Polina Plotnikova is a Russian-born, UK based fine art photographer, we have asked her to walk us through the process she took to shoot a still life. She uses our Sweet 50 Optic to capture still life and other subjects inside and out of the studio.

The way I approach creating a new image is such that first of all I would construct an image in my head – visualizing the overall composition, the objects I am going to use, the overall colour scheme, the lighting, the background, etc.

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Sweet 50 photo by Polina Plotnikova

The Technical Details:

  • Canon 60D
  • Composer Pro with Sweet 50 Optic
  • f/5.6
  • ISO 125
  • 1/10 Shutter Speed
  • Bowens Gemini Classic 500 with 80×80 Softbox, silver reflector, black velvet collapsible background

How did you get from the setup to the shot:?This particular image was no exception: In my mind’s eye I had a clear picture of what I wanted to end up with, and the set up was done accordingly. I used a collapsible background made of black velvet to get a pure pitch-black colour – this type of fabric, when stretched, absorbs light perfectly. I then placed the 80x80cm softbox on the left side, in order to create a soft diffused light. On the right side, I placed a silver reflector to soften dark shadows.

How did you edit the image in post:?As much as I love the power of Photoshop, I do prefer getting my image “in camera” as close to what I need as possible. And when it comes to post-processing, I usually know in advance what exactly I am going to do with every single shot – whether it is adding a textured layer or cropping it into square format, for example. This shot did not require much post-processing – I only had to adjust the curves slightly.

Why did you pair the subject to Sweet 50:?I have the Sweet 35 and the Edge 80 optics. I have chosen Sweet 50 because my composition required a round area of focus rather than a slice of sharpness. I used a relatively small set up and needed to be close to it. With Sweet 35 I had a slight perspective distortion when I tried to compose my shot in camera, and I did not like the idea of correcting it in Photoshop later on – simply because I knew that Sweet 50 would do a perfectly good job.

Why did you choose your still life subject:?I am a studio photographer. As much as I enjoy outdoor photography done by others, it is not something that I feel inspired by, or confident in doing, myself. Flowers, portraits and still life are my favourite photography subjects. They do allow me time to think about all details in my future shot in advance, before I even put my studio lights on and assemble my still life setup. Still life photography is great for a perfectionist – no one fidgets or makes faces, no sudden gust of wind or some other quirk of ever-changing weather can spoil your shot.?

But, by the same token, you cannot count on something interesting that just happens all of a sudden – it is all up to you; the choices are infinite, and the final result is entirely in your own hands.

Modern technology equips you with some amazing tools that the artists of the past could not even dream of – but the main task is essentially the same: to draw the viewer in, so that they can share your vision and tune into the emotions that you are trying to convey.

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Sweet 50 photo by Polina Plotnikova

Having said all that -?after I got my first Lensbaby I found myself taking it with me on walks and enjoying traditional outdoor photography subjects. A napping ginger cat in our local pub was a totally spontaneous shot which I was very pleased with. I think this is the main beauty of Lensbaby optics – it can appeal to those who favour spontaneous approach and who like the fact that Lensbaby can be somewhat unpredictable. At the same time, it is perfect for control freaks like myself, who prefer to be fully in control of every single detail or effect in their pictures.

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Sweet 50 photo by Polina Plotnikova

What did you learn while shooting with Sweet 50 that would be helpful tips for other photographers:??In order to get a perfect shot with the Sweet 50, you really need to have a good understanding of how to control the Lensbaby’s trademark effect – selective sharpness and soft blur -the effect can either make your shot or ruin it completely.

Check out more of Polina’s work here.

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