Shooting Challenge #7 - Still Life

By Martin Snelling on at

In art, genres, movements and styles go in and out of fashion quicker than you can say antidisestablishmentarianism, and photography is no exception to that. Current ‘flavour of the month’ seems to be Street Photography and this is something I’ll cover in future shooting challenges. However, this week’s Shooting Challenge is about a genre of photography that has faded in popularity these past few years.


The Brief (and Prize!)

This week’s challenge is very straightforward and given the shitty weather, is something that you can do without leaving the comfort of your house. It’s about creating something interesting from the everyday objects around you.

Using a single or multiple light sources, along with some (or one) objects around your house, create an atmospheric still life. What items you chose and how you chose to shoot them is entirely up to you.

The challenge is not limited to those of you with a digital camera; you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with a mobile phone and a bit of creative lighting.

As with previous challenges, you can submit more than one image; however, please limit your submission to five images.

We’re not looking for a ‘story’ with your images; not every photograph needs to tell a story but we would like to know what you wanted to achieve and how you did it.

And, if that wasn't enough to get the creative juices flowing, there's a rather tasty prize on offer too. To commemorate iRobot's 10th birthday, we've got an iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner worth £750 to give away -- snap us an amazing photo and never have to do the cleaning again, well, the vacuuming anyway; you've already got a dishwasher for the washing up, right?


The Technique

This challenge is all about experimentation; everything from the type of lighting, placement, direction and your choice of background.

Planning is essential so think about what it is you’re trying to achieve before you try to achieve it. Make sure you have everything you need before you start working on your image. I couldn’t find any matches at home, so spent 10 minutes looking for a lighter.

Play around with different lighting and positions; you’ll be amazed at how different the resulting images will look.

Use a tripod for sharper images; especially if you’re working in low light.

Play with your aperture settings to increase or decrease the depth of field (sharp or blurry background).


The Example

For the example image I wanted to create a ‘noir’ style image that was dark and moody. So what better subject than Batman?

My ‘ingredients’ were: a Batman figurine, a piece of black leather for the background, a tea light (and lighter) and a dark room. I used an Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm lens, aperture f/10 and 8.0s shutter speed.

I wanted to light the figure from one side and cast a shadow of the bat ears against the background. It took a few attempts to get the shadow sharp enough while not lighting too much of the figure. Once happy with my image, I imported it into Aperture, corrected the white balance and applied a slight vignette.

Job done.


The Rules

- Submissions MUST be your own work.
- Submit up to five images
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Minimal image post-processing is allowed (global changes to levels, brightness, contrast and cropping are permitted)
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and more importantly for this challenge, where the image was taken. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameStillLife.jpg
- Don’t forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, 8th October at 6pm UK time with “Still Life” in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The most important rule — HAVE FUN