Still Life Photography of Nail Polish on Broken Ceramic

Nail polish on ceramic sculpture

Your hands are the best set of tools you have, use them?. This is a quote somebody once told me, and one that I try to stick to as often as possible. I believe we can achieve great things by making use of what we have available, and I prefer to try for myself, rather than go with an option that is easy or cheap. For this reason, I do my own design and styling of the theme of each photograph. I like to come up with my own arrangement of the objects to form a unique depiction.

The Process

I begin the still life by identifying what the subject is about and how best to display it in a meaningful way. Often, I come across something interesting, some style or idea, that I want to create. Then I proceed to shoot or photograph it. The styling is the first part of the whole creative process.

Upon receiving the nail polish bottles, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve and the style required to do so. I had seen previously a piece of work that used broken ceramic pieces to set a distinct theme around the subject. Up until now, I hadn’t had the appropriate opportunity to apply this, but with this bottle of nail polish, I had the perfect chance.

I went out, specifically, to find a small ceramic vase. The vase itself, being handmade and baked, had an interesting texture and shape. Placing the vase under a piece of clothing, I proceeded to gently smash it into several pieces. These pieces of raw edges and broken chips are similar to what a broken or incomplete bottle of nail polish might resemble. I hoped this element would provoke certain emotions in the viewer.

The Results

To create the final shape of the sculpture of broken ceramic pieces entailed several attempts. I played with the layers and levels until the bottle sat perfectly cupped on top of the shattered vase. Thereafter, it was just a matter of applying some sound photography rules around lighting and composition. For this photograph, I opted to use a single, large diffuser shining horizontally. Whilst another standard light shines across the sculpture. The intensity and depth of each layer of the stacked ceramic pieces, and the majestic bottle of nail polish perched above created this stunning result. The client loved the final image. I believe the creativity and styling played an important role.