Photo ideas at home: photo projects to try indoors during the Covid-19 crisis

With most of us now spending a lot of time indoors, we’re all looking for home photography ideas to satisfy our photography cravings! Here are some great home photography project ideas to keep you busy.

You might feel like creative inspiration is hard to come by if you’re confined to your home; whether you’re social distancing or isolating yourself, looking at the same four walls can make it hard for you to find inspiration. Luckily, with a little creativity, you can take fun photos without going outside!

We’ve put together this list of home photo projects you can do indoors, in your own home – and many of them can be done on your kitchen table using things (and people!) you don’t already have…

1. Make a splash

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

To achieve a classic studio still life without a studio, glue a white pillowcase to a wall and a kitchen countertop so that it forms a ball. With your camera on a tripod, frame a cup of water with a slice of lemon. Stay level with the glass, but leave some room for splashing. Place an external flash on the side, but aim it at the background and not at the glass.

2. Shoot by candlelight

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

It may be low in lighting power, but candlelight far exceeds its brightness in terms of atmosphere. To take a portrait by candlelight, use Manual (M) mode and raw format. Include the candle in the shot, as the light is so warm that the light source is needed to help the viewer understand the image. Use an ISO of 1600 and a fast lens like a 50mm f/1.8 at an aperture of f/2. Set a shutter speed of 1/100s and focus on the eye closest to your subject.

3. Mix oil and water

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

With a macro lens and a few everyday objects, you can take amazing pictures of oil drops floating on water. As with most macro shooting, careful setup is key, but the process forces you to focus on the finer details. The discipline that comes from trying this project will extend to your other styles of photography, so shooting delicate abstracts is of great overall benefit.

To prepare, fill a beaker with water and add a drop of dish soap. After gentle stirring, let stand for 5-10 minutes, then add a few drops of cooking oil.

4. Take a portrait in the rain

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When shooting a portrait, the rule of thumb is to focus on the eyes. But rules are meant to be broken, and you can take evocative portraits without bringing any faces into focus.

Pick a window on a rainy day and you’ll notice water drops on the glass. With your subject positioned on the other side of the glass, you can use these beads as a focal point and achieve a dark, reflective portrait that’s just as effective as a regular head shot.

Film upside down to convey the idea that the subject is out in the cold, or shoot outside to give the impression that someone is yearning for a break in time. For the shot to be really effective, you need a very shallow depth of field, so that only the water beads come out sharp. To do this, use a lens with a fast maximum aperture like a 50mm f/1.8 prime. In Aperture Priority mode, dial in the lowest f/f number and frame up on the subject. Focus on the drops and take the shot.

5. Get into the swing

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

It’s easy to create a mesmerizing image that captures the laws of physics! In a dark room, tie a meter of string to a light fixture and attach the torch, and set up your camera on a tripod below. Focus manually on the torch and set the camera to manual mode (M) with an ISO of 100, an aperture of f/11 and a shutter speed of 30 sec. Turn off the lights in the room, then rotate the torch in a circular motion so it begins to orbit in a shrinking ellipse. Pull the camera shutter and back up until it closes.

To get multiple ellipses in an image, use the Bulb setting and cover the lens with a black card between the torch swings. To change the color of the torch, place clear wrappers over the bulb.

6. Split-second sculptures

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

The reason we know how water drops behave is thanks to high-speed photography. But you don’t need high-tech equipment to create water art. Setting up this project is simple, but you’ll need precise focus and good timing.

Fill a baking sheet with water and place it on a work surface. Place a chair on top of it so you have a place to attach a freezer bag half filled with water. Poke a hole in the corner of the bag with a safety pin and you’ll get a steady stream of drops into the tray.

Place your camera on a tripod and fill the frame with water from the drip tray and the drip itself. A macro lens can be useful but is not essential. Anything you place behind the drip tray will reflect in the water, so experiment with sheets of paper in different colors and textures. Once your set is built, place a flash on the side, leaning on some books, and point it towards the background.

Accurate focus is essential, so switch to manual focus mode and place the tip of a pencil on the splash site, and focus on it. Now you just have to focus on getting the timing right.

7. Painting with light

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

Move a small light source around the frame during a long exposure and you’ll record ethereal light trails. You can trace around a subject with a torch to outline it, illuminate it from different angles with the torch beam, or even move colorful string lights behind it for an amazing background.

Place your camera on a tripod, then frame and focus on your subject. Now switch to manual focus to lock the focus distance and set the mode to manual (M). Dial in an ISO of 200, a shutter speed of 8 seconds and an aperture of f/16. Set the self-timer to 5 seconds. You can now turn off the lights.

Trigger the camera, get into position, and when the shutter opens you have the duration of the shutter speed to do your light painting. You can dial in a longer exposure if needed – just keep the torch moving the whole time to avoid hot spots. You can paint an entire subject in one long take, or split the work into separate shots and blend them in Photoshop.

8. Strike a match

(Image credit: Jon Adams)

When a match is struck, it ignites so quickly that we cannot actually observe what is happening at the precise moment of ignition. But by taking a quick burst of shots at a high frame rate, we can capture that amazing moment and get a shot that straddles art and science. You need a macro lens to record it, but leave plenty of room around the match head when composing because the fiery flame is bigger than you think!

9. Smoke Signals

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Capturing smoke billows is easy to achieve if you can get the lighting right. To take the photo, light an incense stick and place it in front of a dark background. Use an off-camera flash in manual mode to light it from one side, making sure the light doesn’t spill onto the background or the lens. Focus on the tip of the stick, then switch to manual focus to lock focus distance.

Use manual mode and set an aperture of f/8 and a shutter speed of 1/200s. Now take a few test shots and adjust the flash output to make the smoke lighter or darker, until you have the perfect exposure.

10. Freeze flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cover the bottom of an ice tray with about 2 cm of water and place it in the freezer. Once it’s solid, place a colorful flower on top of the ice and add enough water to cover it. Freeze it again and the end result will be a flower encased in a block of ice.

Remove the frozen block from the carton, place it on a rack, and set up your camera on a tripod. Use a torch to light the ice from different angles and you’ll quickly find a number of highly textured color compositions.

11. Clever art with a smartphone

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The small LED light on smartphone is perfect for creating light trails. With a little practice, you can draw any shape in the air by taking a long exposure. Wear dark clothes and keep moving, and you won’t appear in the photo.

To set up the camera, use manual mode and manually focus on the area where you are going to paint. A good starting point is ISO 100, f/16 and a shutter speed of 30 seconds.

More techniques to try at home:

iPad Photography Hacks: Creative Lighting Ideas for Cheap Photography Projects
Close-up filters: shoot macro photography without a macro lens
How to Use Polarizing Filters for Colorful Cross-Polarized Effects
Scanning slides and prints using a DSLR or mirrorless camera
The best light tents for photography

Tracey L. Sweeney