear you can always play with artificial light from lamps and natural light from windows. The point is to use your tools and techniques to make your photo the way you want it to be and not just another snapshot.
Step 3: Get creative
Now it’s all about the finishing touches. It’s always important that you are able to produce a technically good and unique photo of an object/subject. But how about getting a bit more creative? Try to tell a story, to set a mood, or to use the apple as a metaphor, anything goes! (Image basket.jpg)
Once you have your best angle and your light and settings selected, it’s time to decide what you want to say with your photo. Do you want your photo to be yummy and inviting? Maybe cut the apple and plate it on a beautiful table. Do you want it to be about health and nutrition? Maybe add some other fruits to the set.
If you want to push yourself a little bit more then try to tell a story, maybe make a photographic series. Think about Snow White or Adam and Eve, in both cases the apple plays an important role. Do you want it to be conceptual? Think about life and death for example using a fresh and a rotten apple. You can do anything you want just by adding some elements, add some context, and get creative!
Today for me it was a healthy, ready-to-eat snack!
Conclusion and what’s next
Great work! I hope you enjoyed your apple for today. Tomorrow maybe go with an orange, or a dog, or a self-portrait. You can apply this three steps to everything, or stay with the apples and see how far you can get, the important thing is to exercise every day.