The Mystery of Curtains

 

Think of the flowing curtains that shield you from the hot sun, keep pests and dust out and keep the house cool, regardless of the season. Besides performing these functions, curtains can also make for great photographs. Learn how to shoot these shimmery pieces of fabric and other material, hanging in your home or office, and make ethereal photographs.

The curtain acts like a good reflector, softening the light in this portrait of the boy. Photograph/Hans Thoursie.

The curtain acts like a good reflector, softening the light in this portrait of the boy. Photograph/Hans Thoursie.

Make Curtains the Main Subject
Curtains can be fascinating subjects to photograph. Whether it is ethnic Indian textiles, sheer fabrics or designer curtains the texture, fall, pattern and colours of each material will appear very different in a photograph. Explore different times of the day to photograph curtains, to highlight their beauty in the best manner possible. In the morning, for instance, when the sunlight passes through curtains, it brings in a glow to the cloth. During windy nights and breezy afternoons, curtains swing and dance playfully. You can use a slow shutterspeed to create an abstract or capture the blur caused by the movement of the curtains.

The light through the transparent curtain creates a beautiful flare that sets a mood. Photograph/Stephen Calsbeek.

The light through the transparent curtain creates a beautiful flare that sets a mood. Photograph/Stephen Calsbeek.

Use Them as a Backdrop
Instead of purchasing separate textured backdrops for studio shots, you can create a beautiful portrait by using curtains behind your main subject. Photograph an object or make a group portrait by making your subject stand in front of the curtains. Ensure that you keep some distance between the curtains and the subject to avoid unwanted shadows. If there is natural backlighting available, combine it with fl ash. This way you will be able to highlight the patterns and designs on the cloth, and yet ensure that the subject is well lit.

Curtains are not just made of fabric. Quite often, they are made of jute or other material that is strung together. You can use these unique textures to your advantage to create an unusual image. Photograph/Melodi T.

Curtains are not just made of fabric. Quite often, they are made of jute or other material that is strung together. You can use these unique textures to your advantage to create an unusual image. Photograph/Melodi T.

Create a Mood
Transparent or net curtains bring about a romantic feel and can also create a meloncholy mood in a picture. To enhance the natural ‘soulfulness’ of the curtain, try to include a human element in your frame. It could be a woman standing at the window with the curtains covering her, so that she is partly hidden. Or, you may photograph someone through these transparent curtains. Another advantage of translucent or sheer curtains is that they soften the harsh light coming through the windows. This is useful when you want to shoot a portrait using just window light.

This image speaks volumes about a home and its owner. Instead of looking for patterns and textures, you can even choose to concentrate on the elements that surround the curtain to create a sense of place. Photograph/Katarzyna Lipińska

This image speaks volumes about a home and its owner. Instead of looking for patterns and textures, you can even choose to concentrate on the elements that surround the curtain to create a sense of place. Photograph/Katarzyna Lipińska

Look for an Abstract View
Curtains have a beautiful quality that allows them to be used as abstract subjects for photography. Concentrate on bringing out bringing out the texture of the material. Use the Macro mode of your camera or a macro lens to focus on the fine threads that make up the fabric. Adopt a lower or higher vantage point to make the folds of the curtain apparent in the photograph. Another fun thing to do is to photograph a backlit, translucent curtain with one or more coloured lights. You will end up with some interesting results.

What looks like an extreme close-up of a piece of wood or even of the texture of a peculiar leaf, is actually a photograph of a curtain. Photograph/Nico van Diem.

What looks like an extreme close-up of a piece of wood or even of the texture of a peculiar leaf, is actually a photograph of a curtain. Photograph/Nico van Diem.

Tags: abstract, backdrop, cloth, curtains, delicate, ethereal, fabric, Macro, mood, other-worldly, patterns, portrait, shimmer, summer, texture