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Still Life on a Budget

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Bonvilston
18 Jan 2012 - 7:44 PM

Here's my dilemma. I want to try some still life. nothing too sophisticated at this stage. I have no idea if I am going to be any good at it so I have to be careful of budget. I want to set up something at home. Can't spend 100s on lighting partly because I may not get into it and partly because I don't have it to spare. Don't have lots of spare large rooms and every window in the house has leaded squares across the window casting sharp shadows. I could hire a studio, but even if that worked out well I would not be able to recreate it at home.

In the light of all of this, can anyone suggest a cheap way to get a still life set up, preferably able to take shots with a dark background and low key lighting.

Not much of an ask eh ? Wink

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cattyal
cattyal e2 Member 95960 forum postscattyal vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
18 Jan 2012 - 7:51 PM

Take a look at the techniques section HERE. The first one on the list is an excellent example of just using a plain desk lamp - you don't need anything fancy Smile

Bonvilston
18 Jan 2012 - 7:59 PM

Thanks Alison. I will give these a try. When I get to the stage of your still life shots I will know I've got there !!! Grin

SueEley
SueEley e2 Member 8271 forum postsSueEley vcard Wales96 Constructive Critique Points
18 Jan 2012 - 8:02 PM

I have taken still life on my dining room table using natural light (I also have square panes, which are a bit of an issue to work around but sometimes it can work for you), desk lights and work lights (though the colour balance needs adjusting) - as still life doesn't move, as long as you have a tripod, it doesn't matter if you have longer exposures. I have used black velvet, black mounting board and other board/fabric as backgrounds. I have also used granite table mats as backgrounds for macro work. It can be nice to experiment with depth of field. I have also shot still life with shadows on white board on the floor to get a strong more or less mono shot. That used strong daylight and the pattern of the windows.

For low key, a chair on a table draped with black cloth or taped with black paper (which has less texture) to create a curve, a smallish subject at a reasonable distance in front of the back drop (to avoid seeing creases and texture) and play with whatever lights you have to try and get the effect you want. It's fun, but harder work than you might think - I find it involves a lot of 'Get down and look through the camera, get up and recompose the objects a little, get down look and move the camera a bit, move the light a bit, shoot one and start again'. Before you know it, you've been doing up and down 50 times! Probably you should avoid mixed types of lighting and shoot a reference frame with a grey card or other neutral grey, especially if using work lights which can have odd white balances. I have a quite powerful led white work light I got for under 40 - it doesn't even get hot and it is great fun to play with. Oh, and if you shoot glass, polish it! You won't notice all the dust till you get it on your computer, and it is a beast to clone out.

cattyal
cattyal e2 Member 95960 forum postscattyal vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
18 Jan 2012 - 8:02 PM

You're welcome Peter Smile

When you get to my stage of still life shots you'll know you're heading in the right direction - I'm a long way off producing masterpieces Smile One day though I'll get there!

chase
chase Critique Team 81115 forum postschase vcard England234 Constructive Critique Points
18 Jan 2012 - 11:03 PM

There are lots of things around the house you can use for subjects,one neat tip...get the ironing board out to use as a table,nice bit of height ajustment to avoid the bending down.
A small torch or desklamp will suffice for lighting & try using a small shaving mirror to reflect some light back onto your subjects too.
If you are concerned about the type of lighting you are using & white balance...don't have a grey card ?...then shoot in Raw & have a play with the WB in your editing program.
Hmmm....the leaded windows in your home could be used too,they make great shadows on an image.
A dark bg could be the back of your camera bag,a dark jacket/towel/plain sheeting.You can get large sheets of black thick paper for a couple of quid in a craft shop,a few bits of sellotape/blu-tac...instant bg.
Good luck.

SlowSong
SlowSong e2 Member 54169 forum postsSlowSong vcard England28 Constructive Critique Points
18 Jan 2012 - 11:08 PM

I do quite a few still lifes and all I use is my ironing board as a base, a bit of paper or cloth draped over it and stuck to the wardrobe at the back as a backdrop and one, maybe two, ordinary desk lamps. Sometimes only daylight and a reflective bit of card, or black card. You really don't need much at all. I always shoot RAW though.

Bonvilston
19 Jan 2012 - 11:26 AM

Thanks for all those suggestions. Only thing I am frightened of is that if I ask my wife if I can use the ironing board she may get the wrong idea Wink

Good suggestions though, which I will give a try to.

akh
akh e2 Member 101142 forum postsakh vcard United Kingdom5 Constructive Critique Points
19 Jan 2012 - 11:50 AM

I use the table in my kitchen for all of my still life and indoor floral shots. Luckily I have a window in the back door just to the right which provides different types of light depending on the time of day and the weather conditions outside. This shot shows how I work. The background is a piece of black velvet attached to the underside of some kitchen cupboards and the reflector is a piece of cardboard covered in kitchen foil. All of my shots are done using natural light. The background can be easily changed for other colours.

080130--056.jpg

Resulting shot.

080130--003.jpg

Tony

MeanGreeny
19 Jan 2012 - 11:57 AM

You might look up Andrew Sanderson and his images. He takes pictures of the most commonplace things around the home and makes them extraordinary - almost all by natural light.

Last Modified By MeanGreeny at 19 Jan 2012 - 11:57 AM
digicammad
digicammad  1121988 forum posts United Kingdom37 Constructive Critique Points
19 Jan 2012 - 12:10 PM

You can buy a tabletop light tent for not a lot of money (about 15 if I remember) and any adjustable desk lamp will do. I bought a couple of cheap flexi bedside lamps with halogen bulbs for about a fiver each.

Another option is to go to your local market or cheap fabric stall and get a length of black velour (or similar). You can sometimes find lengths of blackout material for not a lot of money.

Finally, keep an eye open for a second hand slide viewing lightbox, they can be used pretty effectively as backgrounds for macro work.

Ian

Bonvilston
19 Jan 2012 - 12:38 PM

Tony, Thanks for the contribution. It is useful to see a set up like yours to give a feel for what it actually might look like. Cheers

weseeyou
weseeyou  3112 forum posts
25 Jan 2012 - 8:04 PM

I'd take a look at Karl Taylor's free video tutorials . Coincidentally Karl sent me a video tutorial on DIY still life just the other day.
Hopefully the link will work for you. If not let me know .
link

Last Modified By Moderator Team at 25 Jan 2012 - 8:16 PM
StrayCat
StrayCat  1014407 forum posts Canada2 Constructive Critique Points
25 Jan 2012 - 8:09 PM

Doesn't work.Tongue

Bonvilston
25 Jan 2012 - 8:11 PM

Yep - same for me. Clicking the link just opens a new tab, but no webpage. Sad

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