I'm kicking off a new series this week to take you behind the scenes while I created my entry for the weekly Creatively Squared challenge. I'll be discussing finding inspiration, sourcing props, backdrops and equipment and the editing process.
I'm hoping that documenting this process might help those who don't know where to get started with their own entries and inspire them to get involved. This challenge is for people of all different skill levels and the foundations of this community were built on being inclusive. It was important to me to make each weekly theme accessible to all and invite creative people from all walks of life to challenge themselves to think outside the box and try new things.
Our challenge themes are always designed so that participants are able to work with whatever items one might have on hand or find within their home. I believe that being creative shouldn't cost anything and that you don't need more than the smartphone in your pocket to join in the fun.
Our community does welcome a variety of people from talented amateurs to professionals from all over the world. Regardless of your background, your experience and equipment does not determine your ability to participate or the outcome of the challenge. Winners are not chosen on their flawless finish, it is all about how your share your creative ideas and ultimately more about concept than execution.
Everyone has different creative methods and tips to share and I would like to invite everyone to contribute to this series and show us how you made your creative challenge entries. If you would be willing to share your behind the scenes stories then please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting creative: from idea to execution
This is the first time I have documented my creative process and shown a shoot from start to finish. I am definitely not a professional photographer so probably shouldn't be giving any advice on such things so I will just be discussing my thought process and all the steps along the way. If you are a skim-reader and don't want to know all the details I have kindly summarised it at all the end so scroll on down (but don't forget to pause at the before and after shots on your way past!)
The challenge theme I was attempting this week was 'Hearts' and I had admired lots of entries coming in for the few days prior to attempting my own. It's always great to be inspired by other members of the community and quite often seeing something that has already been created will ignite a series of my own ideas that I can explore during the week.
The ideas (or lack of!)
Coming up with your initial idea is always the hard part, but once you get started it's even harder to single out just one idea to take through to your final concept. I usually try and think of a few different ideas during the week and will workshop ideas in my mind for a couple days before creating something.
I often do a lot of my best thinking at times when I shouldn't be, like during meditative moments at yoga. On this particular morning I was in my yoga class and we began our session with the courageous heart mudra (symbolic hand gesture) which of course set me off thinking about hearts for the entire session.
I decided that when I got home I was going to try and make a heart shape out of my trailing pot plants and pad it out with some green produce from the fridge. I also wanted to try and find a way to add a human element to my shot with the mudra - although I hadn't really established how I was going to combine the two!
I realised after about 30 seconds that creating a heart shape with wayward plant tendrils was not going to work. I'm not into forcing an idea and I would rather fail fast and move onto the next one so I quickly fashioned it into a circle and dumped some random veg in to fill it out.
Nope, I decided that it was not looking so good either, I added some hands, double nope. Ok time to move on.
I figured the pot plant tendrils just weren't making a solid enough base so I pushed them to the side and started assembling the heart out of just vegetables.
By now I had probably wasted about 25 minutes setting up and stuffing around, I hadn't had breakfast yet and I really wanted to get the shot so I could eat that avo!
Luckily my third and final concept was a bit smoother to execute.
I created the basic heart outline using some seriously sad looking mini cucumbers that had been in the fridge for about 3 weeks and then filled it out by adding other pieces of produce on top and around the edges. I added the (also sad and wilted) celery leaves last to fill the gaps and add some texture.
The pineapple and plant that I had pushed to the side happened to frame the shot quite nicely so I left them there and scattered a few of the extra pieces of produce around as well.
This only took about 15 minutes to perfect and I finally got the shot - and the chance to eat my props afterwards!
Props and Backdrops
This was all the props I used in my shot, everything was sourced from inside my home as I tried to make the most of what I already had on hand. I find that gathering items of a similar colour is always an easy way to kickstart your creative mojo.
Because I was working with produce, I needed to use a background that I could wipe down easily so I chose my VJ panel board that I bought at Bunnings for around $20. I like that the panel grooves give the backdrop a bit of a subtle texture although getting them all straight does make the edit a bit trickier at the end!
My setup and equipment
I like to keep my photo taking as simple as possible, it's just a photo for Instagram so I don't need to go crazy with the perfect lighting setup or expensive gear. As you can see in the shot above I just plonk everything down near a big window and use the natural light I have available
My tripod has an extendable arm which is perfect for taking flatlays and you can buy smartphone attachments for them for those times that you don't want to get out your camera.
I like to use my tripod for shots like this so I can use a wider aperture to keep all the details of my flatlay in focus, but generally I still take plenty of shots free hand on the auto setting. My husbands iPhone (which is a newer model than mind) can take great photos and I'll often borrow his phone to capture shots as well.
I do love playing around in Photoshop and Lightroom on my desktop but I also have barely any time so try and keep my edits as simple as I can - often I can get just as good results on the Snapseed or Lightroom apps on my phone!
For this edit, the first thing I did was adjust the angles and perspectives to straighten out the lines of my backdrop - although I probably could have saved myself the time by straightening up my tripod arm better to begin with!
To reduce the shadows I brightened up my white tones and lifted some of the shadows and mid tones to bring out the details. My backdrop isn't actually white so I did a manual white balance adjustment to make it look white. Some of the fruit was a little more more yellow then green so I adjusted the yellows to blend in a bit better.
I probably could have tweaked it all day but, as I mentioned earlier, it's just a fun shot for Instagram and you don't need to take it too seriously. It's better just to go through the experience of creating something and do the best you can in the time you have available than to not try at all!
The short version
Total number of concepts attempted: 3
Props: Pot plants and produce from the fridge
Backdrop: Wood panel from hardware store
Lighting: Natural window light
Camera and Lens: Panasonic Lumix GX7 with fixed 20mm lens
Other equipment used: Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod and edited in Adobe Lightroom CC
Time spent editing: 20 minutes
Total time spent including setup, edit and pack-up: 75 minutes
There you have it! The making of a flatlay from start to finish. Are you willing to share your creative process with the rest of the Creatively Squared community? Please get in touch as I would love to feature you in a blog just like this.