Looking to get inspired with some creative photography ideas? You’re not alone. Many photographers experience this rut, often leading to a cycle of frustration. But here’s the good news: creativity can be sparked in the most unexpected places, and that’s where I can help.
In this article, I share 15 easy creative ideas to get your creative juices flowing – and best of all, each one can be done from the comfort of your home. You don’t need to take expensive trips or head out in bitterly cold weather; just set up at your kitchen table (or elsewhere around the house), prepare your camera, and have tons of fun!
So if you’re ready to capture some incredible photos, then let’s dive in, starting with our first idea:
1. Play with the light
First on the list: light. It’s the essence of photography, after all. But are you fully exploring its potential? Light is incredibly versatile and offers endless opportunities for artistic interpretation.
Let’s talk about your options. You could go for natural light streaming through a window. It’s free, abundant, and can create stunning high-key or low-key effects depending on the time of day and angle. Artificial light, such as LED bulbs or lamps, can also be a game changer. These allow you to control intensity and direction, adding nuance to your shots.
Studio lights are also great for experimentation. And even if you don’t own a set of strobes, a single flash can do wonders. Just like a painter adds bold strokes to a canvas, you can use studio lights to shape your photographic vision. Play with angles to spotlight certain areas or create intriguing shadows.
How about photographing in the direction of the sun to create artistic lens flare? This can add an ethereal quality to the image. Positioning the light source behind your subject can also result in beautiful silhouettes that speak volumes without revealing details.
And don’t forget long exposures. Have you ever tried shooting a window for an extended period? This technique makes light look like it’s emanating from the glass. It’s almost magical, turning something mundane into a work of art.
2. Photograph water droplets
Water droplet photography does require some specialized equipment – but the results are gorgeous, and you can literally spend years capturing different splash types, backgrounds, colors, and more.
Plus, once you understand the basic setup, it’s relatively easy to get images like this one here:
To start, you’ll need a camera with a macro lens (or with significant close-up capabilities). You’ll also need a tripod (to keep your camera in position), an off-camera flash (to light the droplets), a dropper, and a bowl of water.
The idea is to position your camera next to the bowl of water. Switch your lens to manual focus, then prefocus on the middle of the bowl (where the water will fall).
Hold the water dropper high, drop a few droplets over the bowl, and as they near the water surface, fire your camera.
Note that water droplet photography will involve plenty of trial and error, especially if you use the simple DIY setup I’ve described above. To make your droplet photos more consistent, you can purchase specialized water droppers and rigs (though these can get expensive, so I only recommend going such a route if you’re serious about this form of photography!)
3. Work with colored reflectors
Stepping into the realm of color can be a transformative experience. Sure, colored gels on artificial lights have their place, but have you tried using colored reflectors? They’re a bit more subtle and incredibly easy to implement, especially if you’re shooting at home.
The beauty of reflectors is that they’re not just for the pros. You can make your own without breaking the bank. A simple trip to the craft store for colored poster board or reflective fabrics can get you started. Once you have your materials, cut them into manageable sizes and you’re good to go.
Now comes the fun part—experimentation. Take your blue, green, yellow, red, or orange reflectors and place them close to your subject. The resulting hue that bounces onto your subject will vary based on the color you choose. It’s like painting with light, but in a more literal sense.
Multiple reflectors can amplify the effect. Use them from different angles to wrap your subject in a cocoon of color. The result can be anything from dramatically moody to ethereally soft, depending on the colors and angles you choose.
Ever heard of a color wheel? It can be a helpful tool here. Pair opposite colors like red and green to make your subject pop. Or use analogous colors, those close to each other on the wheel, for a harmonious, serene look. Trust me, your creativity will soar.
4. Shoot some food
Everyone loves to practice food photography, especially when the food looks amazing. The genre is huge (and potentially lucrative if you can sell your food photos as stock).
To get started with food photography in the comfort of your own home, follow these guidelines:
- Lighting is key. Natural light such as window sidelight works great. If you use off-camera flash, the light should come from behind the food – but be sure to reflect the light back (i.e., with a reflector) to avoid unwanted shadows in your photos.
- Pay attention to the background. Standard still-life backdrops, such as a pure white lightbox, can be effective. But you can also have fun with textured backgrounds, such as fabric or painted canvas. Don’t just choose the background randomly; make sure it adds context to the food you wish to photograph!
- Style your food carefully. The best professional food photographers use food stylists, but the rest of us don’t have that luxury. Instead, you must carefully arrange your food in a beautiful composition (you can have fun experimenting, but I often like to use repeating elements, such as in the strawberry shot below).
5. Do some lensball light painting
Lensballs offer an easy way to capture gorgeous refraction shots – but if you want to take your lensball photos to the next level, why not try lensball light painting, which can be done indoors with a few basic items?
You’ll need a dark room, so either shoot at night or in a basement or bathroom with zero windows. You’ll also need a tripod to hold your camera still, as well as a table and a sheet of glass to hold the lensball.
Place the sheet of glass on the table, then carefully position the lensball on the sheet of glass. (I like to use a keyring under the ball to prevent it from rolling, which I edit out later.)
Set up your camera so that it’s focused on the lensball, turn off the lights, and dial in a shutter speed of five or more seconds.
Then, once you hit the shutter button, walk around the room with a flashlight. Have fun drawing different patterns in the air (as you can see in the photo below, zigzags are always fun!). No need to be too rigid; the wilder the pattern, the more interesting the result.
6. Create classic still-life arrangements
There’s a reason why still-life photography has been around for ages—it’s timeless. You don’t need a studio full of props; just look around your house. Objects you’d usually overlook can become the stars of your artistic endeavor.
Think old watches, rustic kitchenware, or even a bunch of grapes. Arrange them in a visually pleasing manner on a table or countertop. Now, it’s time to light your setup. Natural light works wonders if you have a window nearby. Soft, diffused light can give your still-life a painterly quality.
If natural light isn’t an option, studio lights can fill in. Adjust them to highlight key areas of your composition or to create shadows for depth. The quality of light can drastically change the mood. For instance, hard light can give your still-life a modern edge, while soft light might make it feel classic and timeless.
Don’t hesitate to play around. Rotate your objects, try different backgrounds, maybe even add some reflective surfaces for extra shine. You’re the artist, the director of this static scene. Your choices in arrangement and lighting create the story you want to tell.
Backgrounds are just as important. A wooden surface might lend a rustic charm, while a sleek black or white backdrop can make your objects stand out sharply. Even the direction of the light can set the mood, making your arrangement feel calm, dramatic, or mysterious.
7. Photograph objects frozen in ice
If you’re stuck at home for a few days, why not try some frozen object photography? It’ll get you unique photos just like this:
To get started, fill a container with an inch of water, stick it in the freezer, then wait a day.
Next, find a few interesting objects, such as food, flowers, or even toys. Place them on top of the ice sheet, add more water (until they’re covered), then put the container in the freezer and wait another day or so.
At this point, you can add more water and wait yet another day – it depends on the thickness of the ice and the look you’re after – or you can remove the ice from the container and start shooting. I recommend lighting your subject from different directions (you might even experiment with backlight for a cool, ethereal effect).
8. Do product photography with household items
Ever wonder how those glossy magazine ads make everyday products look so appealing? Well, you can recreate that magic right in your home. Take a walk around and pick some products you love. It could be anything—a bottle of perfume, a shiny kitchen appliance, or even a pair of fashionable shoes.
Think like a brand ambassador for a moment. How would you make these products look irresistible? Experiment with various concepts that show off the product’s best features. Maybe you want to capture the sleek design of your smartphone or the vibrant colors of your favorite snack packaging.
A tethering setup is your best friend here. It allows you to see the photos instantly on a larger screen. This way, you can make real-time adjustments for the perfect shot. Tethering eliminates guesswork and saves you from unpleasant surprises during post-processing.
Quality matters, so make sure the product you’re shooting is clean and in top-notch condition. Post-shoot, don’t hesitate to touch up the images. A little retouching can go a long way in enhancing the visual appeal of your product shots.
Remember, this exercise is not just for fun; it sharpens your commercial photography skills. Brands pay big bucks for this kind of work. So who knows? You might just be building a portfolio that could land you some gigs in the future.
9. Photograph glasses on a white background
Wine glasses look amazing when photographed right. Here’s a quick setup that’ll get you shots like this:
First, grab a few wine glasses, then place them on a reflective surface (plexiglass is best, but you can try a mirror or even a piece of glass).
Fill the glasses with a liquid of your choice. Water plus food coloring works great; alternatively, you can use wine or juice.
Set up your camera in front of the glasses, and place a piece of white paper or a white sheet behind the scene. Point an off-camera flash at the white background, then fire off a shot!
Nailing a perfect exposure may take a bit of trial and error, but if you can blow out the background while keeping the wine glasses well exposed, then the results will look amazing.
10. Try miniature photography
Remember those childhood days when action figures and miniature dolls could keep you entertained for hours? Well, they’re not just for kids. These toys can be the stars of your next photography project. Look around for any small toys or figurines you have. Dinosaurs, superheroes, or even tiny furniture sets can work.
Find a backdrop that complements your subject. It could be a colored sheet, a wooden table, or even a handmade paper landscape. The point is to create a world where these miniature characters can come to life.
A macro lens is your secret weapon here. With it, you can zoom in on intricate details, making the toys appear life-sized in your photos. Focusing closely reveals textures and subtleties that often go unnoticed.
Scale is everything in miniature photography. You can make a toy car look like it’s zooming down a highway or a tiny figurine appear as if it’s scaling a mountain. This genre of photography allows you to distort reality in a fun, quirky way.
Not only is this a creative outlet, but it’s also a playful exercise in storytelling. Your toys can mimic real-life scenarios or even create satirical takes on them. Whether you’re recreating famous movie scenes or making a social statement, the possibilities are endless.
11. Photograph oil and water bubbles
Oil and water, when mixed, creates the most beautiful bubbles:
But how do you capture such a lovely effect? Fortunately, it’s pretty easy, as long as you have a macro lens and a tripod.
Combine oil and water in a clear container (a glass baking tray works well). Elevate the container using cups or blocks of wood. Then position an interesting background beneath the setup, such as colored paper or even a printed photo.
Fix your camera above the mixture, then snap away! To create new bubble formations, stir the mixture with a spoon every so often (and if you’re not using an off-camera flash, you’ll need to wait until the bubbles stop moving for a sharp shot).
12. Capture water droplets on glass
Here’s another fun creative project you can try: shooting water droplets on glass.
Like the oil-water idea discussed above, you’ll need to elevate a glass sheet, then slip an interesting background underneath. To create water droplets, coat the glass with windscreen water repellent, then use a water dropper to create a nice pattern of droplets.
(Alternatively, you can try mixing water and glycerin, then dropping it onto the glass via the dropper.)
Position your camera above the glass, get close, and take plenty of beautiful images! Every so often, switch out the background; that way, you get a variety of stunning shots.
13. Create bokeh shapes
Bokeh refers to the blurry, out-of-focus areas of a photo. But did you know that you can actually change the shape of the background bokeh…
…simply by adding a cutout in front of your lens?
It might sound weird, but it works. We go into greater detail in this article on making custom bokeh shapes, but the basic idea is that you take some black construction paper, cut an interesting shape into the center (like a star or a zigzag), then “mount” it onto the front of your lens.
When you take photos, the background bokeh will mirror the cutout shape, and you’ll end up with a mind-blowing shot!
14. Try freelensing techniques
Ever heard of freelensing? It’s a little on the experimental side but utterly rewarding. Freelensing allows you to unlock a new level of creativity with light leaks and unique blur effects. Essentially, you hold an unmounted lens in front of your camera’s sensor and tilt it slightly. The results are images that defy the usual laws of focus and depth of field.
The technique may sound a little risky, and it kind of is. Safety comes first, so make sure you’re in a controlled environment free from dust or moisture. You don’t want particles entering your camera body. Also, keep a tight grip on that lens. It’s not attached to the camera, so a slip could be costly.
So what can you photograph? The options are as limitless as your imagination. Freelensing breathes new life into everyday objects. A simple coffee mug can become a work of abstract art. A portrait can turn into an emotionally evocative masterpiece.
And freelensing doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. Pair it with other techniques from this article. Imagine the stunning effects you can achieve by combining freelensing with colored reflectors or strategic lighting. The overlapping creative elements can produce an end result that’s as intricate as it is beautiful.
15. Photograph light spirals
Light-spiral photography is unique and fun, plus the effects are amazing:
You’ll need a completely dark room, a tripod (to keep your camera still when shooting), as well as a light source attached to some string. (If you don’t have a tripod, you can always place the camera on the ground, facing upward.)
Then set your shutter speed to 30 seconds or so, start spinning your light source, and take some photos. To see the setup in action, check out this excellent video.
At-home creative photography ideas: final words
Hopefully, you’re now ready to use one (or all!) of these ideas for creative photography.
What’s exciting is that everything you need is within arm’s reach. The beauty of these ideas is their accessibility; you can try them all without ever leaving your home. That’s right; you don’t need an exotic location to capture compelling images. Your living room, kitchen, or even your backyard can serve as the perfect studio.
So, what’s stopping you? Grab that camera and give these techniques a whirl. You’re encouraged to take creative risks and learn from the experience. And remember, photography is an evolving art form, always open to new interpretations and perspectives.
Finally, for the best results, you should experiment constantly. Who knows; maybe you’ll develop a brilliant new technique of your own!
Now over to you:
Which of these creative techniques do you plan to try? Do you have any creative ideas of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below!