Dina Belenko is a creative still-life photographer from Russia. Her artistic images capture magical stories behind everyday inanimate objects. In this tutorial, Dina shares 5 easy and cool ideas to help you come up with subjects for photo shoots. Get on and get inspired to try these out!

Looking for an idea for your next photo? Or maybe you want to try something new, but don’t know where to begin exactly. Here are five ideas for photography subjects which have a lot of potential. They are simple, but multi-faceted. They don’t require extra cost, but when done right, they can look pretty impressive. Perhaps one of them is exactly what you are looking for. Read on!

1. Smoke
By itself, smoke is a malleable and interesting subject for shooting. It works best to create a mysterious and enigmatic atmosphere. Try to make smoke the hero of your photo’s story—cryptic, mystical, creepy—and it will serve you well.

To achieve the smoke effect, I usually use aroma sticks. They are cheaper than getting a fog machine, more accessible than dry ice, and safer than working with open flames. You just have to be careful with ashes, and shoot in a well-ventilated room.

2. Sparklers
It’s not just a New Year’s Eve trinket—it’s a small fireball. Or it can be a miniature comet. To achieve a comet effect out of sparklers, light the sparkler, set the slow shutter speed, and change the direction of sparks with a stream of air to create a comet’s tail. To change the direction of sparks, you can use a fan, or a sheet of cardboard.

Make the sparks bounce from objects in your still-life photo set up, or even from the body of the model. It does not hurt, but you have to be very careful around your model’s eyes. These little fiery trails—invisible to the human eye in reality—can really make a dull photo fascinating.

3. Chalk Drawing
You can create a new reality for ordinary objects by simply transformating them with a couple of chalk lines. The combination of flat drawing and volumetric photos is always a good solution. You can easily turn one thing or the other, or even create a whole new space. All you need is some chalk, a drawing surface, and you’ll to do some sketching.

4. Text Inscriptions
I like texts made out of various objects, like flowers, toys, ink stains, tools, pens, anything. It’s very interesting to watch how a cup of coffee turns into the letter “A”. And even more interesting is when the material for letters is related to the content of the inscription. For example, you can make the words “Happy Birthday” from cakes and candles. There are two ways to do an inscription: The first way is to use objects to create letters directly. The second way is to place objects around the empty space in the form of letters. The results will be different, but you can have fun with both.

5. Optical Illusions
This is my most favorite. It’s honestly much easier than you think. The whole secret is to put the camera at the right angle or position, and then the illusion will work. Try to recreate Penrose Steps, or an M.C. Escher-inspired scene out of something ordinary. For example, take a chocolate cake and turn it into an infinite cake—what could be better than that?

I hope you found something useful here. Stay inspired and good luck with your next photo shoot! If you have any questions for me about my ideas and techniques, leave a comment for me below.

To see more of my work, you can follow me on 500px.