Ordinary to Extraordinary: Photographing Household Objects

by Laura McPherson | July 10, 2013

Ordinary household objects are easy to overlook when you see them every day. Yet these ordinary objects can be photographed to create memorable photos worthy of being printed large and hung on the wall. With a little staging and the right settings on your camera, you can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and create new art for your home.

Picking the Objects to Photograph

There are probably more items in your home that are artistic in their own right than you’ve stopped to think about, but when you consider that you picked each of these objects for their appeal and elegant design, it starts to make sense that you can find a wealth of ordinary items to turn into great photo art. What items might you have in your home that can be photographed to make a personal statement?

  • For the cook: Groupings of wooden spoons, whisks, aprons, chinaware.
  • For the artist: Groupings of paintbrushes, used paint palettes, unfinished canvases.
  • For the gardener: Groupings of trowels, seed packets, empty pots, small garden statues.
  • For the fashionista: Groupings of costume jewelry, shoes, purses, nail polish.
  • For the kids: Close up photos of a favorite toy or game.

photo project, photography project, alligator still life, toy photos

When thinking about objects to photograph, you might also consider taking photographs fitting hobbies that your friends and family enjoy. Personalized photos like these make fantastic gifts for any occasion, or just because!

Staging Your Subject Just Right

One reason ordinary items remain ordinary is lighting. It takes a certain kind of light to make an ordinary object appear special, making it stand out. When you are photographing household objects with the goal of making them stand out, keep these principles in mind.

photo project, photography project, kitchen utensil still life

 

  • Natural light is easy, so plan to take your photographs near a window during the morning when daylight is at its brightest.
  • Use a clean one-color sheet or towel to form an inexpensive backdrop if you want the items to take center stage; otherwise, you can either leave the items where they ordinarily are and use the right aperture to fade the background, or stage a "magazine ready" background of your own.
  • If you can’t get enough light and don’t have reflectors, try hanging white blankets or sheets of paper to reflect more light on your subject.

Using the Optimum Settings for Your Camera and Experiment with Composition

You can take print-worthy still lives of household objects with either a point and shoot or a DSLR. In either case, be familiar with your camera and know the right settings to use. Many professional photographers bracket their photos by taking three photos from each angle, one they think is at the right exposure, one that may be slightly underexposed, and one that may be slightly overexposed, to capture the best light. Whichever type of digital camera you are using, shoot away without fear of wasting film while changing the settings to capture the best shot.

If you are using a DSLR or a point and shoot with advanced capabilities, you may want to consider using the macro mode or a macro lens. By taking up-close photos of the curves, textures, and reflections of household objects, you can render them recognizable and vibrantly unfamiliar at once, which will entrance your viewers. This type of interesting composition can turn any household item into an interesting piece of art. Play with the shapes and groupings and have fun with it.

photo project, photography project, kitchen still life

 

Once you have a fantastic photograph that reminds you ordinary household objects can be extraordinary, it’s time to consider how to share that photo with the world. For photos like this, bigger is typically better; larger print sizes emphasize that these objects are a part of daily life that don’t get the recognition they might deserve. I recommend you talk to the pros over at Canvas Press. You can make custom canvas prints or frame-able photo prints from your new art. Their fine art quality is beautiful and if you have any questions they are more than happy to help you out with your project.

photo project, photography project

 

Photography, fine art printing and decorating news and advice

Tips-n-Tricks #249

A telephoto (zoom) lens will compress your background making it look closer to your subject than it actually is. A wide angle lens will do the exact opposite.


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