Productive Activities for Photographers at Home

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Photography is a social medium. For many of us, our cameras are a means of getting out of the house, exploring the world, and connecting with the people and places we encounter along the way. So, what's a photographer to do while confined to the home front for days on end? Here are some tips for staying inspired, productive, and creative that don't require leaving the house.

Make Portraits

Keep shooting! Family members, partners, and roommates can all make compelling subjects for portrait and documentary projects. Martine Fougeron, Elinor Carucci, and Rania Matar are just a few contemporary artists who have created impressive bodies of work focused on the joys and challenges of family life. Live alone? Use self-portraiture as a means of expression or storytelling. A tripod and shutter release will provide maximum flexibility when turning your camera back on yourself—though a little ingenuity and a self-timer can work wonders in a pinch.

Check out Jill Waterman's feature on Rania Matar's photographs of domestic spaces and their inhabitants here. Photograph © Rania Matar
Check out Jill Waterman's feature on Rania Matar's photographs of domestic spaces and their inhabitants here. Photograph © Rania Matar

Embark on a Domestic Safari

Did you know that, in 1947, Edward Weston and his wife, Charis, collaborated on a book, The Cats of Wildcat Hill, all about his feline companions at his home in Carmel Highlands? If pets are a good enough subject for a legend like Weston, they are a good enough subject for me. You don't need to be a wildlife photographer to benefit from this activity. When my father, an avid street photographer, was recently sidelined while recovering from surgery, he fought off cabin fever by photographing his cats. The exercise allowed him to get more comfortable with his camera and sharpen his skills for when he was able to get back outside on the street. The quick movements and unpredictable nature of many animals make them great practice subjects, even if you don't intend to flood your son's inbox with a clowder of cats. Here are some tips for cats, dogs, and small animals. And don't forget about birds!

Check out Jill Waterman's interview with Sally Davies, on Explora, for tips on photographing dogs. Photograph © Sally Davies
Check out Jill Waterman's interview with Sally Davies, on Explora, for tips on photographing dogs. Photograph © Sally Davies

Discover the Joy of Still Life

Still life is up there with self-portraiture in terms of genres that find their way into nearly every artist's body of work. From Man Ray's infamous "Rayographs" to Irving Penn's brilliant images of unpackaged frozen food, still life has a rich tradition within the history of photography. The best part? You can use what is around you! Your composition can be as simple as a pair of seashells or as complex as a Dutch master. The process of building a composition completely from scratch is about as close to painting or sculpture as photography can get and serves as an exercise that will undoubtedly benefit the way you look through your viewfinder in the future. If you plan to get up close, macro lenses or close-up filters will get you in range.

Some of the best still life artists were painters. Here, for example is the American painter James Peale's Still Life: Balsam Apple and Vegetables, from the 1820s. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Some of the best still life artists were painters. Here, for example is the American painter James Peale's Still Life: Balsam Apple and Vegetables, from the 1820s. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Build (or Edit) Your Portfolio and Archive

One of the benefits of staying inside and slowing down is having the opportunity to look closely at what you have already created. I've always advocated for the benefits of printing photographs in the digital era, having dropped enough hard drives to know the value of a physical copy (and multiple digital back-ups!). If you have a printer, great! Start printing. If you don't, here are some tips for choosing the right one. Call me crazy, but the smell of my printer's ink has begun to replace the smell of fixer in my brain's comfort aroma zone.

There are few joys that can compete with seeing your photographs become prints that you can hold in your hand.
There are few joys that can compete with seeing your photographs become prints that you can hold in your hand.

Once you have your prints in hand, it is time to start protecting your work. Choose a portfolio book of the proper size for your images. For larger archives, use an appropriate storage box and acid-free interleaving paper or archival sleeves to protect your work. For advice on building a portfolio, check out Jill Waterman's article here. For tips on archiving, see Bjorn Petersen's guide here.

Share Your Work Online

Another productive way to spend time with the photographs you have already created is by sharing them online. Social media and image sharing platforms serve as simple, effective, and popular means for getting your work out in the world without leaving home. For the more technologically savvy, consider building—or updating your personal website. There are many platforms online with templates built-in to help create websites as well as a variety of software for those who want maximum control.

Use image-sharing platforms or build a website to get your work out into the world.
Use image-sharing platforms or build a website to get your work out into the world.

Read!

If you've made it this far into the article, you're off to a great start. There exists an endless supply of invaluable resources for photographers online (ahem, B&H Explora) for learning about all aspects of photography. In addition to your favorite photo blog, many museums and galleries have digitized their collections so you can look at work from around the world without ever leaving home. One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing is by looking at work created by others.

The only thing better than making photographs is reading about photographs.
The only thing better than making photographs is reading about photographs.

But don't forget about actual books! Time alone provides a great opportunity to look back at the history of photography or think deeply about photo theory. Or check out Jill Waterman's guide to B&H's book collection for more recommendations. Many great books have also been digitized and optimized for reading on tablets.

Last reading suggestion: your camera's manual. You know, that thing you put in a drawer somewhere after you unboxed your camera. I can hear the groans already. Few photographers have the patience to sit down and read through the manuals accompanying their gear. However, if you do, I promise you will learn something new about your equipment that will make it worth your time. You can thank me later.

Listen to B&H's Photography Podcast or Watch a Film/Video About Photography

The B&H Photography Podcast recently celebrated its 200th episode! Crank up the volume to hear Allan, John, Jason, and an ever-growing cast of photographers and industry professionals discuss a diverse range of topics on the podcast.

Allan Weitz, John Harris, and Jason Tables are the personalities behind the B&H Photography podcast (portrait by Geoffrey Berliner).
Jason Tables, Allan Weitz, and John Harris are the personalities behind the B&H Photography podcast (portrait by Geoffrey Berliner).

Do you know about B&H's YouTube channel? It is filled with useful tutorials and reviews, as well as years-worth of recordings of B&H Event Space presenters. Need a break from all the learning and want to relax with a good movie? Why not watch one about photography? Two of my favorites with photographer protagonists are Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller, Rear Window, and Michelangelo Antonioni's murder mystery, Blowup. There are also many documentaries focused on photographers, such as Bill Cunningham New York and Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters worth checking out.

What are your favorite photography-related activities to do while at home? Share your suggestions with this photographer-stuck-at-home in the Comments section, below.

3 Comments

Nice one Cory.  Thanks for the B&H Photo Podcast shout out

Excellent article! I have three Golden Doodle dogs, I outta take some portraits of. It will make a great Christmas card. I have a few books on photography myself, not as wide of a collection as the one photographed here. Maybe in two weeks or so I can take some photos of the fish in the lake outback, that is if this virus does not become airborne. God bless us all. - Bob Schaffer. 

bob s. wrote:

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