When you’re a photographer that specialises in photographing people, and in my case, fashion, it can be a challenge to find a subject to focus on whilst under lockdown. Thankfully, I have many other passions, and one in particular has proven to be a good stand in for models in fancy clothes.
My love for coffee
Like many of you out there, I’m a big fan of the black stuff, and it has fuelled many of my favourite photographic moments. A few years back, I decided I wanted to get a bit more serious about my morning brews, and upgraded from instant to a pour over setup. From there my passion exploded to the point where I now have a whole shelf of different pieces of coffee paraphernalia… and I use them all!
In this blog I’m going to to go through some of my thinking when it comes to photographing coffee, but much can be transferred to any subject. Where I use fancy coffee gear, feel free to substitute for whatever you have. Use instant coffee if you must, but know that I’m secretly judging you! You can also use tea if you want… it’s your world, so should reflect you, and what you love.
It always astounds me that whichever genre you might be interested in, there’s a massive following for it on social media, and coffee is no exception. Whether it be quirky little cafes around the world, or the most amazing latte art you’ve ever seen, there’s all sorts of inspiration to be found with a few clicks. I recommend searching the #BrewAtHome hashtag as a starting point and then clicking through from there. There’s some stunning coffee based photography accounts out there that will have you itching to get the kettle boiling and the beans grinding!
Coffee as an object vs a moment
Before we start, have a think about what it is you’re capturing, as it will inform the way you approach everything. This is probably the most important thing to consider… are you photographing your subject as an object, or capturing it as a moment.
If you’re photographing your coffee as an object, you need to consider its shape, and which angles will best capture that shape. It could be top down, from the side, or somewhere in between. When capturing things as objects, it can often be a good idea to simplify things in your mind to geometric shapes. You could even go closer with a macro lens and find interesting details like a couple of bubbles around the edge of the coffee, or maybe you haven’t cleaned your kettle in a while, so from just the right angle you can make the limescale look like floating icebergs. Alternatively you can just capture it as a no nonsense cup of coffee, but as part of a series of every cup of coffee you drink in a day/week/month etc.
Capturing a moment or a mood will often mean taking a step back and shooting wider. Maybe you have a favourite chair that you like to sit in to drink your coffee. Perhaps you like to spend Sunday’s in that chair, with your freshly brewed cup o joe, perusing the latest copy of your favourite magazine. Perhaps there’s a candle burning on the table next to you, and a cat sitting at the window, watching the raindrops run down the glass. All these things can be included to tell a story about more than just a hot drink. They are a point in time for you to capture with your camera.
Playing with light
One of my favourite additions to my flat is my Venetian blinds. As photographers, we’re always trying to manipulate the light we have available to us in order to lead the eye and create interest in something to entice the viewer. I often use my blinds to vary the amount of light and also the type of light that comes into my little east London flat. I’m able to create everything from soft diffused light, to crazy geometric stripes.
Pay attention to how the light changes in your home, in various rooms. Not only will it change throughout the day, but also throughout the year. I know, for example, that during the winter months, I only have about 3 hours of decent window light on my coffee table, whereas in the summer I get all day and evening.
As I’ve spoken about earlier, how you plan to shoot will dictate everything that follows, and that includes the gear you choose. Often I’ll go with either the PEN-F or E-M1 Mark II as the cameras I usually have closest to hand. As far as lenses go, I really like the 25mm f/1.2 as the focal length is a nice compromise between short telephoto and wide, and the bokeh from the wide aperture is just dreamy. Sometimes, however, I do like to go wider with the 12mm f/2.0 or longer with the 45mm f/1.8. It all comes down to my mood at the time. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to gear… experiment, have fun, and find the camera and lens combination that feels right for you.
Hopefully this has been good for thought, and you’ve gained some inspiration. The only thing to do now is to stop reading this, and go and put the kettle on!
Make sure to tag #HomeWithOlympus on any of your social media posts during this crazy time we’re living in, and if nothing else… we can enjoy a great cup of coffee at home! Yay!
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