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Top Still Life Photographers

Top Still Life Photographers - Here's a round up of just some of the still life talent we have on site.

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Niknut

Pieces of eight
'Pieces of Eight' by Niknut

How did you get into still life photography?
It's a subject I never tackled before - until I joined ePHOTOzine! Some of the still life images on the site were really inspiring, and got my old creative juices going.

I do drawing (pen & ink), water colour and oil painting, so it's an off shoot of that I suppose, whereby
my camera becomes the 'pen/brush' to create the final image. It's quicker, and offers a lot of scope in subject matter, lighting and post processing.

I spend a lot of time processing and adding textures to achieve the effect I'm after, trying to create
a 'mood' or 'nostalgia', depending on the subject. The most difficult part is dreaming up the subject in the first place. Something has to 'jolt' my old grey matter, or inspire me, to get me up and running.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
The shots are usually set up on my workbench in the garage, so it's all at a comfortable height!

The lighting is usually from an 'Anglepoise' lamp positioned high, and to the rear for back lighting, with
fill lighting from white reflectors positioned for best effect, though sometimes a set-up might be
lit solely from candlelight or include candles in the set-up. It makes for a very controllable arrangement,
though I'm very careful with naked flames with a fire extinguisher waiting alongside!

The camera is placed on a tripod, with various home-made devices to prevent lens flare and I fire the shutter via the self timer so I don't create any shake. I usually take 3 or 4 exposures varying the aperture, and choosing the best exposure/depth of field for the best effect.

What draws you to still life photography?
I'm drawn to still life work simply because it's a bit of a challenge. My main interest is landscape work, which I find relatively easy compared to still life, so I like a bit of a challenge now and then.

sherring

stuff by sherring
'Stuff' by sherring

How did you get into still life photography?
To be honest I don’t think I do that much still life work compared to all the other things I shoot, I don’t always have the patience for it. I do, though, like to try my hand at all types of photography as for me it’s all about becoming a more competent, all-round photographer who is not afraid to undertake any type of assignment. So I like to experiment and try to recreate images that I have seen, using objects that I can readily lay my hands on and set up. With still life I can do that all in the comfort of my own home. I guess I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none! Still Life is one genre that I am always striving to become better at.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
Most of my still life work comes about if I see some nice light coming in through one of my windows and I can find something interesting to place into that light to shoot. I have a variety of backgrounds that I use ranging from sheets of A1 art paper to wall paper samples taken from a well-known chain of DIY stores, very cheap and versatile too. I also make my own reflectors using thick white card and tin foil, which I stick to the back side of the white card. It’s all very Heath Robinson but it works.

I tend to use my Nikkor 60mm Macro lens mounted to my Nikon D300 on a tripod and use the Liveview function for framing and focus. I then take an initial shot and check the histogram for exposure and adjust settings as required so as not to clip any highlights. I will then add any reflectors to try to lighten up the shadow areas and balance up the image. I may also use black flags to lessen any distracting reflections on any shiny elements in the scene, these are made by sticking black felt to card. Then it’s just a matter of shooting away, trying different viewpoints and backgrounds until I either get something I am happy with or run out of patience.

What draws you to still life photography?
As for what draws me to still life photography, well I guess it’s all about control. I can position things where and how I want to and also have more control over the lighting compared to when I'm shooting outdoors.


JanieB43

maple drops
'Maple Drops' by JanieB43

How did you get into still life photography?
I got into still life photography by accident really. Usually landscapes are my thing but being confined to the house and having withdrawal symptoms, plus a very itchy shutter finger I decided to try my hand at still life. I started with the old favourites - bunches of flowers and baskets of fruit but found the images I made from these were really rather tame and lack lustre so after seeing an article on water droplets in still life photography I thought I'd have a go.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I bought some gerberas, made up some saline solution (the drops hold their shape better than plain water) and borrowed one of my daughter's insulin syringes for precision placement of the droplets. I get a real buzz from being able to place the drop so it refracts an image of part of the flower, like a micro world inside a bubble, if you have a look through my portfolio you'll see what I mean. My other still lifes have a touch of the classical about them and involve a lot of work with layering textures and backgrounds in the production of the final image. I have several of this kind of image in my portfolio. I usually come up with a theme and then choose the subjects to suit e.g. the "harvest" themed ones portraying pumpkins, squash, conkers and autumn coloured leaves - one of these works took me around 10-15 hours of work in total.

My set-up couldn't be simpler - a small table, some soft natural light from a window, either a board or neutral coloured cloth as a background, a tripod, my trusty Canon 7D and my Canon 50mm compact macro lens, which serves me well but I'd love to upgrade to the 100mm IS version. I always focus manually and use the mirror lock up and 2 second timer facilities on my camera to reduce camera shake. I also use live view to make sure my point of focus is pin sharp specially for the droplet images. I always shoot in RAW and post production is done in Lightroom 4 and CS5.

What draws you to still life photography?
The thing that draws me to still life photography is the fact that whatever the weather is doing outside you can always stay warm and cosy indoors and the only limit is your imagination. Wonderful still life photography can be produced on a very meagre budget and the best thing about doing it digitally is that you can experiment with the same props time and time again until you're happy with the final image - no hanging around for the right light or the right cloud cover, no early starts or late nights and if you're as obsessed as me and have the right knack with layers etc in Photoshop you can produce some fantastic results good enough to grace any wall!

RobD

first bite
'First Bite' by RobD

How did you get into still life photography?
A glance at my website or portfolio will show you that where photography is concerned I am something of a dilettante. Although travel and landscape predominate, surf photography, natural history and a variety of other genres feature and still life work has been a relatively recent area of exploration, particularly for those days when the weather doesn't co-operate for landscape.

The starting point for me was painting, and in particular Spanish still life painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries; painters like Juan Sanchez Cotan who exploits the tenebrismo technique, austerely lit objects against a dark background. My own early photographic experiments were shot in a dark room using a long exposure and lighting the still life arrangement with flickering torchlight, often blending two or more exposures, particularly if candlelight was included in the composition. However, I quickly came to the conclusion that the lighting set up was too severe and too limiting and my preference now is to use natural window light, diffused with baking paper, calico sheeting, paper etc. depending on the effect I am after.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I will take at least three exposures of each composition, more if the set-up includes highlights such as candlelight or reflected highlights in glass etc.

Processing may involve running the image through HDR software such as Photomatix and blending sections of the resulting image with the original. Duplicating the resulting image and using the Multiply blending mode is particularly useful to selectively intensify the background gloom, using a layer mask to paint back in areas where the light falls. I have a large selection of textures and these can be useful to accentuate the lighting effects, again using layer masks.

What draws you to still life photography?
As far as subject matter is concerned, there are opportunities all around. Travelling in central Turkey earlier this year produced the Turkish still life series. I had the use of some fantastic artefacts from an antique shop in return for taking some publicity photos for the shop owner.

I've got a number of still life projects in mind; I just need to find the time to fit them around my other photographic interests.

cattyal

cattyal
 'Pumpkins and Garlic' by cattyal

How did you get into still life photography?
I started doing still life photography about 3 years ago when I was able to convert a large bedroom into a studio. Prior to that most of my images were of flowers shot on various window sills or self portraits but for some unknown reason one day I decided it was time to try still life.

Fortunately being something of an eclectic collector of ‘junk’ I already had a reasonable collection of bits and pieces to photograph and over the last few years my collection has grown exponentially to include mannequins, animal skulls, leather suitcases, top hats – the ‘studio’ is now a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of goodies – as is the spare room, and every surface in the house!

I bought myself one of those clothes rails on castors and on one side attached a sheet of white colormat and on the other a piece of nondescript neutral brown fabric. A collection of clamps enables me to attach other bits of fabric as required and that, coupled with a fold down picnic table, makes a very useful space to take my photos.

Initially I had a couple of single bulb cool-lights but then moved on to a pair of 3 bulb cool-lights. They were great for a while, but eventually came the time when I had to kit myself out with a proper set of strobes so bought two 250w heads. Add to that one softbox, an assortment of brollies, beauty dishes, snoot and barn doors and most requirements are catered for.

Talk us through how you would set up and take a shot.
Having set up the table and appropriate background I start off with what I plan to be the high point. I don’t make a special effort to adhere to any compositional rules but the notion of a triangular arrangement really does make sense and is far easier on the eye than a mishmash of bits plonked down.

Once I’ve got the first piece in place then I frequently end up piling too much onto the table and gradually take bits away until the arrangement looks reasonable. Then a few images are taken, viewed in camera and items get rearranged again!

My favourite lighting technique is to use one unit with the barn doors attached high up to one side or slightly behind the arrangement – the idea being to simulate light coming in from a small high window. I supplement that often by using a large sheet of foamboard into which I have cut a rectangle. I hold this between the light and arrangement moving it about taking photographs all the time and noting where the light falls. Of course I can never get it in the same place twice but close.

Another sheet of white foamboard propped up on the other side of the arrangement helps to push a bit of light back into the shadows. You will frequently find me holding a sheet of foamboard in each hand plus the camera remote waving them all about whilst taking photographs.

Of course once I’ve finished taking the photographs then it’s off to the computer where careful perusal, brutal deletion and finally experimenting with the final images. Usually this involves a combination of the Lucisart Whyeth plugin, Topaz Adjust (more frequently) and a texture layer – along with whatever adjustments take my fancy or I’m currently obsessed with!

What draws you to still life photography?
Apart from it being a good excuse to keep trawling antique/junk shops and a good way to use all the bits and bobs I simply can’t resist, I do find it enjoyable simply to attempt to put together an attractive or interesting arrangement and experiment with lighting.

Plus, I’m lucky enough to have a room where everything can be left out so I can return to arrangements at any time without having to clear space first and tidy up afterwards.

Of course Vanitas' paintings of the 16th and 17th century offer considerable inspiration and frustration at my inability to replicate the light and inability to find the props I want!

It’s just an on going challenge – I’m sure I’ll never be 100% happy with the images I produce but I thoroughly enjoy trying!

chase

things in the attic by chase
'Things in the attic' by chase

How did you get into still life photography?
Still life just evolved for me. I live fairly 'out in the sticks' and hate driving to places I don't know, so I decided to use things in and around my home, plus it saves petrol! After time I found I needed more and more 'things' to complete an image that I had in my mind. I asked my work colleagues and my family for old stuff that was interesting and different and my collection of objects grew steadily.

Talk us through how you set up and take a shot.
I try to link objects, either by emotion, texture, colour etc. I use many things that mean something to me.
Composition is so very important, the objects used in a still life are just that, still and static, so an image has to be interesting and draw the viewer into the frame.

Lighting my subjects brings them to life and that is the part I enjoy the most. I start by using daylight as a source and look where the light and shadows appear in order to give the image some depth and form. I then decide where extra light/shade is needed and use small reflectors to push light where there isn't enough and a piece of black card to stop some light where there is too much. I take a few frames along the way and review them on the back of the camera, checking the histogram as I go along. Once I have the right composition and light, no nasty bright bits, away we go!

I use the camera in manual mode and take my images in RAW format as it is much better for post processing.

What draws you to still life photography?
Texture, meaning and history have to be the answers. Something old usually has great texture and presence which can be brought out during post processing. Taking objects and putting them together always has great meaning to me; where did they come from? What were they used for? Who used them? All these things have to link together.

I love collecting bits from different sources that I need for an image, and once I have them all together it's a 'wow' moment. It really does give me a buzz.

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Comments


JackAllTog e2
5 3.5k 58 United Kingdom
27 Dec 2012 9:25AM
Super collection of Still lifers, Still life is great as you can bring so much to a photo in such a small and controlled environment. I love the warmth, emotion and drama these people are able to bring into a photo.
If I can suggest another I found when I first joined epZ - its Gary Hicken - http://www.ephotozine.com/user/garyhickin-114718 , As well as those above I also find him inspirational and super with post processing.

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