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  • Writer's pictureMark Paterson

Going back to basics with Still Life photography

After all the hard work of studying for my BA in Photography over the last 3 years, and after a little break where I did NO PHOTOGRPHY for a few weeks, I began to refresh my memory with the skills that I hadn't used in a while. And the thing that I wish I had done more studio work. Not just shooting with models, but also creating still life images that required balancing the light so the product was evenly lit.

First up, I started with using whatever light was available to me at the time, and that was to use a lamp I had in my Living Room. So off I went, rummaging around the house to see what I could use to create a still life set up. Thankfully, I had an idea that I had been thinking about for a week or so. That idea was to shoot a juice bottle.

Once I had the object to photograph, the next step was to find something suitable to use as decoration. Step forward a chopping board and a tv dinner table. Once the scenario was set up, it was just a case of changing the colour of the board to get something that gave the look I was after. What do you think?

Juice bottle sitting on a red chopping board which is sitting on a tv dinner table
Juice bottle on a chopping board

Juice Bottle on a chopping board

Had I not told you what was there, do you think you would have spotted what was used? Now I was happy with the skill refresh, it was time to move on to something a little different. Next up, was the use of 1 flash light (otherwise known as a strobe light) to create something different.

For this I wanted to continue using my tv dinner table, but focus a something quite small, to get some details. For this, my wife loaned me one of her Wedding rings. I say 1, as her rings are a 3 piece set with today, tomorrow and forever, stamped on the inside of the ring. So using the tomorrow ring, I decided to focus on the "diamond" that was in it.

A close up of one of my Wife's wedding rings that come as a 3 ring set. Inscribed inside is the word TOMORROW
One of my Wife's Wedding Rings

One of my wife's Wedding Rings

For this, the strobe was placed above the ring, and the camera trigger the flash, which lit the ring up. I was able to get close in as I used a special lens, called a MACRO lens. What the MACRO lens does, is allows you to get closer to the object to capture more details. It also enable the object to "fill the frame" more.

The last leg of my "basic training" refresher course was to shoot something with 2 strobes. For this, I had to get something much larger, as well as having a backdrop set up on a support system to hold the paper. For this, I had just the thing. My guitar.

A still life shot of my red guitar sitting on the guitar stand and lit by 2 flash lights
My Hardky used guitar

My hardly used guitar

This was a little more tricky, as the face of the guitar was reflecting the light, so I had to find a solution to eliminate the hot spots which were visible. This was where I remembered something that a tutor once told me for photographing reflective surfaces. That entailed adjusting the light to such an angle that the light was not visible when the the camera took the image. So after a little trial and error, I became successful and managed to capture the image above.

Having not used flash very much over the past 3 years while I was studying, these little exercises helped keep the basic ideas fresh in my mind. So much so that it has enabled me to be more creative in what I shoot and has opened up a lot more opportunities for me.

NEXT TIME: Some "tech" speak and terminology and what they mean

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