Last year I took a blogger’s photography course with Emily Quinton (you can read more about it here: Make light photography workshop).
Last month, Emily set all her past students a challenge to take an object and style it three ways.
It was a challenge I really wanted to take part in: styling is the thing I find absolutely the most utterly difficult in photography (especially photography for my blog) and the area in which I really want to improve.
I mulled it over for a few weeks, thinking of various different things I could style and then dismissing them again as I imagined the disappointing photographs I would take.
Then I saw A Quiet Style’s amazing photos for the same challenge and I almost threw in the towel then and there, so beautiful were her shots.
But not wanting to fall before I’d even reached the first hurdle, I looked myself in the mirror and had a stern word.
“Come on, Sabrina”, I said, jumping up and down and making little motivational jab shots towards my own reflection, “you might as well at least try. Practice makes perfect and so on. Why don’t you take a few photos and if they’re heinously awful then you don’t have to put them on the blog or even admit to anyone else that it ever happened…”
So, safe in the knowledge my reputation would remain unbesmirched whatever the results, I settled on photographing a humble Ikea jug in three different ways. These are the results.
Firstly: the lazy option
I was photographing my July garden moodboard, when I saw the jug and decided to just stick it onto the backdrop and take a photo.
One of the very few things I know about styling is that you’re meant to tell a story with your vignette or wotnot. What on earth this story would be, I just don’t know. Milkmaid is on her way to milk cow, but stops to pick some herbs and accidentally leaves her jug behind with the discarded herbs on a pristine piece of paper?
Verdict: okay, definitely failing in the whole story telling stakes, but I quite like the simplicity of the white background with the white jug and the reflections of the green foliage on the jug’s sides.
Secondly, the ‘is it actually there?’ photo
I picked some of my delicious-smelling sweet peas and put them into the jug. (Y’know, in my real life, rather than my pretend styled life.)
And I think it was about two days before it actually occurred to me to take a photo of them. Ha.
When I did, I got a bit carried away with the delicate sweet pea veins, which you can’t really make out unless you have quite a close up shot. So the jug becomes nothing more than a tiny background accent.
Verdict: nice sweet peas. Irrelevant jug.
Finally, number three, some actual styling
Okay, please don’t laugh that I call this styling because what is in this photo? A jug. Sitting on a tea towel.
But, I have to confess that this took me almost 30 photos to get something I was even a little bit happy with.
I took my jug upstairs to the wooden floorboards (something Emily taught me in the last class, this one: wooden floorboards look nice in photos!) Then I took a nice (unused and still actually clean) tea towel and spent the best part of 15 minutes farting around trying to get a nice fold on it and wondering whether or not the jug should sit on the tea towel or next to the tea towel…
But, finally, I was actually pleased (or, at least, not displeased) with this shot.
Verdict: even things that apparently look really simple can take a bit of time to get right!
So, what do you reckon? I don’t think my phone is going to ring off the hook anytime soon with people begging me to style things for them, but a definite improvement along the way there…
I already have plans to try and style some other things in three ways. Watch this space for more agonising!
NB Can I just let you know how hard it was to resist calling this post, “Jugs.” But resist I did. Some acknowledgement due, surely?
- I had another mini fight with my lack of styling instincts when I was doing a Blogging your way course last year. That time, the subject was some carrot jam…