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Studio Photography With No Professional Equipment

ePHOTOzine member Philip Mccordall(Grampy)shows you how to produce professional looking still life shots without professional lighting.

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Words and image by Philip Mccordall (Grampy) -

Bottle and a glass - still life

Have you ever wanted to shoot some still life at home but don't have studio lighting? Well, with the advent of digital cameras and the ability to change white balance, it's now possible to shoot still life photos using existing lighting we have around our homes.

A standard way of shooting a bottle of wine would be by reflection, with a white card lit by a flash or tungsten spotlight. But if you don't have this type of lighting available, use what's around you which in our case is an angle poise lamp, with the card reflecting on the left hand side of the bottle. Why always the left? Well, in the same way as we read from left to right it is easier to read from light to dark. Having lit the left hand side with an angle poise lamp shining on the white card, we can then light the other side with a reflector which you can make from white card or silver foil if you don't own one. The background then may be lit as required with another bedside or standard light. The most important thing is not to allow any direct light to fall on the bottle to avoid any unwanted highlights. From then on it is up to the individual person to improve the image by cutting the reflectors to different shapes, many bottles and glasses require card that is narrower at the bottom than at the top or the reverse, depending on the shape of the subject. Small mirrors, silver card or even a torch can be used to add light here and there as required. Black card can be used to cut light and reflections that are not wanted.

Important things to remember:
  1. Set the white balance with only the main light switched on as this is the one that must be correct.
  2. Equip yourself with ways of holding reflectors steady (clothes pegs, bulldog clips, tape or even lean them against a bottle.) There is nothing worse than having everything falling down just before you shoot.
  3. Take your time, only move on to a second reflector or light when you are satisfied with the first.
  4. Still life must be done step by step.
This technique can be used for all still life subjects, with reflected light and direct light. With direct light try softening it a little with tracing paper hanging in front of the light but Please DO NOT clip them too close to the light as there may be a fire risk, as there is with any studio lighting.

If you would like to follow a step by step video with this technique go to: Mccordall Photography - Photographing a bottle and glass.

Words and image by Philip Mccordall (Grampy).

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