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Photographing Raw Materials

Updated on February 6, 2014
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

Photography in the raw. This is another topic in the long list of photographic ideas that can provide plenty of subjects, a learning experience and from which good images can be gathered.

Everything is made from something else, and your selection of subjects should be focused into recording images of materials which are typically used to make some other item. Metals, wood, cloth, cement, blocks, rocks, sand, even grains, flour, leather. You can also include images of the tools or implements used to make new products.

A good rule to follow when implementing this project is to start with the most simple of ingredients; the base, and record images as the progression of manufacturing goes along.

For example, photograph wheat or any grains that are regularly used to make bread, next would be images of the flour, photograph next the place where the flour is made into bread and lastly the bread itself. Another variation would be to capture images of the bread in use, like in a toast or sandwich.

Try to stick with one main raw ingredient at a time like for example wood; wooden planks even the trees themselves. Photograph finished samples of wooden articles. Then move on to the next raw material following the same steps as in the previous sample and so on. Raw materials are not going anywhere, you can take your time with this project. Use creative techniques to record images of simple things and present them in creative ways as well. One of the most important aspects as one grows into a professional photographer status is learning to see things differently, see what others missed.

Use light in innovative ways to add charm and create effects. Try to avoid photographing subjects in the same ways that everyone else does. Barley and wheat for example have a golden glow when illuminated by the right light conditions. To accentuate the effect try using a golden filter, normally called a warming filter to heighten this effect. It will make the wheat or barley, even corn take on a golden hue and this added effect will be apparent in the final photographs. Wood has its own distinct color which depends on the location from whence it was gathered. Try focusing in close and capture the wood's texture, ridges and any interesting details about it such as knots.

Metals have their own quality too, but if you are able to capture the moment when it is being smelted down and forged then don't miss the change of recording these images as they will offer a glimpse into a rather seldom seen world. Sand, as you may know, is the main raw material used for making glass. Capture images of sand in the raw, while the glass is being made, blown or fashioned and of the finished product. Plants can also be used as raw materials. Sugar cane is one of the main sources for making sugar, try capturing images of a sugar cane plantation. Sunflower seeds are used to make sunflower oil. Cinnamon sticks to make cinnamon buns cream to make ice cream.

Don't focus exclusively on the raw materials exclusively; the flour being mixed in with the milk and eggs, wood being molded or cut into shapes, the concrete being mixed and poured and the sand being melted into a liquid form. Record images of the people involved in the manufacturing process too; the baker, the carpenter or the mason.


The majority of these images can be used toward submissions to photographic stock houses as these images are often in demand by manufacturers for use in add campaigns and sometimes for instructional publications. Just remember to do your best in adding your personal touch and use creativity in the recording of images as well as in their presentation.

Browse thorough some industry publications to get some ideas of the types of images currently in use. Don't just repeat what you see, use this exercise to gather ideas about the types of materials involved in the production process and how these images are presented, the types of publications that use these images, the purpose to which these images are put and then go out and do your own work.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cara.R: thank you very much

    • Cara.R profile image

      Cara.R 6 years ago from New York

      Nice hub, it made me think of my curiosity of metal and rust. And trees with moss and mushrooms.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: thank you dear

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      This kind of photography we do all the time especially when writing articles and we take photos of the stuff we use to make other stuff. This one is fun.

      I love scrap iron stuff but you wouldn't really call that raw. I would love to see the smelting of metal, it must be something.