By Christina VanGinkel
Place your subject, such as a bouquet of flowers, an infant, a kitten all curled up in a ball, on top of, or directly next too, a smudge free piece of Plexiglas, which has been placed on the floor or other suitable work surface, with a black cloth beneath it. Experimentation with the placement of your subject in regards to the Plexiglas itself will provide you with plenty of different shots to choose. When I first read about this technique, the author suggested that other colors of fabric could be used, but that black would provide the optimum amount of reflection, which is the whole purpose of shooting the subject on the Plexiglas in the first place. When you are ready to take the picture, move around with the camera until you get the shot you want in the viewfinder, keeping in mind that the more above you are from the subject, the more of the reflection you will be able to capture in the lens.
Try out different shutter speeds on an active subject. Reading all the literature in the world will not provide you with as clear an explanation of how the different shutter speeds change the outlook of a subject in motion like some actual shots will. Notice how a fast shutter speed has the capability to seemingly stop the motion in its tracks, while lessening the shutter speed will still capture the subjects, but with a muted blur, sometimes leaving a part of the subject clear, sometimes only catching the blur of color, but no fine details, all dependant on the speed of the shutter itself.
Staging a shot with props, much in the same vein that professionals do, is a good way to take your photography from ho hum to spectacular. When choosing props, consider what mood or attitude you are trying to convey, but keep your options open if you end up with something very different, as that is sometimes the real fun of using props, the unexpected. Try not to choose props that are going to overshadow or take the limelight away of the photographs main subject matter. Do choose props that might end up conveying the unexpected, such as those props you might use with a child or even a pet. One of the grandest photos a friend of mine ended up with was when she placed her daughters Easter bonnet on the family dog. Her dog is a mutt, but resembles a hound with short legs and big floppy ears, and huge eyes. As soon as the hat was placed atop the dogs head, the dog plopped right down and instead of trying to tip the hat off to chew on it, more or less what was expected, the dog sat perfectly still and aimed her oversized eyes straight up as if to ask what in the world was up! The photo has gone on to be one of her family's all time favorite shots of a much beloved pet. Props can be simple items, such as flowers or a favorite toy, or more obscure items, such as cans of paint. My favorite photo of my youngest son uses this exact prop. We had a can of paint that had drips all over the sides, and when it was dry, we had the idea to prop him (he was all of about two months old) next to the can on top of a splattered paint sheet, and we handed him new paint brush. He grasped that brush as if he were a professional painter and he still smiles every time he walks past the portrait, and he is now thirteen years old!
Take snapshots of a subject over a span of time you have pre decided upon. A caterpillar's cocoon could have you taking a picture twice a day for the span of time it takes for it to open and release the butterfly from within. A child, who is going through some significant first, such as their first year of life, or their first year of school, could have you snapping a photo one a week, or once a month, to document the major first of your choice. Change this idea a round a bit, and take a photograph each year of your husband on the first day of football season, or your kids on a specific holiday, but always in the same spot, maybe a tree in your yard. After a few years, it will be fun to assemble shots such as these all into a single scrapbook or layout!