December Theme – Still Life

I hope our recent open meeting where we had a look at table top photography has given you an appetite for experimenting further with the topic. Getting started in Still Life Photography is easy as all you need is your camera,  a subject and a table by a window. The key to successful still life photography is to plan the shoot carefully before hand. Preparation is everything. Take your time to decide your set up then lay and test it out. Make small modifications one at a time and build it up until you’re happy.  It’s a good idea to use a tripod to discipline yourself. It’ll help you to slow down and check the setup as well as keeping camera square and in focus. A cable release will eliminate camera shake if you’re using a long exposure.

Window light is good but it limits you while using artificial light gives you more control. The two main artificial light sources are flash and constant light. Don’t forget that tungsten light has a warm colour temperature while flash is balanced to daylight. Constant light makes it easy to see what the light is doing to your subject while flash can be more powerful, but you’ll have to check your camera’s display to see its effect. Studio flash lighting has the advantage of having a constant preview light that simulates the flash, but it’s bulkier and less easy to manoeuvre. Flashguns are more portable and can be positioned easier to direct the light.

Whichever light source you use they can all be modified with reflectors or diffusers. Diffusing the light with an umbrella or translucent makes it smoother reducing the contrast and reflectors help to fill-in the shadows. A black card can be used to hide unwanted reflections.

While any camera can be used for still life photography it’s the lens choice and settings that determine its success. Generally speaking wide angle lenses aren’t used due to their distortion and they cover too much background. Lenses between 50 and 100mm tend to give better results. I would recommend using your camera fully manually. Focus on your chosen point then switch the focus to manual before recomposing. Set your exposure manually based on an exposure meter, a grey card or accessed by the camera’s histogram. this will prevent the auto exposure being influenced by a light or dark areas in the image.   The choice of aperture depends on the effect you want. Use a narrow aperture to get as much in focus as you can or a wide aperture to concentrate on a small detail.

Backgrounds area personal choice but it’s wise to use a neutral or subtle one so that it doesn’t over power the subject. A dark background can help to hide any shadows.

So get creative with your lighting and focusing and show your fellow members what you can do on your table top.

Peter.

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