While you may feel like you are stuck at home due to shelter-in-place orders, you can actually use this time to think outside of the photographic box while staying inside your inhabited box. Check out some ideas below for photo projects you can do at home!
We all take selfies, but there’s something to be said for the old-fashioned self portrait. Taking photos of ourselves can inspire introspection and deepen our understanding of our goals, worries and desires. There are no rules here; you can take a documentary approach and chronicle your daily routine at home, or you can shoot cinematically using colored gels. Try adding depth and dimension by bringing in mirrors and playing with your reflection, or use water and glasses for cool refraction effects. You can also bring in a prism to experiment with bending light.
Study the light around your home and aim to shoot still lifes (like groceries & household items) at golden hour using natural window light. If the light’s too harsh, you can use plain, sheer curtains as a diffuser. Again, remember to have fun and experiment with different styles. Try photographing things that are meaningful and precious, or challenge yourself by making ordinary household objects look beautiful. Try out different angles & perspectives and use a reflector to bounce light back onto your subject when needed.
Cooking is a well-known stress reliever, and the current pandemic is encouraging more of us to make do with what we have in our pantries. If you’re experimenting with new recipes, use it as an incentive to bring out that camera. You don’t have to be a great chef; even simple staple ingredients will work. You can also use olive oil and a brush to make the food shine.
For this project, use fabric or construction paper you have lying around the house. You can go with a simple white background to practice commercial product photos, or you can play with color theory and complementary pairs to catch the eye. Go minimal with just a few objects in front of your seamless, or go all-out with complex compositions.
You don’t need to live in a luxury villa to capture great interiors. All you need is a room with nice window light and curtains you can use as needed for diffusion. Track the sun’s movements throughout the day to determine what times work best for interior photo sessions, and scout all your rooms to find the one with the prettiest light. From there, simply tidy up your space, add some unique touches, and compose your shot for clean, straight lines and compelling shadows.
Dreamy bokeh can add a new layer of meaning to any still life or portrait photo, or it can serve as the foundation for abstract images. All you need for a simple bokeh background is some aluminum foil, a camera and a fast lens (wide-open aperture). If you have a speedlight or colored gels, bring them out too, as they’ll give you more freedom to experiment. Crinkle the foil, set it behind your subject and shoot with a shallow depth of field (only your subject should be in focus).
Since it’s spring, flowers are abundant in most yards. Flowers are versatile subjects, so you can introduce them to your still lifes, portraits or macro photos. If you want to keep them fresh, you can always pop them in the refrigerator to slow the wilting process. Another popular technique is freezing your flowers in ice and taking photos of the delicate shapes they form.
Like humans, animals can become stressed or depressed when stuck indoors, so try planning a photo session both you and your pet will enjoy. The key is to make it fun and pleasant for the animal, so bring out some toys and treats and use it as a bonding experience. You can roll out that seamless background for more formal portraits or document them as they go about their daily routines.
View From Home
Being stuck inside doesn’t mean you can’t take photos of the outside world; just think of all the romantic, rainy window photos we see these days. You can do some creative and striking projects using the view from home, no matter where you live. Watch for changes in weather and in the quality of light; you can get some beautiful variety by shooting at different hours of the day, moving from warm light into cool.
Now is a good time to set aside being a perfectionist and focus on personal projects that bring you joy. If you share them anonymously, you give yourself the freedom to try new things, whether it’s a different lens, a filter you’ve never used, or a post-processing technique you’ve been wanting to try. Chances are, the work you create and share under a pseudonym will eventually influence your day-to-day workflow and encourage you to take a few creative risks.
Sometimes, limits can turn into opportunities. At home, you have a finite number of materials and subjects, so take it as a chance to get back to the basics. With a “30-day challenge” photo project, try photographing an ordinary object a different way every day. Just choose an item in your home (it can be as boring or basic as you want) and photograph it every day for 30 days. No two photos can be the same, so try repositioning the object, switching lenses, or photographing it at different times of day under natural and artificial light. As the days go on, you’ll be forced to think outside the box and try new things.
There are a few different ways to do an A-Z photo project, but perhaps the simplest is to look around the house and photograph one item that begins with every letter of the alphabet. This exercise will get you thinking about photography 24/7, even if you’re just going into the kitchen to grab a snack. It will also push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to photograph subjects you might otherwise overlook.
Dream Photo List
Photo bucket lists have been around for a while, but now is a great time to slow down, sit back and reflect on your personal photography practice. Make a list of everything you hope to photograph someday; it can be a far-flung destination, a wild animal in its natural habitat, a human emotion, or a portrait of a person you love but have never photographed. It’s hard to say when the coronavirus pandemic will end or what our “new normal” will look like once it’s over, but we can use this time to set goals for the future.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the photography community come together in inspiring and unexpected ways. Use this time to get creative and find ways to connect with the larger community. With a little ingenuity, sheltering-in-place doesn’t have to be something we do alone.