Regardless of what genre you shoot, you should always look at choosing a subject that ‘speaks’ to you. That way you are more likely to study it and unlock its secrets.
If it is a location you enjoy visiting often, you are only too happy to explore and find great ways to capture the essence of the area. Whether it is the beach, a mountain or city streets. Even with portraits, I believe that finding out a little about that person often makes for a better portrait, capturing their real persona and identity, whether you have known them for five minutes or a lifetime.
It is the same with still life photography — actually, I believe it is even more important in some ways. Each piece that I shoot has special meaning, each item lovingly curated. As I frequently photograph vintage or old country charm scenes, it is often a memory that is conjured from my past, even places I have visited. Old family photos, trinkets … I even have china and silverware passed down from grandparents. Sometimes it is just an object that speaks to me when I pick it up, there is a texture, a tangible presence to the item. I can see in my mind’s eye how it will work with other pieces in my collection.
So when looking to curate pieces for your still life collection, if you are unsure, perhaps put it down. If it makes you smile and makes you want to pick it up, it’s possibly the right piece. I often wander through antique and thrift stores, reminiscing about memories conjured from items spied on shelves and in cupboards. There is something unique and special about finding treasures in someone else’s junk.
Just remember, if something does catch your eye, do you really want it? Does it really fit your style? Where will you store it? I have bought items on a whim, which turned out to be poor choices. I now think about these questions. As much as I would love some big statement pieces, I have nowhere to store them.
Read more about great pieces for still life photography — My 10 favorite vintage pieces.