Monthly Challenge: Industrial Still Life

Capturing still life is an important skill which the keen amateur Perth photographer needs to master.

The knack of being able to appreciate and photograph industrial still life (in particular) will stand you in good stead when it comes to taking pictures of people and other natural objects.

The advantage of having an object which will not move, cannot complain, nor has an ego to worry about cannot be over-emphasised. Learn to truly see an object; its flaws, its texture, its shape, its form, its shadows and its interaction with its environment. Perhaps it’s covered in rust or stained in oil. Perhaps its paint is peeling off or maybe it’s new from the factory?

Personally, I think that the oldest objects are the most interesting. Remember, this is a study and not simply a record. You are seeing something with fresh eyes and interpreting what you see – this is not a photograph for insurance purposes.

When you take your photos, do so with just a standard lens – no zoom, no flash, no gimmicks. The reason for this is that you will need to get up close, around the minimum focal length of your 50mm lens which is typically between one and two metres. In doing so, you will automatically concentrate on those little details which speak most about the object.

We’ve discussed the still lifes paintwork but look also at the mechanism such as cogs, chains, pulleys, levers etc which will tell the viewer about the way in which your chosen object works.

Let me give two practical illustrations. Firstly, suppose that you are looking at an escalator in a shopping mall. Don’t just photograph it from a distance that’s the view everyone who intends to go up or down it will see. What would this add? Nothing. Instead, look at the scratches on the rubber, any rubbish trapped in the grids, feet standing on the treads and so on.

My second example is a car in a junkyard. Don’t take a photo of the whole car; look at the damage it has sustained, where pieces have been stripped from it, the staining of rust on its bodywork, grass growing through its wheels and so on. Tell its story.

Abandon all thoughts of charm, symmetry, order and beauty and concentrate on character, shape, texture and form. In doing so, the expertise which you will acquire will dramatically improve the photos you take of people, landscapes and the natural world.

Perth has a lot of great photography locations. Call us if you are interested in attending one of our courses at different locations around Perth.

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