Still Life Photo Challenge (Cash Prizes)

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Challenge Winners Video Included

To get ON1 Plus 2017 off to a fun start, Blake and I decided to set this challenge for you guys. Each Plus community member was invited to prepare one new still life image to submit. We went through them and selected a winner, runner up and honorable mentions. First place won  $350. Second place received $150.

Blake and I had such hard time selecting these winners. Thanks to everyone for such a great set of submissions.

View the submission gallery

Here were the rules:

  1. The scene can be indoor or outdoor, meticulously arranged or carefully composed of elements you find in your journeys, just be sure to take your time artistically using the light and composition in order to convey the mood you are after.
  2. Edit to your heart’s content. From natural reproduction in good light to highly processed. No holds barred.
  3. One entry per Plus member.

Still life images present us with a chance to really obsess over elements, composition and light endlessly until we get just the image we are after. This is a challenge to look at the ordinary in an extraordinary way and then to convey that vision through a single image.

My own still life experience comes mainly through commercial work for wine distributors and travel assignments. I really enjoy the intense focus and creative thinking it requires to get every detail just right in the frame. For example to capture the Naked Earth wine photo below I poured a bag of potting soil on a trash bag covered little table that I set up on the shoulder of a busy road alongside a vineyard and lit the scene with two small strobes. I then spent hours getting every detail just right as people gawked at me on their evening commute.

Hudson Wine Work  Hudson Commercial Wine Work

Hudson J.W. Ihilani's Rooms Hudson Commercial Wine Work Hudson Food: Mixed grill

I highly suggest everyone look to some of the great still life photographers for inspiration before creating your images for submission. Two of my favorites are Andre Kertesz and Edward Weston.

Blake recommended looking at Marcel DuChamp’s Readymades (photographed sculptures of things in his studio) and the works of great still life painters like Luis Melendez.

Blake also had this to say about his own still life work:

“I have done a lot of these in the past.  I called them “Elementographs” and would collect things on my travels to the beach and bring them back to my apartment and photograph them.  I learned a lot about constructing my own compositions instead of shooting things that were in front of me (like landscapes).

The practice adds a whole different element to photography.  Not only are you composing with the camera, but in a way making uninteresting things interesting with your choice of light, design, and post processing techniques.”



How cool are those?

So there you have it: The Plus Still Life Challenge. Take your time, craft your image, get it ready to submit, and above all have fun.

53 comments on “Still Life Photo Challenge (Cash Prizes)”

  1. On January 11, 2017 at 3:06 pm Anastasios Konstantinidis wrote:

    oh, this is going to be a difficult one for me. never thought of shooting still life before. but the greater the challenge the more you grow. i think this weekend will be very interesting.

    1. On January 12, 2017 at 8:51 am Blake Rudis replied:

      It can be challenging, but rewarding when you get it right. We so often have compositions laid out in front of us as Photographers. The act of building a composition like a painter or sculptor is an act of true artistry!

  2. On January 12, 2017 at 8:54 am Jill wrote:

    With a foot of new snow where we are, it will have to be an indoor shot!

    Have you considered a couple of other (non-monetary) winner categories like most original and most humorous just to make the effort less serious?

    1. On January 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      What we do is produce a joint video where we announce the top 2 and then call out other deserving images. So those honorable mentions can be for a variety of reasons, but I like the idea…

      1. On January 13, 2017 at 7:46 pm Blake Rudis replied:

        I may have some ideas for those honorable mentions… we’ll talk Hudson :)

  3. On January 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm Heike wrote:

    You keep us quite busy this month – Blake, I’d bet this compositional challenge was your idea?
    Way out of my comfort zone, but I will the heck not skip it :)

    1. On January 12, 2017 at 1:12 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Ha, it was… Be glad. He talked me out of the self portrait idea (for now…) ;-)

      Glad to hear it.

    2. On January 13, 2017 at 7:45 pm Blake Rudis replied:

      haha, yeah, it was my idea. Hudson and I were bouncing ideas back and forth and this one stuck. He had some really great ones. His indoor challenge idea spurred this.

  4. On January 12, 2017 at 4:50 pm Michael Anderson wrote:

    Please wait for the new raw converter support package to be released in the next (?) weeks. Many of us got new cameras for the holidays and want images from them to be in part of the challenge.

    1. On January 12, 2017 at 9:45 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      I feel your pain Michael. I remember I had my Nikon D810 for many weeks before Lightroom recognized the RAW files from it. You may have to either use another camera or work on a Jpeg. But hey… if you control your lighting right and are careful with white balance then the Jpeg should be fine. Just be sure to shoot RAW+Jpeg to have the RAW for later when that update drops.

      There will be other challenges this year, don’t worry. Blake won’t be here next month, so we can’t delay this one he helped cook up with me.

  5. On January 12, 2017 at 5:03 pm Ray Laurence wrote:

    Enjoyed the educational suggestions. Still-life can be very challenging, but can bring out our creativity both in designing the subject matter and by using light in imaginative ways. A great challenge!

  6. On January 14, 2017 at 2:39 am Roberto Faccenda wrote:

    I have non experience in Still Life and I should admit I very confused about you really want (my english makes things worse).
    Do you want a brand new composition? Something we prepared right for the shoot?
    For instance: I have a photo of stones in front of the sea, but of course I did not put myself the stones there :). Can I consider it Still Life?
    Would you please help me understand (and forgive my ignorance)?

    1. On January 14, 2017 at 5:59 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Hey Roberto,

      No worries. Traditional Still life photography involves photographing some non-living things in a way you carefully organize and compose. Think of the window lit basket of fruit that artists paint. Food photography is “still life.” Photographing little dolls organized and posed is still life. Some of the examples I used are hybrids. I’ve included landscape backdrops and even a human (my wife Stacey), but the focal points of each scene are carefully composed lit things. Wine and food. Blake’s images are traditional still life images. The only subjects are the arranged things.

      We don’t care if you photograph things in the landscape, but we want you to obsess over the composition, arrangement, and light falling on things you want us to focus on. It can be natural or artificial light. You can use a landscape like I did for a background, or shoot it on a seamless background and digitally create a background. There are few rules, but the winning images will be of things carefully arranged in interesting light.

      Ideally you should create an image for this. We don’t want you submitting a film image from an art class last century, but if you have a recent still life image that you love, go ahead and submit it.

      Hope that helps.

      1. On January 14, 2017 at 6:11 pm Peter Pfeiffer replied:

        I’m really excited about this challenge. I’ve come up with 8 ideas some of which probably won’t pan out. Quick question – in my planning a couple of the ideas involved multiple images of different but related subjects that I’d “arrange” in the digital dark room – is this keeping in the spirit of this challenge?

      2. On January 15, 2017 at 1:13 am Roberto Faccenda replied:

        thanks a lot Hudson
        now it’s all perfectly clear

      3. On January 15, 2017 at 7:49 am Blake Rudis replied:

        Well said, Hudson. I just found my box of road treasures yesterday. I may submit something for fun :)

      4. On January 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm Laurie replied:

        Hey Hudson
        What do you kinda mean by “We don’t want you submitting a film image from an art class last century”

        I have a couple of images that were originally taken on film and while they are older images (but not quite last Century), definitely are possible contenders for an entry.

        PS. never done an art class in my life :)

      5. On January 16, 2017 at 2:33 pm Hudson Henry replied:

        What I mean is that we are looking for more recent images from you guys, idealy we’d like you craft a still life for this contest, but we also said there are not many rules. If you want to make your entry an older one, you can do so.

      6. On January 16, 2017 at 10:47 pm Laurie replied:

        Thanks for that! Gives me a better idea of what to aim for.
        this aint going to be easy. ONE image arrrrghhhhh……:)

  7. On January 15, 2017 at 11:42 am Hudson Henry wrote:

    Hey Peter,

    I’m going to toss out an idea for you. We are really looking for a single image entry from each student, but… That image could be a triptych like combination of images. Just make sure it’s one file that we look at.

    1. On January 15, 2017 at 12:19 pm Peter Pfeiffer replied:

      Thanks Hudson, I possibly wasn’t clear enough … a single image is exactly my intention … 2 of my prospects will require me to capture separate images that I intend to combine into my idea of a still life – a composite image if you like. It’s no big deal because I have at least 6 other prospects in the planning stage and I’m going to follow through on all eight – I just needed to clarify whether composites assembled to appear as a singular capture was within this challenges spirit?

  8. On January 15, 2017 at 8:11 pm Laurie wrote:

    Hi Hudson
    Where do I submit the image for this (and also – How?). Is there a separate upload location. I know I can upload images to the gallery but how do I choose a SPECIFIC gallery like for this contest or even the Critique area?

    Also when does entries for this finish. its gotta have stop time

    Im sorry Hudson. Im just being dumb, Still learning and also have a severe case of Brain Freeze.

    take care

    1. On January 15, 2017 at 9:12 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      No no, it’s an excellent question. We are days away from opening the submission gallery for this challenge. It will be on the Events page ( calendar sometime tomorrow and we plan to open submissions on the 17th. You can submit photos for the critique through tomorrow from this link (

      Any time you want to find a critique or challenge look to the Plus Categories drop down in the Blog’s Plus sidebar. Also the Events page is linked at the bottom of that Plus sidebar. I should make a little video to help folks navigate the site structure with more ease.

      1. On January 16, 2017 at 1:18 pm Laurie replied:

        Thank You Hudson!
        greatly appreciated and many thanks for the great effort you guys are putting in

        All the best !!

      2. On January 16, 2017 at 2:14 pm Janice Barkan replied:

        Hi Hudson,
        Cant submit for the photo critique. I thought it was going to close tomorrow. When trying to upload, It states that submissions are closed. Can you help?

      3. On January 16, 2017 at 2:46 pm Hudson Henry replied:

        Hey Janice, I don’t open and close the galleries so I can’t really assist on that, but please go ahead and email about it and I’m sure they will help.

      1. On January 17, 2017 at 4:22 pm Hudson Henry replied:

        We just opened submissions for this Challenge. They won’t close until the 27th.

  9. On January 18, 2017 at 8:55 pm Laurie wrote:

    Hi all

    Morning Hudson,
    I submitted an image to the contest gallery and then I realised there were some minor things I wanted changed.

    Did the changes and then realised that I cannot delete the old image either from the still-life or general community gallery. Nor it seems I cannot change/edit the existing image. So now I have 2 (two) images in the still life gallery when I should only have one.

    Surely there is a simple way of deleting one or more images from the gallery.
    As for editing, I realise that image editing could be problematic and not really of high priority or significance but what about some of the basic metadata stuff such as caption, copyright, keywords etc?

    many thanks

    1. On January 20, 2017 at 12:03 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Hey Laurie,

      We deleted your early image for you. It’s been a complicated road with submission galleries for the community. What seems like it should be a simple thing proves more complex than you’d think. The gallery usually adds metadata when it is present in the uploads, but I also have noticed that it doesn’t always. :( Every single available gallery solution out there (and we’ve looked at them all) seems to have one flaw or another. The gallery engine that ON1 Plus is using now is a huge improvement from our prior one in that it makes submission very easy and reliable. That is my number one concern as a coach. I want you guys to be able to get your images submitted without frustration.

      1. On January 20, 2017 at 4:39 pm Laurie replied:

        Thanks Hudson,
        did notice the image had been deleted and that is appreciated.
        totally agree that things NEVER go as planned. Think you have something fixed and then some other problems takes its place. And of course everyone is busy with RAW.
        I have some ideas/thoughts about the website/gallery etc but Im sure that you all are aware of anything I might raise and you certainly do not need me bugging you about things you are probably addressing already :)
        I like the gallery concept you guys have and I know that given time most of the problems will iron out and the Plus community will continue to grow to the benefit of everyone.

        Appreciate you taking the time to delete the extraneous image. Many thanks.

  10. On January 23, 2017 at 10:58 am Bohdan wrote:

    This is not related to the contest, but can I make a suggestion here? While reading all the comments, why aren’t the most recent comments listed first? Having to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the most recent comments is a little annoying. It gets worse when there are, oh lets say a 100 or more comments on the page. Just sayin…..

    1. On January 28, 2017 at 11:31 am Hudson Henry replied:

      Hey Bohdan,

      We’ve debated this a bit. It’s a tougher decision than the power blogger might think. Some people are confused by having to scroll down to see the start of a series of comments and prefer to scroll down reading top to bottom. I think if we were paginating comment, then it would be a no-brainer, but for now just drag that scroll slider to the bottom. ;-)

  11. On January 25, 2017 at 1:22 pm Marc Schoenholz wrote:

    Hi, I’m trying to upload an image in portrait orientation and it appears in the rectangle below the caption and key words in landscape orientation. It is also distorted.

    Image dimensions:633×1024@300dpi; 2.0 MB; sRGB.

    What should be changed to upload?


    1. On January 25, 2017 at 1:31 pm Marc Schoenholz replied:

      I decided to go ahead and load image and it loaded correctly. Sorry for the alert.


      1. On January 28, 2017 at 11:32 am Hudson Henry replied:

        Glad the issue resolved.

  12. On January 26, 2017 at 8:39 pm wrote:

    I’m sorry! I have two photos uploaded; the first one was a mistake, an incorrect version export, without my final edits. Would you be so kind as to delete the first entry please? Thank you in advance! :)britton

  13. On January 27, 2017 at 9:36 am Dolores wrote:

    The photo that I submitted a week or more ago has disappeared from the gallery. It appeared there right after I submitted it, but when I looked through the gallery this morning, it has disappeared. Can you find it?

    1. On January 27, 2017 at 9:37 am Dolores replied:

      Do I need to resubmit it? I certainly want it to be considered in the contest.

      1. On January 28, 2017 at 11:33 am Hudson Henry replied:

        Delores, I don’t see it on a run through submissions. Go ahead and resubmit. We will be disqualifying folks who submit multiple images (since the instructions clearly stated one image only), but we won’t disqualify someone if they uploaded the same image more than once due to technical difficulties. :-)

  14. On January 28, 2017 at 9:01 am Ronald Brown wrote:

    Gee I just missed the deadline. I uploaded it to the gallery anyway… enjoy and feel free to comment on it in there. Darn the deadline !!

      1. On January 29, 2017 at 6:18 pm speedbal replied:

        Oh good, thanks Hudson. I will submit it shortly.

  15. On January 30, 2017 at 2:10 pm Doug Welch wrote:

    Hi Hudson, didn’t get to see when the closing date was – I must have missed something! Anyway I sent my pic thro’ to the members gallery instead.
    Tell me – as in my case I dug up an image I took some time ago and processed it in Photo Raw is that acceptable or must it be taken when a contest is announced?

  16. On January 30, 2017 at 7:01 pm Laurie wrote:

    Some great entries!
    Good luck to all!

    Do not envy the work you have to do now Hudson :0 )

  17. On February 3, 2017 at 7:19 am Jennifer Stepanski wrote:

    Hudson and Blake: Thank you so much! I am thrilled that my photo was chosen for second place! I noticed the video last night after dinner so sat down with my family and watched the announcement together. They put up with my messy set in the living room for a few days while I worked on different versions and gave me feedback as I showed them options before I submitted my final image. So, I love that you posted a video that I was able to share with them.

    By the way Blake, the pants weren’t nearly as hard to style as you think. For materials I only needed a couple wadded pieces of printer paper and 8″ of floral wire. One of the reasons I personally love this photo is because it tricks the eye.

    Thank you, again!

    1. On February 3, 2017 at 4:57 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      Huge congrats Jennifer. I had fun critiquing your Egret photo too… I could see the same hand in both works. ;-)

    1. On February 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm Hudson Henry replied:

      It’s embedded at the top of this post. Also in another post at the top of the blog. :-)

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