I've always liked still-life because they don't require anything that you can't obtain (especially with the help of Ebay). Unless of course you add something like a landscape behind it like in my Monadnock Berries piece two posts ago. That one I got lucky with. I went blueberry picking with my kids and in the little house you pay at at the farm, they have a balcony overlooking the fields and Mt. Monadnock. I plunked my blueberries and leaves right on that railing, squat down to get the right vantage point, and took several photos. When I went through the photos when I got home, one was perfect for drawing (the one that didn't have Christmas lights in the view).
Now I want to do several more still-lifes with landscapes behind and the berry place I believe is closed for the season. Plus I don't know if they would like me to bring other fruits to photograph on their railing... and I'd like not every one to have Mt. Monadnock behind it.
So this time I bought some raspberries and I believe blackberries from the grocery store, went in the backyard and picked some dying raspberry plant leaves and set up a little still-life on my deck. The view however from my deck isn't so good... the tall trees are just too close. I decided to take some landscape photos for the background, but quickly learned that what worked with the Monadnock Berries was that the landscape was from a high vantage point so I could see the soft blue mountains. So, instead of planning a day hike up a mountain, I went to Flickr and looked up NH hills in the Creative Commons.
Creative Commons provides copyright free or limited copyright of images by normal everyday photographers. Since my composition is just using a portion of the cc photograph, cropped and with other things added, it falls under the guidelines for most creative commons copyright photos.
& here is the photo reference I will use adding my grocery store raspberries in the foreground. I used Photoshop Elements to add the pictures together very roughly since the drawing will correct any problems. Notice how the original photo looks completely different from the end reference photo?
Now today, as it is my birthday, I thought I would go to Alyson's Orchard since it is high up on a hill and gets just the types of views I like for the background. So I trudged around the orchard and picked the two types of apples available right now complete with leaves, and looked for places to set up a still-life with an instant backdrop like at Monadnock Berries. I brought a piece of wood to set the apples on and placed it on a pole in the ground. Crouched down looking through the viewfinder until I got the correct vantage and snap! no photoshop necessary!
the finished reference photo.
here's the post I set up the still-life on.
Either process works and probably a trip to the farm and going to the grocery store, picking leaves from the backyard, and photoshopping - both probably take the same amount of time. I prefer taking the reference shot on location and not piecing it together, because the lighting always works for the two together and the camera creates some of the soft edges between the foreground elements and background that a pieced photoshopped image won't have. Plus it just seems more authentic.