Still Life

Old 43 and 45 (Two Photographs)

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Details of wartime Canadian nickels. Given shortages in some metals, coins were made of different mixtures of metals left over from the demands of the war effort.

 


Books (Two Photographs)

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Most of the studio photographers I know of have a few lighting patterns they rely on. Given the possibilities it’s understandable to choose a few that work for you. This is my side lit pattern with diffuser and soft box. (24×24 softbox and Easy Up stand with diffuser from Strobopro)


Souvenir

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This was a bronze souvenir from the Louvre. What I like about it is the texture. A simple highly diffused light above the camera did the trick.


Antiques

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The telescope and compass are brass reproductions from India, almost indistinguishable, except for their newness, from those used in early colonial days. The book is the Boys Own Annual 1899-1900.The lighting pattern here is a soft box to the side, shooting through a diffusion panel. Depending on the tilt of the box, the panel and strength of the flash in the box you can get more or less light fall off, I chose less. I placed the soft box higher, giving a darker table on the side of the soft box and more light farther out on the table.


Monochrome

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Shooting monochrome with flash has one potential pitfall. Your object can fade into the background and be unrecognizable. Specular highlights can help the composition, positioning them is a bit of work. In this case the light was above, behind and to the right of the bowl (see the shadow).


Product Shot (Two Photographs)h

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Most jewelry product shots are against a white background. You can buy a box made of diffusion material and the lights to put outside the diffusion to get a pure white background and a well lit product (cost from $50 CDN to $100CDN). I used two Elmer’s Bi-fold foam boards around the sides and a white foam board background (almost a square around the subject) as well as an acrylic white base (cost $27CDN). The flexibility of Elmer boards is helpful and you can always put another form board on top if it helps. The black version was done with a black foam board background and a black table, the light was a top down flash with a snoot just slightly in front of the watch. Good proof of concept if I want to do this again.


Onion (Two Photographs)

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I could not resist trying to shoot an onion. In the first photo, I backlit a piece using a snoot (a modifier for the flash that narrows the light to make spotlight). I hung the piece of onion from a miniature magic arm.


Two Lights and Three Reflectors

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The light on the left hit a white card on the right and reflected back on the cube, the light on the right hit a card on the left and fell back on the the subject. Another white card was held over the cube to illuminate the top with the light from the two flashes. A bit of tilt of the top reflector might have lit the background.


Shadow and Highlights

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By lighting from above and slightly in front of the subject the shadows and highlights are enhanced and give form to the scarf piled on the table.


Red Pepper

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I saw a similar photo on the web and decided I would try to emulate it. Not knowing how it was shot, I had to make some guesses. I clipped some black paper to a light stand and let it fall onto the table and then I clipped the bottom to the table, giving me a curved background. The light is to the side and fades across the face of the pepper. The highlights define the pepper.


Another Teapot

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Here I placed a light above and to the right of the teapot pot angled down, and placed a white card on the other side to reflect light back in the picture (hence the shadow in the middle). I let all the rest of the highlights and shadows stay as they fell. You can see a window etc. The idea was to give the post some life, a more elaborate effort would be needed to avoid all shadow and highlights and it might be very boring.


Arm Bracelet

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A silver object is going to reflect light, especially if directly lit. But the technique here was diffusion and feathering of the light. Feathering takes advantage of how light spreads before it fades. In this case, the light from a soft box is in front of the object and the spill off of that edge is lighting the subject. Just remember that light fades the farther it is from source (the “inverse ratio rule” if you want to look it up). So in this example the light is very close.


Tea Pots (Two Photographs)

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One thing that usually stops people from doing artificial light photography is fighting specular highlights (fancy name for bright spots). Highlights can occur even on non-reflective objects in some situations. Specular highlights may in fact be a good thing in some cases, helping to define the object. But most of the time annoying highlights are reduced or removed by taking the photograph from an angle that is not directly impacted by reflection plus using a lot of diffusion of the light (shower curtain, lite panel, soft box, bounce lighting off a wall or ceiling etc). In this case the teapots were done in what is known as low key light (dark). There is a faint light hitting the background for separation.


Lighting (Three Photographs)

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This week is about lighting, artificial lighting. I used flash but most of what I will feature could be done with LED lights, or in some cases regular light bulbs. This photo shows three different shots of a back lit book where several pages have been fanned. The key point here is that modest changes to lights and exposure can give dramatically different results. I like to experiment and this is a good example. A blue colour filter, over exposure and a more normal shot make up this trio.

 


Black and white Bubbles Bubbles No.1

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This a shot of some former bubbles and their remains.


PPAH (Pandemic Photography at Home)

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On YouTube there are several do it at home photography projects. Some interesting, some not so much. This week I am looking at bubbles. Six parts water, two parts glycerine, two parts dish soap and a straw. Messy and frustrating. You wait for the colour to emerge, hope the bubbles don’t burst before you shoot and depth of field is a devil. Hint: No.1: When working with bubble photography, the longer the bubble lasts the more colour.


Studio No.7

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In my experiments in still life photography, I have used some of what I have learned in doing macro and close up photography of insects in the field. But there is nothing like having every element of the photograph in your control. I start with a completely black photo, so that as I add light all the light is my decision, my creation.


Studio No.6

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As you can see I was working with things around the house. I may even try the same subject under different lighting patterns. I use black cardboard or a scarf for a background, the table is a 40 dollar Ikea table and I have placed a red hot plate under the cup. Black boards block light and white boards reflect light. There is a lot of fun in experimenting.


Studio No.5

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When studying table top photography a good understanding of diffusion helps, as well as the various tools to help with diffusion (not just soft boxes, but things like bed sheets and shower curtains). The larger the source of light and closer it is to the subject, the softer it will be and the farther away the harder the light.


Studio No.4

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There are some very good lessons on studio lighting on Youtube – see Adorama, for example. When they talk about one light lighting, they usual mean one light and a reflector (which could just be a piece of white board to fill in shadows). Still life, table top photography calls for ingenuity and inventiveness (e.g DIY).


Studio No.3

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Most things have reflective surfaces that can cause hot spots, some of these may help your composition, most will not. Spending time understanding the angles that reduce hot spots is a necessary skill (move the camera or the light, find the angle with the best light and least hot spots).


Studio No.2

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Most of the points I make will sound obvious but believe me they matter. The first is about dust, no matter how clean your surface seems, there will always be dust. You won’t see it in camera or even looking closely at the set but it is there. While some can be fixed in processing it’s good to have a blower and cloth and go over the set several times.


Studio Work

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This week I will write about doing still life photography at home (table top photography).  I use a real table and not a product box. I use different kinds of flash, mainly Godox brand; reliable and relatively inexpensive. I also use various stands and background, some store bought some DIY. Being able to control all the light and in doing so learn about light is a great way to improve my photography.


Shot With A Snoot (Three Photographs)

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A snoot is a funnel that narrows the light like a spotlight. The light is coming straight down. The bust of Lenin is from a trip to the Soviet Union back in the seventies when he was taken more seriously. The seashell is from East Africa. The silver bowl is an heirloom.