a woven life

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Photography Styling Challenge|Morning



Today is the first Monday of the month. Which means that today is photo challenge day. The theme for this challenge was “morning”.

Now. Morning is 100% absolutely the best time of day in my home. Oren willingly plays, dismantling the spice rack and shelf of pots and pans. This goes on for almost an hour. I am allowed time to brew coffee, make breakfast, do dishes, groom our unicorn. It is a magical time of day where the possibilities are as many as I can count. I had chewed on the theme for quite some time, thinking it would be such a breeze.

At first I wanted to shoot morning light. But “light” is a future prompt, which I may have enough fodder for already. Then I wanted to capture the spirit of baby at his peak of awesomeness. Turning a camera on him always yields the same series of photos: blur, followed by hand in the entire frame. My next thought was food. Breakfast being the most important and absolute best meal of the day, I thought I would shoot an eggy meal. Finally, it struck me, how silly I am. There is one thing that morning revolves around. And you know what it is. It’s coffee.

The rules for this post remain the same as last time, no editing. This is about learning how to use a camera.



This was my first setup. Which I do not love. It took me a long time to configure the best angle. My first morning of shooting I came out with this result over and over. After pouring over these photos that evening, I realized it was the angle of the photos. This picture is all horizon, no coffee. I liked the props, though the stain in the wood was fighting with the pine cones, rendering them invisible. The vase of sticks felt out of place and willy-nilly to me and the coffee beans were making this feel too staged, despite trying to recreate an image which utilized beans as a prop. I couldn’t make it work in a way I wanted.

So I tried again. Elements that I knew I wanted to keep were the surface I was shooting on, white dishes, and the spoon. New: perspective, coffee in a white cup, rearranged props.


I was much more pleased with this series, the direction it was going proved more satisfying for me. The above was of my first shots. That’s me reflected in the spoon, you caught me. This photograph is all pine cone though. Which is great, because it is a precious trio of cones. But I wanted more coffee. After reading a lot about how to use my camera and photography in general, I had attempted to put into practice the rule of thirds. The results, I feel, was unsuccessful in this shot. That’s okay. Deep breathing. I took this rule of thirds so seriously as to try and separate the photo into three with three separate props: spoon, cones, coffee. It is unsuccessful because, as you can tell, the coffee is still approximately half of the photo. I will continue to work utilizing this concept, perhaps I may even find myself satisfied in the future.


Then there was this photo. This is like, ideal date with myself. A blank slate of paper, a full cup of coffee. I took a sip of said coffee, and set it down again to shoot it. I wish I had turned the handle. While this is how the mug was placed back onto the dish organically, I was displeased with the handle’s direction. I felt it was pulling the eye to the bottom of the photo and not creating a line towards the cones and up to the spoon. I was also starting to struggle with my camera’s ISO settings and the lighting in my house. This session was shot near a south facing window, however as the day moved on I found the light became concentrated in less than desirable places, casting odd reflections on my dishes. I recovered from this by utilizing a tripod and white board. Oren loves the tripod. I can’t use a tripod without a third body to restrain him. He climbed the tripod, taking it down. I released my camera moments from disaster.


Handle rotation: accomplished. This image is pared down. The notebook is removed. This is about coffee. Despite this being my final image, I still see room for improvement. Coffee flecks from the french press are visible. There is still an interesting reflection in the liquid. I am visible in the spoon. Still. I am, over all, very pleased with how this photograph came out. This particular prompt, “morning”, has provided a great leap in my skill set. I now have knowledge of my camera’s white balance and I am becoming very comfortable shooting in Manual mode. All because of coffee. Impressive stuff, that caffeine.

Thanks for following this process.

If you are interested, you can check out the work of those individuals partaking in this challenge with me (which I recommend because it is likely that they came up with some brilliant shoots):

Redesigned by M


At the Corner of Happy and Harried

My Food Tapestry

Inge Kathleen Photography

Pies and Puggles 

City Girl Searching

The Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

Feeling sparky,



Author: Nicole

Hi there. My name is Nicole and I have an affinity for fiber art and home grown everything. I am a mother, seamstress, maker; so on and so forth. I'm here to share my escapades in sewing, parenting, and sometimes marriage (and infrequently, knitting). You can reach me at Nicolesheree@gmail.com. G'day.

12 thoughts on “Photography Styling Challenge|Morning

  1. I love how you captured your process Nicole. I just skimmed through the pics at first, and wanted to tell you that the red cup and coffee was not doing the picture justice. Good thing you switched it to white and pared down the staging elements.
    I can totally relate to the pic with the notepad. I am a compulsive list-maker too. Did you try resting the spoon on the saucer in that pic? The shiny reflection it creates sort of takes away from the main elements (coffee and paper).

    • Thanks so much for your feedback! I find this to be the most helpful portion of this process. I didn’t place the spoon on the saucer and here is why-I am still tinkering and getting comfortable with the idea of “styling”. I go through this process in my head where I want the shoot to be as true as possible to how it would be in my life. If I were actually sitting down to enjoy the coffee, I would not have placed the spoon on the saucer after stirring, straight to the table it would go. I’m not one to contain mess. For my next shoot I will be more mindful of stepping outside of my comfort zone of “must be realistic” and attempt more daring styling arrangements. Because, you know, spoon on the saucer is sooo daring. Again, thank you for this feedback and for triggering a lightbulb moment for me.

  2. Pingback: Photography Styling Challenge #4: Morning | Redesigned By M

  3. Hi Nicole! You’ve done a fabulous job with this shoot! Kudos!! I have a particular attraction to photos that cut off portions of objects, so I think my favorite was #3, although your title image could have had a run for #3’s money if you had used a white cup and saucer. In general, I’m not sure how the pine cone comes into play with morning coffee. I would have probably replaced it with a few coffee beans or a sprinkle of sugar (as it looks like you might take your coffee with sugar). A jar of milk strategically placed in the background could have been a good addition, too.

    Now for the dreaded shiny spoon! I had this same trouble in my “table settings” shoot. Here’s a few of things I would try in future shiny spoon endeavors: Did you see Ginny’s shoot? She has a coffee covered spoon in her photos, which really helps to detract the shiny quality and give you that “realistic” factor that you’re comfortable in shooting, especially since you told Anjana that you typically stir your spoon in the coffee and then set it on the table. The other thing is to try smudging the spoon with your thumbs just to dull it a bit. And the last thing I’d try is to get a few antique silver spoons in your photo props. The antiqued quality will already dull things out without extra work. I am in the works of scouring thrift shops for antique silver spoons!

    I really like how you edited the objects to come up with a minimal staging. You can see in the first couple of photos how cluttered all those objects make the photos. Well done! Can’t wait to see Bedroom! ~M.


    • Thanks you for this delicious feedback. I loved seeing all of the coffee and tea setups roll in, I had a feeling that a lot of the photos would be styled around beverages. It was super enthralling to see what others did with the same subject matter.

      • Yes, there were quite a few more coffee and tea shots than I imagined there would be. Seems like everyone has the same sort of view of morning and I’m the only one who skips all that and just sleeps in! haha

  4. I love the last pic for its minimalistic character. But I cannot make up my mind between that and the title pic. But as M said, if it has been replaced with a white mug, it would have been the winner. Beautiful pics 🙂

  5. Nicole, Hello!

    I love how you kept switching it up and trying new angles on everything. That’s awesome and each picture that you took, the quality got better. I want to be as diligent as you were. November’s challenge I’ll try to follow your example. One idea, I would say is to brew a cup of coffee that is a bit darker then you’ll have a really nice contrast between the white tea cup and the coffee. and you can take a piece of white paper or aluminum foil and use it as a mini-homemade reflector.. put it outside of the picture to reflect a little bit of light onto your acorn trio to make it really pop and stand out. Does that make sense??

    • Thanks so much for the tips! I had used a white board as a reflector but aluminum might work even better. And I agree on the strength of the coffee, it could have been so much darker for a better contrast. I appreciate you stopping by greatly!

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