Still Life Photography: Make a Perfect Breakfast Picture | Mariya Popandopulo | Skillshare

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Still Life Photography: Make a Perfect Breakfast Picture

teacher avatar Mariya Popandopulo, Photographer & Illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class trailer


    • 2.

      Class project


    • 3.



    • 4.



    • 5.

      Color and surroundings


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Angle, picture orientation and focus


    • 8.

      Example 1


    • 9.

      Example 2


    • 10.

      Example 3


    • 11.



    • 12.

      Making a collage


    • 13.

      Class project


    • 14.



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About This Class

Still life is a fun and fulfilling place to practice your photography skills. You can go at your own pace, there are no limitations as where to take your pictures and the space you require can be as small as a coffee tray (coffee trays come in different sizes of course =) It's versatile and most of all it is not as hard as it may seem, once you know a few tricks about composition, lighting and props. 

In this class I will show you step by step how to set up a beautiful still life picture.


Class Outline

  • Still life photography. Mariya will teach you still life photography by sharing her tips for how to take better pictures by improving your lighting, color coordination, household props, and composition. In her class, photography is fun, simple, and easy. You’ll be shooting beautiful breakfast images and other still life pictures in no time!
  • Creating your own. You will create two photographs of a breakfast meal that complement each other in a photo collage. With Mariya’s help, you will choose your props, set up your lighting, and practice making compositions by shooting the same scene in multiple ways. Along the way, you’ll be encouraged to share your progress with Mariya and the class, and when you are finished, you’ll have gorgeous and completely distinct still life shots that can be displayed side by side.
  • Using light. Mariya will show you how to learn photography by guiding you through every element of a good shot – beginning with a lesson on light. You’ll follow along as she demonstrates how to go “light hunting” and encourages you to do the same. You’ll learn how to use the most even, natural lighting to enhance your still life, and the practical techniques you can depend on to reflect and diffuse indoor light when it’s less than flattering.
  • Choosing subjects and props. You will get to know how Mariya chooses her subject and her “supporting cast” – objects that she includes in her photographs to make a more complex and dynamic scene. Mariya will discuss different types of visual details that you can include in your work and will share her advice for selecting a background that effectively complements your subject.
  • Coordinating colors. There’s always room to get creative when it comes to choosing colors, but certain rules apply. In this lesson, Mariya chats about color theory, visual distractions, and easy tips for ensuring your subject always stays the center of attention.
  • Creating composition. There are no shortcuts to making great composition in photography. You will learn to create pleasing images by considering the rule of thirds, lines and movement, negative space, and framing techniques while setting up and shooting your photographs.
  • Angling your shots. Mariya will discuss the three angles that she relies on when she is creating dynamic still life photographs, and how to troubleshoot common challenges. She will explain basic angled shots, bird’s eye views, and eye-level images, how to correct for balance and subject overlap, and how to change a photo’s orientation from horizontal to portrait (or vice versa) without dramatically altering your composition’s effectiveness.
  • Exploring examples. Mariya will set up, correct, and photograph a variety of breakfast scenes. She will give you full access to her step-by-step approach to tackling every photography challenge - providing insight into her creative process and inspiring your own!  
  • Editing. You’ll learn how to use Adobe Lightroom to enhance still life photographs, correct for color, adjust exposure settings, and amplify contrast and warmth. You will also learn how to create a photo collage with the help of Adobe Photoshop, Picasa, and Mariya’s technical tips.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Mariya Popandopulo

Photographer & Illustrator


Hi! My name is Mariya and I am photographer and illustrator based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

I never could quite decide what do I love more - photography or illustrations, so Im doing both =D

I have illustrations portfolio on Behance

My preferred social media currently is Instagram (no surprise here =D)

I also post comics and doodles under Pinks&Roses name

See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Class trailer: Hi. My name is Maria and I'm a photographer based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Five years ago, I decided to learn photography as a Kobe. As I started. Still, life photography quickly became a favorite area of mine. It is not as demanding as portrait. I mean, you don't have a model who have to wait for you. Well, you set up your camera. You don't even have to leave your house. As in landscape photography, everything you need for a perfect sea life picture you already have, For example, your favorite mark filled with fresh coffee, hot tea, a book you just read, or even a beautiful old camera. I remember my first still life pictures and I remember frustration because they just did not want to look good. The composition was poor, I had no knowledge of light whatsoever. And I rarely considered colors and backgrounds all those little and big things that I have learned along the way. I want to share in this class to make your still life picture experience as stress free as possible. Because photography is meant to be fun. In this class, we will talk about light and how to find a good one in your house, we will discuss elements off the picture like the main object, props and background. I will give you a list of possible props you can use as your starting point. I will also mention color coordination and surroundings and why both are important to the final result. We will go from various aspects of composition and how you can set up your picture. Additionally, I will show you my picture making process step by step, showing how I developed composition with free examples. I will take you from my editing process, which is rather simple. And finally I will show you how to make a kalash for the class project. We will be creating a photo collage off to pictures of your breakfast that complement each other, So let's get started. 2. Class project: for the class project, we will be creating a photo collage off two pictures off your breakfast that complement each other. First of all, you will have to find the light, which is a minute project in itself, but it is very important. You will decide all the main object. You want to be a starving picture, gather props and backgrounds and equipped with the information from the class, make a composition and then make a picture. I encourage you to show progress of your composition in the class project to as I didn't mind, I ask you to make more than one picture for one simple reason. If you have to make a list to pictures and put them side by side, we cannot make the pictures the same or very similar. You have to get creative, takes them back more close, shuffled the old, just change the angle. This will help you get more creative and mindful of composition and surroundings. 3. Light: when making a stool is teacher, you have to consider as you auspice, such as life subject on the picture, props, background, surroundings, compositions, angle are inundations and focused. Seems like a lot, right, but we will take it step by step. So let's start with life. I will not surprise you if I say that light is one most important thing in photography. Before taking a still life picture, I suggest you finding your perfect light place in the house. There is good to be at least what it can be. Your bedroom location all lead in room unless you're into very consciously photography. I suggest you finding a place where light is evil. But before we go searching for that perfect life, you have to know tool, important strategies. How to improve available like, First of all, using natural light indoors involves windows. But when the light is most of the time quite direct, so good chances that your object will give very well lead from one side and the side facing window and watch list. So on the opposite, you know that, like more even use, Reflektor Reflektor is basically any light surface that can bounce the life from the light source back to the object. You can see on these two pictures how much reflector improves on life. Both shows will make one after another. Same place, same window life except on the right. I used a reflector. There is no need for expensive reflector. Actually, for the still life pictures, you don't have to buy a reflector at all. All you need is a few business of white office paper, but slightly so they can stand on their own. I used to be says, bent and half and have them to get over the staple. Another thing to know about light is that if it is very strong and direct, you might want to defuse it to make it more even. In this example, picture on the left was taken with somebody shining brightly outside and the light, a good was very strong with definitive shadows. Although I do like shadows and use them a lot. If you're just starting in photography, it is much easier to start with life that is even on the right side. Picture shows how much difference diffusing light can bring to the picture. And as with reflecting light, it is not necessary to buy expensive equipment, and most likely, you already haven't hope Everything you need and usual colored window shades will go perfectly. But if you don't have those and wife bed should will do the trick. Do not use shades off fabric that has some bright color, as it will bring unwanted color. Castor Your image. Best civil use way now that we know how to improve like let's go like hunting, grab your camera and an object of your choice. And don't forget reflector and diffuser and go around the house taking pictures. Stay close to the windows as those are your primary source of life. Go during morning or early afternoon hours while they're still playing two of natural life . Once you take a picture of your object at a specific location, take a step back and capture the allocation itself so you won't forget where the picture was taken. In this picture, you can see my table of results with some really weird Waas like purple picture at the bottom left corner. I will talk about it. Shorty, These are few off my results from like Hunting Southeast Window, a study room. There is not enough like after me day and even though I used reflector, the shadows are pretty strong. I know, however, if I go here during early morning hours, the light can require good, but I will need to his window shades to defuse it. Southeast window staircase. I specifically wanted to show you how it looks like when there is not enough like because we're too far from the window, the colors of blank and the picture looks fret. South window bathroom. The colors are soft and the light is even. I used both the white window shade and reflector here. Southwest window bedroom. First thing you know, this year is a weird purple color, and this is because the walls in the room I was red and purple color South southwest windows dining area. The windows in the dining room are large, so here is the example. If I take a picture without covering, when those with shape, there is a visible contrast between very well little left side and less lead right side. If, however, I will use shapes to partially deemed a light from the window, the quality off the light becomes much more even, and that is exactly what I'm looking for. So now you probably have your own set of pictures. You have to decide which one is the right one. I advise you first. The flow deep interest on your computer as cameras crease can be misleading the general idea of a good life. But when you get it, your picture is good enough without editing. The colors are natural, the light is even, and the oldest have volume. In my case, I had to locations where the light was good bathroom and dining room. Since I'm shooting food, I chose dining room for logistics reasons. It is much easier to bring coffee and the rest of the props there. All right, Once you find your life, let's lose to the elements of your composition. 4. Elements: So you just found the place where you will take your picture. Great how the job is done. Now let's gather the elements of the picture. Let's start with your main subject of a star of your picture. In my case, it is a cup of coffee. By May subject, I mean that I will focus my lands on this object first. If you want to take a picture off a dish, you just cook. It will definitely be the main start the supporting cast. Think of it as a supporting cast in the movie items that will tell a full story off your main objects. If your main object is a drink like tea or coffee, then food that goes with it can be your supporting cast, if you may subject is food like Cruz and Oh by or any other dish. Then drink that goes with it can be your supporting cast. Like in the movie, it is possible to have more than one leading actor. Focus would be on more than one object. Now let's stock props. Props are any additional objects to complete the scene? A few ideas for props, all that's of complementation items, spoons forks, knives, kitchen dolls, lifestyle objects, a phone, computer camera notebook, newspaper book, seasonal specials, autumn leaves, spring flowers, Christmas decorations, beatable Extras. Value a stick sugar, milk, coffee. An extra magic with additional life. Like can those Christmas lights moving on to background Background is where your objects will be placed. Background is as important as all other elements, as it will add to the overall feel off the image. A few ideas for Bagram, large, white or any other color is off paper or blank our compass so that any art supplies store large enough piece of cross paper, old wooden table or other old wooden surface provided you can drag into the place off. Would light wooden board, removable covered shelf kitchen towel. It can be approached and the background windows still. Why? I bet she if you want to make that breakfast in bed picture. But don't really appreciate the idea of food in your bed. My main advice when choosing your background that it has to be what it is. A background. It should not distract from the main subject and the props. A cheerful table clothes with lots of colors and an interesting pattern, maybe also on its own. But we take all the attention from human subjects 5. Color and surroundings: to make a beautiful picture. You also have to consider color coordination of objects. Cars can be your creative choice, but some colors just go better with others. I strongly advise you to study the color will and how colors go with each other until you're comfortable with matching many colors. I would recommend you taking just two or free for your picture. Like in these examples, Be mindful of your surroundings. They may not have much effect if you take your picture from directly a bus or at an angle. But if you decide to shoot your picture at a lower angle or directly like here, surroundings will be as important as your background. Well, they will become your background so the same principles will apply. Surroundings should not distract from human composition. Northern for Lauren color. This is particularly important if you're shooting with kid lands or your phone. Unlike prime lances with small epic sure, which can separate an object from Bagram by blurring the ladder into smooth, creamy colors, keep lenses or most camera phones will take much more objects and focus. And if your background is cluttered, Yuman object may get lost in picture solution find simple background white full piece of fabric was should from the bus so that the surroundings will not be included. This is also a reason why Bird's eye view is so popular on Instagram. 6. Composition: composition is what brings all your objects together. When it comes to composition, there are quite a few choices to choose from, and at first you might feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that will affect the final result. I normally consider several things rule authors, lines and movement. Negative space of feeling your frame, the angle. Big urination like portrait or landscape, and focus sounds like too much. In practice, you will make all the choices quite fast and most of the time, with not much thinking about it. So let's cover all those one by one, Sir Civil. Let's recall the rule of thirds, which I use most of the time. The basic idea is that you split your image into nine equal parts by drawing imaginary lines, free vertical and free horizontal like here. You don't even need to imagine them. As most off the cameras already have the guiding read on the screen, you can turn it on in the settings. Same both for a phone camera. The idea is that intersections off those lines are the perfect sports. Where yeoman objects should be placed. It will look more pleasing to the eye. Here, a few more examples. As you can see, I use it quite a look. My other favorite composition trick is using lines and movement so that the eye of the viewer will wander around the picture and will not be just focused on one item. You achieve that by adding extra elements to composition in front of your main object or behind it, moving on negative space. Negative space is an empty space around your subject. It usually takes up most off the picture. I mostly use it when I should one object like here. Why is it such a cold technic? It instantly draws all attention to your main subject. It makes pictures more simple. Inauthentic. Negative space is also a great place to put some writing onto your picture. Like here. If you don't want too much space on your image, feel your frame. You can do it by including all objects in full, as in the picture on the left. I personally prefer to let some items spill out of the frame, like on the picture. On the right. You can try framing techniques, police items in the corners of your composition to make a frame like here a book, a postcard and knife and sugar. Sometimes I use the all bulges directed to the center composition. See how the cup the spoon crossing are all directed to the centre. Also, try to engage your objects with each other. Like here, Spoon is placed partially on the book and not on its own. Now let's stop briefly about angle, Big Charente ation and focus. 7. Angle, picture orientation and focus: free main different angles I used when captured in still life. Our angle Sha birds are as usual, and I level shopped, so angle show it is what it is. You capture your image at an angle, depending all the angle. You might need to consider surroundings like in the picture on the right. Most of the time, the objects, if you use more than one, will be layered. See how little jar off Jim is behind the cup on the picture on the left. So it isn't Gordon to watch out for those over wrappings somewhere Look good, but somewhere not like this example. That jar does look out of place, so the image is better off without it. Bird's eye view is taken directly from above. It is all about how you place your subjects. Most of the time, all of them were being focused, so all of them was being perfect balance with each other. For example, the picture on the left see how canneries placed against the phone and the camera case forming a triangle. Well, golf in cross, um, balance the picture with warm colors being on the opposite sides of the picture. Sometimes if you should. Something off different hates. Some items will be out of focus, like in the picture on the right, so consider the hate of the items. Finally, I level is a show taken directly at your object as an angle show. You will also have to consider surroundings we talked about before. As your surroundings will ultimately become your background, they can considerably change the picture, as in my example. One more thing. The pretty much trade off. You have a beautiful mark. You wanted a picture off, so you go with my little shop. Obviously took up to that lovely picture. If you do, you will not be able to get to the drink. Maybe you don't need to keep charging, but if you do use other angle showed or birds a fuchsia or you can use them up, that is transparent. Now let's talk about orientation. The picture or inundation can be a personal choice. Right now, I'm much more like taking portrait shots of food and still like. But before I love taking horizontal ones important. No composition of your picture will have to change if you switch from one orientation to another. And he's a few items would have to be moved around to make a balanced picture. The example here shows what happens if you don't change composition when you change your orientation. The picture on the right doesn't look very well composed. Finally, focus. Always remember what you want your viewers to see first, what is the most important thing and focus on it? Here I took two pictures, but in one eye, focused on the spoon and in the other on the cross. And most of the time I would prefer to focus on the item that is higher. So normally in the sitting like this, 90% of the time I would focus on crossing. 8. Example 1: All right, let me show you three examples off my teacher taking process. I will start with a simple bird's eye view picture. This is how my sit up normally looks. Windows on the left shades down. I start with simple white by ground, every wooden board, which is a shell from a cardboard cut off course e and the white played with across. Although I do like colors and the lead is good to these first images somehow logs dynamics . So I tried to place all gets more opposite of a china by pushing them in opposite directions. Still looks pretty boring. So I had some brown sugar, which does add an interest but looks a bit old. And now I feel like the lower left corner looks to empty. So I had a spoon there. Remember I told you about items engaging with each other? Well, I think you can do it here by placing the spoon partially on the plate. It add dynamics to the picture. You can see that at the same time I had to have cross them, so it'll balance the spoon. I also noticed that the decoration on the plate on the previous picture is hidden by the cross and so remove the play to make it visible. It is all about the little things. No, I quite like what I get. But right now, the composition looks better if I crop it as a square as objects in the frame makeup for almost a perfect square. I, however, wanted to make a Patricia, so I'm more sure different kind. This time it looks OK, but now again, I feel that top part off the teacher is somehow heavier than the bottom. So I had more ground sugar next, the spun. I also make the white and brown sugar at the top more messy so that it will not look like I tried to heart. Which a talk to the dead. You know what? Let's add more sugar. Now. I please white sugar on the wooden board and then moved around to get the picture night. It's all about moving items around and finding a good balance between them, and I stop a picture. Nine. I'm quite happy with it, and it is important to stop at some point or you're going to be perfecting your image all day long. 9. Example 2: example. Number two Angle shop for this one. I decided to make a dark picture. Those are really popular lately, judging from Instagram fee. So here is my set up. I used office paper as both a reflector and a lot of diffuser also brought the small wooden table to the dining room just to show you how much feature can be improved with a simple white paper, this picture shows when nothing is done. You can clearly see that the left side is very duck while the right side is Willie. On the second picture, I used reflector but didn't know anything about the right side. The left side definitely improved the shadows. I'm also heavy anymore and you can see much more details there. However, I wanted the like to be more even. So I used white paper on the right side to the block some of the life from the window. The third feature looks more evenly lit. Now I have three items to start with a cup of coffee yet again, and Rachel camera and across them a gay. I start as before, just placing my items in the frame. I don't think I can't even call it a composition at this stage right now, I don't like that the camera is significantly higher than carbon crossing. To me, that looks unbalanced. So I need something to leave the items on the right after walking around the house, checking everywhere for suitable something that will not only eat the cup and crossing, but also an interesting composition. I find old letters. And that's how I arrived a picture to notice that went rearranging items. I place the cup differently. Well, I don't like how the handle looks here. It makes picture and this messy. So I turned it around to write a picture free Now Number free looks really good to me, but I love adding stuff to the picture. So I decided to add a spoon in the number four spoon looks barely visible as it overlaps with a person. I take it to the opposite side, but it is now catching quite a lot of like remember the window in my set up are on the right, so I settled with a spoon or roughly in the middle in number six. Once again, I do like the result but can improve it more. I want to add extra late to the bosom so that the composition will not look so linear as it is now. So I drug one envelope slightly, and now I'm totally happy with the results number. It is my final image. Remember, we talked about all the lapping objects in angle shots. Here is an example. The rest of camera in the background doesn't really add anything to the picture, so the composition looks better without it. OK, when doing still like shots, you'll really end up with just one picture. Usually you will make a lot while you're sitting up, but if you want more variety as a result, try different crop like chapter and today approves close to the already existing composition. But what shows how you crop the items in the number 11? I don't think I crossed the eventual camera well enough, so I moved to the left. You may remove some items and capture just one or two on their own. 13 and 14 looks great as a collage 10. Example 3: Okay, example, number free and I level shop. This time I decided to use windows as my background. Hence I'm shooting back like my set up looks very weird. The reason why I put my white background on top of a basket and a wooden box that the table in the dining room is lower than windows, stills and the color of bulls beneath those windows steals is yellow PT color, and I did not want annuals that in this particular picture, so I had to elevate my whole sit up. Also, you can see me using another basket as a place to hold my reflector. Those baskets are truly versatile, and while we're talking about reflectors once again, I want to emphasize the importance of reflected light. Here's how elated and pictures look with and without reflector. All right, I already stopped the composition. I like it quite a lot. The one thing I may want to change is the direction off the car to make it all directed to the center set up. Using this picture as an example, I would like to show you how choosing your colors after the picture, Although Blue does not look particularly bad here. In my opinion, it is too bright and grabs the attention from the main object, which is a red mark. Also, I want to repeat the importance off the surroundings. A simple change from one side to another can make or break the picture. The image looks too busy, the background is too dark and the colors did not look well with a set up. So watch out for your background and surroundings and keep it simple. 11. Editing: we're in the light from program my go to editing tool to enhance. Still, as pictures, this is the image will be working on. This is what we will get. So let's reset the settings right? This is the original file right now it looks black and unsaturated. Main reason is because I should enroll former and roll files a typically very black as opposed to J picks. Okay, I almost always start with lens correction. I don't know why I just like the picture to have the right former Before I go into any details, the lens correction section is all way down here I go into profile and check that enable profile corrections. Usually the program identifies Thailand's automatically, but with my 35 millimeters, it doesn't. So I choose Nikon, which is my last from the drop down mate. Now that's out of the way. I can start with exposure settings. I personally pictures to be a light and bright. And right now I think my picture is a is a bit dark be Alexe contrast So that stuff would like. I will up the exposure up to let's see 30 and I will bump the Contras to 25. Yeah, that looks OK. I think I still want to add a bit more contrast, but I can do differently using a tanker just under the total curve. There's a drop down menu and it stays and linear by default. I just medium contrast. Okay, this looks better, but still to there. Let's see what we can do about highlights and whites. Since I have quite a lot of white color in the image increasing the Y slide and we have okay, each of does look brighter. Now let's also up the highlights. Better. Here is the before and after. No, I think that the consciousness fine. The wife's okay, But I don't quite like the shadows. I love the shadow slider all right up about here, but the picture is now lighter. Now I think that the white bones is a big on the cooler side. So first I try the auto white balance toe here. I like pictures that are warm, especially if it is a food picture. I quite like how the autumn old worked here, So I live in as it is. But if you don't like it, you can always use lighters right up here. Okay. All in all, I like the results, but I won't colors to be more pronounced. One thing I can do is to go to a vibrant slider right here or for more distant results. I can use situation toe like this, but lately, especially if I showed similar colors like here, reds and oranges, I will go to cover collaboration settings. Those can be found right at the bottom of the settings. I increased the red primary situation slider to about 50. Okay, Almost a. I like the colors, but I would like to wake orange color slightly less saturated and intense. And instead of going into the saturation toe here, well, slightly increased the limits off oranges just a bit. Finally, let's clean the miss. You can see small boats on the white by ground I use here and here. So this deal with those using the spectral toe. Sometimes you have to readjust the something point and let's remove this one on the top of the cross. All right, here is the before and after a game. We haven't done much. We haven't used any presence. In short, with just increased saturation, increase exposure, using whites highlight explosion itself and shadows and increased confidence 12. Making a collage: So now I will show you how to make a collection. Usually I used for show for this purpose. There is a free bugging called the type panel. I will leave the lead boat. It is super easy and makes perfect colleges. All you have to do is open the black here. If you want to make two vertical short Kalash used at the top or bottom option, go to the folder where images are stored, choose bulls and he opened in a separate window. It will allow you to rearrange them. For example. I was this image to be on the right there risky and it's done. You just have to say you feel not have Photoshopped. Another option that you can use, although with less control, is the Gus application. It's a free application again. Find the folder where your images are and click this I can hear create class right now. He took all pictures from the folder and you need just to so quick select. Oh, and then he promotes all the images are now here on the left. And you didn't choose the ones unique. Just drugs into the kalash area. Okay, This does not look good, so we need to change page Former in settings right here. The standard screen option will normally were best for vertical images, but you can choose whatever you feel most curable. Make sure your image distribution is said toe. I'd agree. Tom Matzzie. I would like to separate images slightly, so I go to great spacing and move the slider slightly to the right. Good. By the way, you can also do clash with horizontal images. Get less. Remove this and choose the horizontal images like this. Don't forget to change the go to orientation. Now you just need to export the college by pressing. Create college bottom and you're done. 13. Class project: Now let's talk about your project for this project. I challenge you to make two pictures of your breakfast things you can do to arrive at two different pictures from the same set up. First, use different angles, said try different Iran Dacian Landscape, portrait or even square. Three. Work for different composition techniques. Negative space versus feel your friend. And don't forget about the rule of thirds. Try to create the movement. Four. Capture details off the image by making a tight crop picture of capture and items separately and five. Finally, don't forget to eat your breakfast. You surely deserved it. Have fun and I can't wait to see your results in the project gallery. 14. Congratulations: Congratulations. You have made it for the whole class. We've covered quite a lot of information. And if you're a beginner, please don't be overwhelmed. Take a step by step, starting with light off course. I really hope you can make good use off the tips and dignities discussed and make the project because practice will make it perfect. Good luck.