Editor note. The post has some strong graphics in it which may not be to everyones taste. Proceed with caution.
Photography can be an expensive passion; and none of us have the budget of a small European country although sometimes it does feel like we need it to create amazing images. In this article I’d like to share some of my favourite conceptual images that were both fun and inexpensive to create.
Whilst I understand that my slightly dark and quirky style doesn’t suit everyone, you can take the basic ideas and techniques to apply to your own style.
For each concept I’ve given the price of the items I’ve used but keep in mind that you won’t have to buy everything every time for every shoot. A little creativity goes a long way to keeping your costs down.
- a takeaway container: Free from my regular pizza place
- Calamari, chips and gravy from the local fish and chips shop: $6.50
- Plastic fingers: $2.50 (Post-Halloween sale)
- soft drink: $0 (Had some in the fridge)
This was the most delicious of the three shoots, but sadly none of the evidence remains to incriminate the guilty. :)
Shot in my kitchen, lit with one large softbox overhead.
For this image the four key ingredients were:
- a white rope with a noose tied in the end: $6
- a white picnic table: $50
- a baby doll $35
- a pen: Free (from a training course I attended).
*Whilst these seems the most expensive of the three images, all I needed to buy for this shoot was the rope as I already had the doll, table and pen. So costs on the day was only $6.
Rather than trying to balance the doll in a noose hanging from the ceiling, I decided to shoot from above looking down. Once the doll is placed in position in the noose, I used the pen to stop the doll rolling to one side. The rope was stretched up the table, and weighted down on the floor so that the rope on the table was straight as if hanging, but not pulling the doll out of position.
The doll was lit from both sides with small gridded strip softboxes, and the camera mounted on a boom stand directly above to capture the final shot. By playing with the lighting to get even coverage from both sides, I didn’t need to retouch the background later in post.
- a martini glass: $3
- a bag of marshmallows: $3.50
- Commercial fake blood: $7.50
- Police Line Don’t Cross tape $? (Christmas Present)
- a smoke machine: $35
- a wisdom tooth: Free
*I already had the smoke machine and the wisdom tooth. So costs on the day was only $14.00. If you don’t have a smoke machine and only need a little smoke, a packet of incense sticks for a couple of dollars will also do the trick. The small amount of fake blood could be substituted with tomato sauce/Ketchup.
Lighting: Set up on my dark cabinet with the small black polyboard as the background. Lit from both sides with one square medium size soft box and one large half dome softbox.
In each image you could substitute items for other such as replacing the tooth with a plastic bug, or take a bite out a marshmallow to leave the teeth marks behind.
You could replace the noose with ribbon, or flowers, or whatever it takes to create the story you want to tell.
It’s not about these particular images; it’s about creating the visual stories you want to tell, on a shoe-string. That’s where the creativity really kicks in, to help you create images that you wouldn’t have even thought about with an unlimited budget or resources.
So go on, create some big ideas on a small budget. It’s a lot more fun than you think. J
About The Author
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Morgana Creely is a fine art and conceptual photographer who runs a membership site to help photographers create images that tell stories. Morgana also recently published a book called “The Noise in My Head”. You can find Morgana at www.imagecinematic.com.
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