Photographing an Autumn Vignette

Photographing an Autumn Vignette

Photographs are a significant part of my blog, and taking photographs is quite time consuming when you figure in the time composing say a vignette, or a garden or floral photo, or even a room. I have only been blogging months, not years, but I have received  a lot of e-mails asking me how I get the nice photos I do. Thank you very much for the compliments. I have always enjoyed photography and am self taught. In my family I was always the one behind the camera. I took after an Aunt, who gave me my very first camera. The digital camera has increased my love of photography 100 fold, and it helps to have a good digital camera, and thanks to KBJ I have one that is suitable for what I do here on the blog. I still have my very first digital camera, and it is still quite suitable for everyday shots, but this camera has spoiled me. I rarely use my iPhone camera.

So to answer a frequent question-what camera do I use?……I now use a Sony NEX-6. It is user friendly, is lightweight, is comfortable to hold, it has the ability to let me photograph in low light fairly easily, photograph the width of most rooms without distortion, among many more features. I still have a lot to learn about using this camera, but I have to say I was not disappointed to have given up my original thought on what camera I wanted.

I thought I would share with you, by taking you through my thinking when I take and then edit and select photographs I want to use on the blog. I wanted to create an autumn vignette in my foyer using only what I had on hand. It was going to sit on a walnut gate leg table that sits against the foyer wall. Folded down it is only about 6 inches deep. For most of my indoor photographs I use a tripod or a monopod which I really like a lot. In low light situations, the shutter speed is slow, so the only way to avoid blurry shots is either to have a very steady hand (nope for me) or using a tripod.

In this photo, the first I took to check the light, the only new items I put on the table are the copper container, a few leaves and the gourds. The copper container replaced a statue. The front door is right by this table, perpendicular to it, and is both beveled and leaded glass so admits a lot of light. Near that is a huge dining room window. You can see how the right side of the wall is darker than the left. Still, I am liking this as a start.

At first I was going to use the hunt board to compose a vignette. Even though the sun was not out, the copper pumpkin is reflective, and the 20+ shots I took, then loaded onto iPhoto were not at all what I wanted. This one is the best, and except to illustrate my thinking process, I wouldn’t have used it on the blog. There is too much tension between the porcelain and the shine and texture of the copper. Delete is my favorite key.

This shot is similar to the first, but I came in closer with the camera, rather than adjusting the lens from further away. For the moment, try and remember that there are no delineated shadows behind the vase to the left. Playing around with the setting on the camera, I was able to get a shot that was a bit better in equalizing the wall color behind.

In this shot, I came in even closer, taking in just part of the copper for balance and interest. And….still no shadows on the wall. In this photo I did a tiny crop at the top on the original and also had to straighten it.

I moved in closer for some detail shots. OK, interesting, but not likely to have used it in a post.

Playing around with color and texture, I did this shot from about ten different angles.

I changed out the copper container for the pumpkin to see what would happen. I moved the leaves as well. I like the interplay of light on the left, against the bright metal on the right, as well as the transparency of the vase and perceived lightness of the gourds on the left with the solidness of the copper pumpkin..

Now I removed the tiny lamp that was on the right, and put both pieces of copper on the table. Not so in love with this. The metal above on the wall, and metal in the middle and right makes it all visually too heavy and one sided. Would delete, unless there is a decent cropped shot in there……

Turning the camera and taking a vertical shot, I am liking the balance better. Still no shadows behind the vase.

Now I turn the camera back, and shoot a similar shot with both pieces of copper, but focus in tighter. It is a more balanced shot, but I miss seeing the texture and feathery wisps of the grasses in the vase.

Now even though I can’t see the tops of the grasses in the vase, I like this shot because it feels balanced even though there is light to the left and darker feel to the right. The visual weight is acceptable to me. Maybe a keeper.

Here I spread out more gourds and for me, too much color to the middle and on the right. I don’t care for the “empty” wall space that seems to fill too much of the photo. I actually shot a bunch of photos with the vase in several other positions, by mixing it up and trying to balance and even out neutral color with saturated color, and the result was busy and looked horrible. Enough so that I had already deleted all those shots before I decided to use this post to explain my thought process when choosing photos.

Tightening up the shot, and leaving one light gourd in the photo is more to my liking, even though something is missing to my eye. Notice however the light is starting to change, and it is casting a grey blue on the wall. Ugh. Will try using flash set very low.

Here I took a small colored gourd and put it in between the neutral gourds and I think I like the way the wisps of grass are in a similar shape of the pumpkin. Keeper.

Similar shot, a bit tighter, and not a keeper….. delete. Look above and then again at this, and you can see why.

Here I moved the tripod back a ways and then focused in making sure that I had part of the metal wall piece in the frame. I first shot it earlier with just the bottom of the frame showing. It is much more interesting to see the a bit of the design details/cutouts, which mimic the cutouts in the copper pumpkin. I would use this one.

Now I brought back the angel sculpture that sits on the table all the time, but added a few small gourds. The shinyness of the smaller gourds spread out along the table helps it to look balanced. In this photo, it was best not to show any of the metal detail from the wall piece as it would have been too busy. I actually cropped it out in this shot.

Coming in closer……it didn’t work. Boring, compared to the above photo.

Using the lens to “back up” more to includ more of the metal wall piece makes for a balanced and interesting vignette. Keeper.

This is an OK shot, as the angels faces are so interesting. They really seem to be contemplating the gourds.

The light has changed. Now you can see shadows of the grasses in the vase, and I like the play of light and dark.

Tighter shot….not sure about this one.

Turning the camera and using the light to my advantage, this shot is the one I like the most of the several above. All the shadows on the wall, and behind the pattern on the metal wall piece make for interesting but not too busy photograph.

Another closeup of their faces, but more shadows. Not as interesting as the ones above.

And a tighter shot with just one and part of another angel visible. It is a balanced composition, and leaves the viewer with a bit of a mystery as to what the rest of the photo might look like.

I have shared a simplified version of the process. I take on average about a 75-100 photos to come up with 10 or so decent one. Some times I go back and forth from the computer to retake even more. Sometime I luck out with the light and I know exactly the shot I want to get, and I end up taking less. The most frustrating part of blogging for me is the time it takes to edit and upload the photos into the article. Time consuming to say the least. The photos above took about three hours to compose, take, edit, upload, and another hour and a few minutes, to write this post. That being said, on the whole, I really enjoy doing it. I have learned when I take inside or outside garden photos to do them at certain times of day to avoid fighting with the sunlight as well as artificial light. I am also accumulating backdrops and other photo items to help make for higher quality photos. It is an ongoing learning process.

I hope I have answered some of the most frequent questions adequately. If not, ask away. This vignette is done. I also completed one for the kitchen table that I liked so much, I have left it there. Originally it was just to illustrate how to style and compose the actual vignette. Will post on that as well. I am waiting for darkness to I can take some candlelight and low light photos. Hope you are enjoying your weekend. It is still raining………Laters, charisse









  1. So pretty and festive…love it!

  2. I had no idea that so much time and effort and artistry went into one photo! This is very interesting. I am so glad you shared it with us. I always learn something from your blogs. I wrote a poem about a photographer once. It was one of my favorite pieces. The artistic eye is always fascinating to me. I am so thrilled that Carole introduced me to your website. I look forward to reading it every night before I turn in. I love surprises, especially those of art!!!

    • It does take a surprising amount of time. When photographing a home or even just a few rooms for a magazine,professional photographers and stylists will take a day or even more for just the right shot. Fashion photographers shoot hundreds to get a single shot. I have the greatest admiration for professional photographers. My favorite photos are black and white and it really takes an artist to get it just right. There is a depth and dimension to black and white photos that is awesome to me.

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