Practice Your Photography Skills with Flea Market Vignettes

Last week I shared the flea market finds that I purchased on a trip to Atlanta and shipped home. I loved sharing these items and according to your comments you loved seeing them. As I set about deciding where to place some of them in our home, I thought this would be a great time to practice photography skills while mixing up my new flea market finds with accessories I already had.

Early this week it was a dark and dreary night  day . . . . . It actually wasn’t dark, just cloudy and very, very cold. Not a day I wanted to venture out. All my flea market finds that I unpacked were still sitting on the kitchen island. Why not practice arranging some flea market vignettes and practice my photography skills at the same time? So I had a playdate with my camera and some of my favorite flea market purchases ~ old and new, mixing them up and arranging and rearranging.

Practice Your Photography Skills with Flea Market Vignettes

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So, have you ever just played with your camera? Slightly adjusted a setting just to see what difference it made in your image? Pretended you were photographing a shoot for HGTV? Pulled in an accessory or two and combined them in different ways? Switched out a pear for an apple (see below)? Added a throw or a pillow to a scene?

That’s exactly what I did for a couple of hours. It was not only fun, but very enlightening. I created my own teaching moments. So I want to show you what I did and you can practice your photography skills and do this little exercise too.

Benefits of Practicing Your Photography Skills

  • You will learn the settings on your camera and be more comfortable adjusting them.
  • You’ll become more familiar with the lighting in your home in a particular place.
  • You will see how easy it is to create multiple vignettes with just a few “ingredients”.
  • You will improve your eye for styling.
  • You will think more creatively.

My Photography Equipment

I’ve been using this equipment for 3 years and I love them all. Here’s what I wrote when I had just bought my camera, just 6 months after I started the blog (which was originally Bluesky Kitchen).

  • My DSLR camera is a Canon Rebel T5 ~ basically an entry level camera that I’ve had for 3 years; it’s great for a first DSLR camera.
  • I have 2 lens: the zoom kit lens that came with my camera and my Nifty Fifty Prime 50 mm lens for close ups ~ very reasonable. For this playdate I used my Nifty Fifty for all shots except a few at the end (I’ll tell you which ones.)
  • My tripod is a Vanguard ~ very light weight, with lots of adjustments and very reasonably priced.
  • I also use a remote shutter.

Yes, it has paint on it. Hazards of painting while shooting.

Remote shutter

TIP: ALWAYS use a tripod. You will get a cleaner shot, less “shake” and you won’t get tired of holding your camera.

TIP: Why Use a Remote?

  • It attaches directly to your camera and keeps you from bumping or shaking the camera.
  • You can stand at a distance from the camera to see angles and move around.
  • You can set the camera for delayed shooting and put yourself (or just your hands) in the photo.

The Set Up for Practicing My Photography

Rather than move the camera on the tripod around the house with different lighting, I decided to use 1 place to take all my images. The obvious place was my breakfast room table. WHy?

  • The breakfast room, even on a cloudy day, has the best light in our house. We have 2 very large windows on the south and east walls; sometimes the light is way too bright. On this day, there was fairly good light without any harsh winter sun from the south.
  • It was easy to bring items to the breakfast room table which has plenty of surface area.
  • I had room to move around the table to get different angles.

Camera Settings

As I mentioned, it was a little cloudy with no bright harsh light.  At times, clouds came and went so I had to adjust my settings. For most of these images, I used these settings:

  • Shutter Speed 1/60 ~ 1/100
  • Aperture F2.8 ~ F3.2
  • ISO 400 ~ 800

I also set my camera for Manual Focus. This setting is on your lens.

Auto Focus Manual Focus on lens

Your camera has to be set on the manual focus screen to use manual focus. I also have my camera set for back button focus, but half the time I use my remote shutter. (There are so many articles; I just picked these two.)

back button focus buttons

NOTE: I have learned so much from watching YouTube videos from Joanie Simon at The Bite Shop. Although she is a food photographer, so much of what she teaches applies to all photography. I highly recommend signing up for her weekly YouTube tutorials. That’s where I learned about using Manual Focus and back button focus.

I use Lightroom for batch editing all my images for blog posts.

Flea Market Vignette #1

My painted my breakfast room table matte white with Rescue Restore paint in Blessed, which is good for photography since it has minimal reflection. The burlap runner was left from Valentine’s and I left it for a rustic, organic background. For the first vignette, I used a white cake stand that I purchased a few weeks ago at Home Goods as a foundation. I love the detail on the edge. White is always a great background.

TIP: Use a tray, a placemat, napkin or a cake stand to create the background setting for your vignette. This immediately “groups” your items together.

white cake stand

Then I added the 10~inch twig wreath from my recent flea market shopping spree. I liked the rustic feel and the dark contrast with the white background. The clouds came in on this photo. I didn’t have it totally in focus.

cake stand with twig wreath

I had a bunch of white roses left over from Valentine’s that I wanted to dry. I tied them with a piece of twine. I liked where this vignette was going, but it needed a little color.

white cake stand, twig wreath and white roses

Out in the garage I keep a bag of green moss. Boy, it was cold out there, but I ventured out and brought in a handful. Greenery always adds an organic, natural look to any image. This vignette was easy to create. I did think the image could have been sharper.

white cake stand, twig wreath and white roses

Flea Market Vignette #2

For this vignette, I used my grey painted wood tray which usually sits on our coffee table. For another touch of grey, I added a grey candlestick that I painted at the beginning of the year. I had a rectangle as my base and the old candlestick gave the scene height and a contrasting shape. The white candle repeated the white of the table. I lowered my aperture to 2.8 to focus on the tray and give a little bokah to the background. I also moved back from the subject to let more background in the image.

This old grain bin brought in darker grey tones, but with more texture. I love this vintage piece that I found at Ballard & Blakely last year. Some faux hydrangeas from Pier 1 from 2 years ago provide the organic green needed. Now I have low, medium and high in the image.

Not quite done. You’ve heard the tip for planters: thriller, spiller and filler? I definitely needed some filler. Faux greyish twigs tied with wide ribbon provided both filler and a little spiller. You can also tell that the sun was coming out. I lowered my shutter speed from 1/60 to 1/100.

Flea Market Vignette # 3

For this vignette, I totally changed the foundation, bringing in several large books in tones of white and grey. I had wrapped one of the books in white craft paper. I didn’t try to line the books up too much. To stagger the height of the scene, I added a cupcake stand with a second white candle. Do you remember an old Alfred Hitchcock film, Bell, Book, and Candle? I thought of that, so I bought in the bell from Sweet Shark’s bar (call to Happy Hour!) The 3 sheets of rolled music added to the shapes, the patterns and the sence of  nostalgia.

books, candles, bell vignette

For variation, I just realigned the sheet music. I couldn’t decide if I liked the black holes that now are prominent. Once again, I moved my tripod to create an angle with the subjects on the table.

books, candles, bell vignette

I love this matte pear and switched out the candle for an object of a different shape, color and texture. Placing the pear on the cupcake stand stayed in the grey color scheme. Fortunately the sun light was staying constant and I didn’t have to adjust my camera settings. There was some shadow falling on the pear, but I liked the effect.

books, candles, bell vignette

Another variation: I still had some Granny Smith apples in the fridge and I love the pop of apple green they provided. But I wanted the apple to stand out more, so I moved my camera angle.

books, candles, bell vignette

Much better. I love that the green apple is in sharper focus than the green background. I also moved the slightly tarnished silver bell down to the foreground on a lower book. I also like the sheet music from the side view.

books, candles, bell vignette

Flea Market Vignette #4

Leaving only the stack of books as my base, I used a wire lantern for my element of height. A purchase from Tuesday Morning a few years ago, it was originally green. Some white and grey chalk paint gave it an older and softer look. I added the grey pear back. I really wanted to break up the all grey scheme, so in came the twig basket filled with the faux white tulips from that last shopping spree. This was probably the easiest vignette. The composition was simple, but pretty.

Just for fun, I switched out the tulips for the sheet music. I tried to let them “fall” out of the twig basket.

grey lantern, grey pear, sheet music

Flea Market Vignette #5

For the last vignette, I brought out this old milk crate, which has a grey tone, in Round Top about 3 years ago. I decided to try it as a container.

I brought over a few books wrapped in twine which I made last spring. I added another grey book to cover some of the wire. Once again, I wanted to bring in something organic with color. These roses from Valentines were sitting on an end table in a little 3~jar and wire container that I brought home from Atlanta about 3 years ago.  More moss acts as a filler and provides more color.

wire basket, roses, books

Lastly, I pulled the cashmere throw from our bed that Sweet Shark gave me for Christmas and draped it on the table. It cut down the white in the foreground and created warmth and texture.

I spent about 2 hours playing around, practicing my photography skills and crating these different flea market vignettes. Sometimes I would slightly adjust my Shutter Speed and ISO just to see out the lighting changed in the image. Or I would move the tripod closer or farther away from the vignette. Or I would move left or right to give a different perspective. All these adjustments helps your eye to see your subjects in a different way.

Keeping all my flea market vignettes centered on the breakfast room table helped my concentrate on the subjects and the camera settings.

Most of my edits in Lightroom were slight adjusts in Exposure, Sharpening and Cropping. Then I batch Sized, Watermarked, and Set for Orientation. My last step was to export the images to a folder.

Flea market vignette


Now, I not only had an afternoon of practicing my photography skills, but have a large number of photos for Instagram and posts (like this one).

So I have some questions for you:

What kind of camera do you use for photography?
Do you ever just play around with your camera?
What editing software do you use?
What vignette was your favorite?
What would you have done differently with the composition of the vignettes? Your camera settings?

I’d love to hear how you take photographs, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned here.

Oh, just so you know. I use PicMonkey for creating my text and overlays for Pinnable images (the graphic above.). Do you know how to do this?

So let’s so have some fun taking photos and creating those vignettes for our homes.

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  1. I love my little Canon Rebel, Carol! Glad you are enjoying yours. It is fun to play with the settings and swap out the lenses… I use a wide angle one a lot these days but I do pull out the 50mm when I want to do studies. The Canon wide angle is great for the fuzzy “bokkeh” background we are always looking for (unless something is quite a bit further behind what I am focusing on, my 50mm won’t create it).

    Happy photographing and I like all your thrifting finds!
    Barb 🙂
    p.s. Pinned to my Blogging 1,2,3 and Photography Tips board. <3

  2. Your shots look amazing! I really need to use my camera, but need to learn first.
    Thank you for joining my party to share your blog, I hope you will stop by often to share your talents! Hope you have a great week!

    1. Kim, that bell is special. Our older daughter gave it to sweet Shark a couple of Christmases ago. It stays on his bar for announcing that the bar is open!

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