Tips on photographing household objects

Tips on photographing household objects
So Christmas is over, decorations away, you want to do some photography and the weather's awful. No problem, there are pictures and things to photograph everywhere – even in your own house, and in addition to ordinary “still life” type subjects, creative abstracts can be made without massive effort!



  • DSLR
  • Macro lens
  • Tripod - Take a look at Vanguard's award-winning Alta Pro 263AT
  • Flash – even your pop-up flash will work!
  • Polarising filter
  • Sheet of polarising gel (Lee filters)
  • Light box

Looking round the average house, we all gather a lot of stuff. Yet we don't consider much a photographic subject. So I took a look round my house and picked out a few odds and ends to photograph, I specifically wasn't looking for traditional still life shots, but things that were a nit different.

I first raided our picnic basket and took out a few clear plastic bits of cutlery. I first placed a sheet of polarising gel on an old light box (the same effect can be achieved by using a glass table with a light underneath), and fitted a polariser to my 105mm macro lens. By turning the polariser I could turn the polarising sheet totally black. Arranging the plastic cutlery on the sheet of gel allows cross-polarisation and turns the cutlery into an array of technicolour swirls. A few different arrangements of knives, forks and spoons soon achieves a good selection of pictures. A short search in the kitchen and office yielded other plastic subjects, including plastic ruler, sellotape dispensers, sunglasses, measuring jugs, and even salt grinders; which duly took their place on the polarising gel. The cross-polarising technique picks out the stresses in the plastic. It doesn't work on all subjects, I hopefully tried with some bubble-wrap, but to no avail. It works better on rigid plastics.

Looking on the sideboard in the lounge, my attention went to a couple of paperweights, which using a macro lens (and I even added extension tubes to bring the closest focus still nearer) I could concentrate on the abstract bubbles and patterns within them. No special lighting was needed for these, simply daylight coming in the lounge window. I did find that it was easier to set up the camera on the tripod and move the paperweight round to find the best bits, rather than moving the camera around the paperweight.

Toys and Games
Next, I raided my sons toy box, and borrowed a plastic slinky spring – the sort that "walks" down stairs. These used to come in grey metal and were less colourful, the new, plastic multi-coloured types look great. I opened it into an arc and tried different types of lighting on it – from underneath with a light box, to angled using a studio flash with a snoot – the lighting options are limitless.

Oil and water
Finally, I took a Pyrex dish – full of water, placed on a glass table, placed coloured paper below, I lit the paper with a flash from the side. Dripping olive oil into the dish created spheres of oil within the water, which with a little creative work in Photoshop gave a result that could have been taken in space!

So don't look around your house thinking it would be good to get out and take creative photographs, stay in and take creative photographs instead!

Words and images by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.

Help us share with other