Just a girl and her camera in a small room

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Taya Ivanova
  By Taya Ivanova
Just a girl and her camera in a small room www.sleeklens.com

Many of us can relate to the claustrophobic, often disconcerting spaces which seem to thwart our potential. Enter a small room and you’ll lose the desire to create, especially if said room is dull and undecorated; find yourself in a room fit for kings and you’ll feel artistically overwhelmed. Having lived in a rich variety of (mostly cramped) houses and apartments over the years, I’ve learned the art of appreciating small spaces.
In honor of that, I thought I’d challenge myself by taking all kinds of portraits in one room. I hope that this photographic endeavor compels you to look at your surroundings from a fresh perspective, knowing full well that you can make something meaningful out of anything. Each photo description will consist of the way I took an image and a few tips on how to achieve such an effect. Let’s begin!

Backgrounds are often ignored in photographs (I myself am guilty of this.) Using them can add an abundance of depth to your images. Had there not been a painting in this photograph, the image would’ve lacked a story. The painting’s graceful strokes and colors – mixed with a similarly colored wallpaper – create an atmosphere reminiscent of museums. Such photographs can be interpreted in a plethora of ways. (Including pets in your photos is an added bonus.)
Backlight is a portrait photographer’s best friend. In this image, the room’s large window is covered (it was also a gloomy day). Despite these hindrances, I was able to achieve a certain glow by increasing the ISO number. Limited light is ideal for ISO-related challenges; it also gives you a chance to grow by compelling you to leave your artistic comfort zone.
Since it was a gloomy day, I wanted to experiment with artificial light. To create this photograph, I used a simple torch. Never allow yourself to be intimidated by lamplight, torch light, or anything of the sort; familiarizing yourself with them will give you more chances to make the most of natural light.
Curtains, especially when combined with backlight, create hauntingly interesting atmospheres. Widening such photos using the cropping tool will give your them a cinematic feel. All kinds of fascinating photographs can be taken with curtains only, so don’t be quick to ignore them if you’re shooting in a small room. Curtains mixed with silhouettes create mysterious and emotional photographs.
Blurred foregrounds are useful when it comes to visual storytelling. In this case, the door serves as a secret look into the subject’s cozy reading world. To create spontaneity, encourage your subject to interact with his or her surroundings or objects. Adding a hint of oblivion will inevitably give your images an attractive and warm feeling.
If you want comfortable-looking portraits with a twist, place your subject in front of a complicated background, be it a spectacularly designed quilt, fascinating wallpaper, or anything else that catches your eye. Such backgrounds will add uniqueness to your image without completely distracting the viewer from the subject’s face. As you can see, the light source is hitting half of the subject’s face. This, too, adds a pleasant twist to a seemingly simple image.


If the room in which you’re shooting is too small for atmospheric images, let your subject interact with an object; the more complicated it looks, the better. Flowers, air, and books are perfect for such photos. Objects like roses can not only tell a touching story, but they can also add an elegant touch to an image’s composition.
Mirrors add space; they’re incredible helpers when it comes to self-portraits. This photo was taken with the help of a ceiling light mirror – despite its smallness, it provided both an unusual angle and a strange combination of colors. Abstract images of this sort boost one’s creativity and add unconventional beauty to a portfolio.
Finally, don’t forget direct window light. Despite its simplicity, it can provide you with clean, easily editable photographs which you’ll be proud to include in your portfolio. Hiding part of the subject’s face using hair or any kind of object will make your results stand out. If all else fails during a shoot, don’t give up and stick to window light. The finished results will inspire you to try again and provide you with at least a few photos to work with.

The ability to find details in any corner of a room gives one a chance to treat life a similar way; no matter how simple or nanoscopic a room is, something great can be created in it, something that exceeds its physical constraints. The same can be said about life. Thus, photography strengthens not only our observation skills but also our ability to live fully and freely, no matter how insignificant we sometimes feel.

Keep challenging yourselves and your creativity will grow, improve and bloom beautifully.

Good luck!



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Taya Ivanova
I'm an admirer of nature, a photographer, and a curious reader. Writing about photography and helping others improve is a growing passion of mine. My constant wish is to inspire others to be creatively fearless and endlessly curious. "Always dream bigger is my advice to you, because you can have whatever your heart desires" - Ashley Graham

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