We’re all going to be affected by the Novel Corona virus, regardless of how we feel about it. The most obvious and common effect is isolation. From self-quarantine to mandatory shelter in place orders, many of us are going to be sitting at home twiddling our thumbs while we dream up something new to do with our photo gear.
With that in mind, we’re offering the following stay-at-home photo project ideas for you. Not only can these help combat the boredom, they’ll provide a creative outlet, some fun, and the chance to practice lighting techniques and other aspects of photography. You may also surprise yourself with some unusual and exciting images for your portfolio and for sale.
Check out these simple ideas and enjoy!
Our Unapologetic Plug
We’re going to take one minute of your time to say that the #Irix 150mm Macro Dragonfly may be the perfect lens for these “shut-in” times. It’s perfectly suited to each of the projects herein, from macro to portraiture and it won’t break the bank! We designed it that way and we’re proud to say it’s been proven successful on every front. Click here to see for yourself!
1. Oil and Water
This one is a classic that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. It’s simple to set up, doesn’t require any expensive gear or props and the results can be surprising.
Fill a glass container (a baking dish works well) with water and a drop of dish soap or other liquid soap. Stir gently to avoid suds and leave it to settle for 5-10 minutes. Add a few drops of cooking oil, which will float to the surface and can be gently manipulated.
Elevate the dish and place a colorful background (tablecloth, wrapping paper, etc.) below it. Varying the background and the distance to the background will help you achieve various interesting effects. A lens with a little extra focal length will help you stay upright and also help with shallow depth of field.
Set up your camera above the dish and shoot down toward the surface of the water. Light the background and try to avoid any glare from strong light sources above the setup. Focus on the surface of the water and try different aperture settings to see which depth of field works best for a given combination.
2. Water Balloon Bursts
The bathtub is a good place to practice this one and it might keep you out of hot water with the others in your household.
Hang a backdrop on the back wall of the tub enclosure. A non-reflective one is best. Fill several water balloons and set your shutter to burst (continuous). Have an assistant hold the balloon and pre-focus on it. Set your camera to a shutter speed of 1/250s or higher and your aperture for medium depth of field. Take a few test exposures with the balloon to adjust the ISO and lighting.
Have your assistant pop the balloon with a needle just after you start the shutter. Let it cycle through a few exposures while the water “orb” collapses. Check your results and adjust your settings as desired.
3. Splash Photography
Here’s one you’ve no doubt seen and heard about, but thought it might be too difficult or expensive to set up. Like the balloon bursts above, you don’t need a lot of fancy gear like motion triggers. All you need is some simple objects, some liquid – and a place that’s easy to clean up. (This one can get messy!)
The setup and procedure is similar to the balloon bursts, too. Trial and error will get you dialed in pretty quickly. Since you probably only need one hand to drop the object (unless you’re using a bowling ball, which we don’t recommend), you can probably do this one with a remote release in place of an assistant.
4. Paint with Light
While some might consider light painting an outdoor activity, there are many fun ways to do it inside, too. You don’t need to invest in high-tech LED “light wands”or other gear, although they can be fun. Any light source will do. Children’s toys, flashlights and laser pointers are just a few examples of items you probably have laying around the house.
There really are no rules when it comes to this kind of project, except that you’ll get better results in a very dark area and you’ll want to keep the shutter open long enough to capture the right amount of movement. When you’re shooting indoors, keep in mind that your light sources will also cast light on surrounding walls and objects in the room. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s something to consider.
You can really unleash your creativity with this project! Try tracing the contours of people or objects. Suspend light sources and shoot them from below while they spin or swing. Try your hand at writing in the air.
If you’re not actually shut in, venture out into the back yard for shots like the one above. Have some fun making the neighbors wonder what you’re up to!
5. Water Drop Photography
Here’s another fun one with water and you can try it with several variations for interesting effects.
The simplest drip setup is a large plastic bag filled with liquid and suspended over a container with liquid in it. Poke a hole in the bottom of the bag so that the liquid drips in to the “catch basin”. Using a continuous, fast shutter speed or flash, practice capturing the drops as they contact the surface of the liquid below.
One of the great things about this project is the countless ways you can change the setup to achieve different results. You can use a transparent container with a colorful background, as above to create interesting patterns with the ripples. Liquids of varied color and viscosity can provide a wide variety of results. Changing the camera angle can help model the drops into surreal sculptures.
With a bit of imagination, this one can keep you occupied for days!
6. Playing with Fire
DISCLAIMER: The title of this project is a figure of speech. Fire burns. Fire is dangerous. Treat it with respect and keep extinguishing equipment on hand.
Now that we got that out of the way, fast shutter speeds combined with the appropriate aperture and ISO can reveal marvelous beauty in something as simple as the striking of a match.
On the other end of the scale, slowing down the shutter for long exposures of a few logs burning in the fireplace can produce images that range from romantic to eerie and mysterious.
Even birthday candles can produce some striking results with a little bit of imagination.
7. Photographing Frozen Plants
Here’s a great way to practice lighting techniques for transparent or translucent objects and create some beautiful images in the process.
Find a shallow dish or tray that’s safe for the freezer. Freeze a very shallow layer of water in it and arrange fresh or artificial flowers or other plants on top. Add just enough water to cover the plants and freeze again.
When the block is frozen solid, remove it from the dish and experiment with various camera angles as well as different light sources. The results will be worth the effort!
8. Ink Drops in Water
Fill a transparent container such as a glass, bowl or aquarium with water. Drop or “float” ink on the surface. Light the background to illuminate the intricate swirls and patterns as the ink gradually settles toward the bottom.
Changing ink colors, background colors ad lighting will give you an endless number of variations. Move in close with a macro lens to create amazing abstract photos.
9. Soap Bubble Photography
There’s magic on the surface of a soap bubble, but you’ve got to get close to see it. Here’s a wonderful project for your macro lens. You’ll need a few other things as well: a large, diffuse light source, a flat black background and some soap bubble solution. You’ll also want a tripod.
If you can’t find the soap bubble solution, you can make your own with 2 tablespoons of liquid soap and one tablespoon of glycerin (available at your local pharmacy) to 1/2 cup of water. Stir gently until dissolved, then let the mixture stand overnight.
Get your setup ready. Your light source should be directly over the bubbles and your backdrop behind it. Leave yourself some room to adjust things as necessary. Mount your camera on the tripod and get your framing right.
There are several ways to create the bubbles, but one of the easiest is to pour some of the solution into a bowl and use a straw to gently blow a large bubble. You can also use a wire loop as a “wand”. Just make sure you have a way to stabilize the bubbles while you shoot.
When you’re ready, blow a bubble and get behind the camera. You’ll have several seconds before the swirls of color start to appear. Obviously, if you’re not seeing the colors, you’ll need to adjust your light source and/or camera angle. Try adjusting the light somewhere between straight down and at a 45 degree angle.
You should have time to get several shots for each bubble you blow. When you start to see large, transparent gaps in the patterns, your bubble is about to burst.
Play with your camera angle and lighting to “change things up” Move in and out with the camera to go from a planet-like image to a colorful abstract at macro range. The possibilities are endless.
10. Refraction Photos
Any serious photographer knows that refraction refers to the way light bends as it passes through a transparent or translucent object such as a lens or water. You can take advantage of this to distort the view of everyday objects with fun and interesting results.
Water drop refraction is one of the most popular ways to create these images. You can use water drops on a piece of glass suspended above almost any kind of background, along with a wide aperture to create patterns in the drops. (A few drops of glycerin in the water will help the drops hold their shape.)
You can also use something as simple as a water-filled glass or other clear container with an object behind it to distort the view. Textured glassware and crystal can really create some surprising images. Get creative!
11. Food Photography
If you or someone else is going to have to cook, why not try some new recipes and practice your “foodie” shots on those masterpieces?
While we’d never encourage playing with your food, creative plating and rearranging (of YOUR plate) is perfectly acceptable in the studio. At the dining table with the family, not so much!
There are hundreds of ways to get creative with food and your camera. Many of them are a great way to practice lighting techniques, so get out your flash and some other light sources and see what you can do.
It’s also a good opportunity to hone your post processing skills. Build a food collage to practice working with layers. Create some new fruits or vegetables or combinations of animal and vegetable.
Set up a food “landscape” and photograph it in front of a green screen or other simple background that can easily be selected for replacement. Use some action figures as below, or better yet, find some of those vacation pictures of you and your family and create a fantasy action scene in your favorite photo editor.
12. Flat Lay
This one couldn’t be simpler , but it’s a great way to work on composition and lighting. It also doesn’t require a lot of gear.
Flat lay photos are created simply by arranging objects on a flat surface and photographing them from directly above. That may sound boring, but with a little bit of creative thought and careful planning, you’ll find it’s a unique challenge.
This is also a good way to build a portfolio for stock image sites. You never know what someone might be searching for to illustrate an article, book or magazine cover, or incorporate into a composite. Let your imagination run wild with this one.
Now is the perfect time to grab some portraits or candid shots of your dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds or – you get the picture (pun intended). Photographing your feathered, scaled or furry friends can be both challenging and rewarding.
Obviously, you might find that you have a talent for pet photography that you can offer as a service. You might be interested in knowing that there’s also a good market for stock photos of domestic animals in various candid photos, particularly humorous ones. You’d be surprised how many you can come up with if you just start shooting.
Obviously, you don’t want to make your little friends uncomfortable or put them in danger. Be generous with rewards for their cooperation and you may find a great new activity for you and your pet(s) as well as another prospective income stream.
14. Macrophotography at Home
While a macro lens is easily associated with outdoor nature photography, there are plenty of opportunities to use it while you’re in your home, too. Check your refrigerator or pantry for likely subjects.
Borrow your child’s toys to create dioramas that you can transform into miniature action or drama scenes. For a real challenge, try your hand at some stop-motion macro animation!
Musical instruments contain incredible “landscapes” at macro magnification. Experiment with piano keys. See what you can create with closeups of stringed instruments.
There are very few objects around the house that won’t take on new life when you get “up close and personal” with them. Look around and notice the textures, colors and potential for artistic compositions.
Remember, the purpose of macro photography is to show your viewers the world from a new perspective. Even the most mundane subjects can hold pleasant surprises with the right framing and lighting. For some helpful hints, check our 8 Tips for Improving Your Macro Photography.
15. Portraits and self-portraits
Last, but not least, if you and/or the family are stuck at home, why not work on some portrait photography? It’s the perfect time to work with natural and artificial lighting, posing, and composition.
As a precautionary note, it’s probably not the best time to test your family’s patience, so try to keep things fun and don’t expect too much. Remember, people skills are extremely important for a portrait photographer.
Just Keep Shooting!
Any “down time” from your regular routine is a great reason to grab the camera. We hope that these ideas help spark your imagination and help you hone your skills during this crisis and anytime you have to practice “social distancing” for any reason.
Show us What You’ve Got!
As always, we’d love to see what you’re creating with our lenses! Post your images to Facebook and mention @Irix USA. On Instagram, tag @irixusa. Help share some positivity to help us all get through this together!