No one foresaw becoming a shutterbug stuck at home. As we bide our time through a strange, new “normal,” we must make the most of what we’ve got—in the comfort of our home and on our doorstep. In such unprecedented times, more than ever, we need a creative outlet for ourselves. In the UK, while Boris curbs our boundaries and the winter curtails our daylight, taking images gives rise to a sense of meditative calm away from background stress and virtual noise. It’s not about technical accomplishment; it’s about taking moments for yourself through an emotionally responsive medium in which you can share your successes. As well as employing a meaningful way to communicate the daily challenges we face, however those manifest. Here are some weird and wonderful projects to stay connected to something you love in the hopes of keeping you stimulated and inspired.
Keep it Simple
Grab your tripod, camera, and a light (e.g., pocket flashlight), or a smartphone and attach a lens if you have one. Our homes are full of exciting colours, textures, and shapes: stairways, intriguing windowsills, unusual facets on furniture, and intriguing little ornaments in forgotten corners. All of which are hiding an endless number of thought-provoking, compelling, and fascinating pictures just waiting to be taken. Go find them. Clear your mind from clutter; breathe deeply as you observe closely, vigilantly. Do the same outside and be consciously aware as you look.
Set up the lens at eye-level or lower. For optimum results, find a place near a window to achieve soft, even light. Or, pop the flash on and play around with bouncing light off a nearby ceiling or wall for that gentle light. You could make the window your frame. Alternatively, capture whoever piques your interest outside (consent permitting). Situational portraits are simple but effective ways to seize our surroundings as they take on diversifying uses and deeper meaning. Whether using yourself as the subject or enlisting a household member, document your kitchen table if it’s now the hub of your child’s classroom or your armchair and coffee table if that’s your makeshift office. Whatever applies to you. Record a little piece of history on how you lived during a time the bin went out more than you did.
The Flat Lay
Social media boasts a plethora of stylistically arranged “flat lays,” which are simply objects organized on a flat surface, shot directly from above. Have a go at artfully creating your own. Choose a theme; add interest and depth by layering the items in the frame and introduce colour. Avoid casting shadows of yourself in shots by standing away from the primary source of light. It’s fun deciding how to exhibit your aesthetically pleasing work.
Model Figure Adventures: Country and Urban
A model figure will do nicely for this project (eBay’s got abundant offerings). It’s vital to orchestrate a sense of narrative between the characters. Position them anywhere in the house, garden, on a heap of mash—the sky’s the limit on this one and probably the most fun, to boot!
Arrange some fairy lights on someone or something and get creative on the wider aperture settings; the wider the aperture, the more extreme the ‘bokeh’ effect. Alternatively, using the same settings, position an item (e.g., plastic toy, pretty figurine, unusual ornament, etc.) on a sheet of glass with some dark material underneath. Crumple a piece of foil, smooth it out, and arrange it in the background. Shine a light on the foil and another on the subject and, with a tripod-mounted camera, shoot away to create some stunning bokeh.
Refraction is when light bends as it passes through water, causing an object behind to change its appearance. Take a monochromatic or contrasting patterned print in the background, with a series of cocktail glasses, for example, in front. Pour varying levels of water in them and slide the pattern back and forth to get the desired effect.
Daredevil Camera Tossing
Providing you don’t suffer from dyspraxia, launching your camera in the air can deliver some awe-inspiring results. In a darkened room with a single light source, set the shutter speed to a second, and toss it upwards. Once you’re comfortable catching it e-a-c-h time, play with multiple light sources, spinning the camera as you release it.
Make Your Own Filters
Various household items can double up as colour filters to bring new hues to your photography; transform and savour everyday moments into something fresh with a hint of distortion. Just cover your lens with tissue paper with an elastic band or thin fabric with a light source from behind. Shoot through a laundry pod for a liquid tone adjustment or a whisky bottle for rich ambers. Translucent sweetie wrappers and petals work a charm, too.
More for the Melting Pot
The above may give you somewhere to start building up a body of work. Other concepts with artistic value include macro photography using backlit subjects (dried pasta shells work well) against dark backgrounds. Consider creating a series with snow (if in attendance), smoke, water-drops, or splashes. Encapsulate flowers or someone behind a lump of ice, in kitchen close-ups, or with some fine-art food. Try inverting indoor and outdoor scenes through a handheld crystal ball or making still-life light trails and light spirals. Alter your viewpoint: shoot high from a low point or crouch down on the ground. Practically everything is photographically credible.
Why not share your results with others on a group chat? Encourage them to join in and cast your votes. You could even collate a photo diary to embody your vision—if you do, incorporating a running narrative will add cohesion. Whatever photographic aspirations you have, avoid comparing your photos to those of others online; appreciate your artwork. Above all else, focus on keeping the camera close, staying imaginative in the now, and being well.