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Breathe New Life into Still Life With Hannah Argyle

May 25, 2017
Breathe New Life into Still Life with Hannah Argyle | Enlight

Everyday objects have fascinated us for centuries. The mosaics that decorated Roman floors often depicted items of decadence, such as fruit and decorative ornaments. From Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” to the recent trend for flatlays, still life has captivated people ever since.

Today, there is a growing community of iPhone photographers who specialize in this genre. Hannah Argyle is one such talent, based in the UK. Part stylist, part photographer, she really knows how to breathe new life into inanimate objects. We asked her for some tips on still life photography.

Finding Inspiration

There is more to a good still life image than meets the eye. Rarely do flowers, retro cameras and kitchen utensils arrange themselves in the visually appealing layouts seen in Hannah Argyle’s work.

She first became interested in this form of art via photography. “It was something that evolved through Instagram. I loved seeing other people’s still lifes, and I have always loved flowers. I began to arrange things on a sheet of white card and really enjoy those few moments of peace whilst finding the best light.”

Breathe New Life into Still Life with Hannah Argyle | Enlight

After three years of posting regularly on Instagram, she now has a following of over 219,000 people. Argyle also runs Moments of Mine, an Instagram account that shares the best work from the still life community.

Crafting an Image

It’s not surprising to note that Hannah Argyle studied the history of art in her university days. Looking through her work, it’s clear she takes great care with each image. Every item or backdrop adds some aesthetic value, and all ugliness is banished from the frame.

The process takes both inspiration and perspiration. Argyle explains that her creativity is often sparked by daily happenings. “Sometimes I’m inspired by something as small as the way the light falls on the wall,” she says. “Or something that is actually happening in my day or with my kids, such as baking and eating scones with jam.”

Breathe New Life into Still Life with Hannah Argyle | Enlight

Argyle then starts to think about how she can frame these points of interest. “I usually gather my props or the ingredients for the image first,” she explains. “I often have a strong idea in my mind for this before I begin.” Arranging your scene is largely down to practice and studying the work of others. Argyle offers a few pointers: “Less is usually more to begin with…use the negative space to create an appealing arrangement of items.”

She also stresses the importance of lighting. ”Always find good light; there’s no point in taking a still life photo in bad or artificial light. Turn off the electric lights and move near a window.”

Editing Still Life for Style

The final look of any still life composition is based more on your editing style than the particular fruit bowl you choose. Hannah Argyle likes to maintain a fresh feel throughout her photography. “I usually aim for a nice clean, bright look, but I don’t want my photos to be overexposed or washed out.”

Breathe New Life into Still Life with Hannah Argyle | Enlight

She rarely makes wholesale changes, preferring to make subtle adjustments. “I do decrease the shadows and increase the highlights, and I usually increase the contrast a little as I increase the exposure.” She turns down the contrast to ensure the picture ”doesn’t become insipid looking.”

Breathe New Life into Still Life with Hannah Argyle | Enlight

You can make these adjustments in Enlight via Image > Adjust > Tools tab. In some cases, you might need to turn up the exposure significantly to achieve the Argyle look. That said, many people prefer something darker, with crushed highlights and richer colors. The key, as always, is to maintain consistency. “I always check my edits against my own [previous] edits. Good editing is everything and it can really set your Instagram account apart.”

Explore Your Home

It’s very rare that photographers can legitimately say that they have nothing to shoot.

Breathe New Life into Still Life with Hannah Argyle | Enlight

With still life, there is literally no excuse. Look out for beautiful moments in your everyday life, and you might just surprise yourself — even a regular bunch of flowers can be a masterpiece.

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Mark Myerson
Mark Myerson

Mark is a freelance journalist and professional photographer based in the UK. He specializes in writing about the subject of iPhoneography, and is an avid mobile photographer in his spare time. When he isn't typing, he can usually be found exploring the countryside, camera in hand.

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