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Coffe time

By Lakkou  
A photo of a coffe cup and a piece of black chocolate.
I'm not sure if the current use of the light is adequate.

Tags: Still life Coffee Coffe cup

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dark_lord Plus
17 2.9k 795 England
19 Oct 2017 9:13PM
This is direct on-camera flash and is very unsympathetic to nearly all images.
I take it from your description that you're not happy with it either. Some people will be happy with the effect and if it's what they want then fine. But there's lots that can be done.

Deicde if you want shadows present or if you want shadowless.

Let's think about shadows. These can invoke mood and sometimes lots of it. The light source will need to positioned away rom the camera axis (not on it as with direct flash here). So forget the built in flash. A separate flashgun will need to be positioned remotely and have some way of being triggered by the camera. That's a whole field in itself so I won't go into details here. Alternatively, forget flash and use an LED lamp for example. In either case you may need to soften the light using a diffuser. So you could go for an effect simulating a coffee bar in the afternoon or a moodier traditional cafe.

For shadowless you'll need to diffuse the light even more. Ideally shoot the subject in a light tent with the light source outside the tent. A light tent is basically a cube made of diffusing materia which softens the light considerably. That too needs off camera lighting.You can use it outdoors (providing it's not windy!). That too needs off camera lighting.

If you oly have thr built i flash you can try placing some diffusing material ofer it (a layer of paper tissue is often reccommended). While it won't hide the characteristic look you have above, it will be softer with less deep shadows and les burned out highlights.

As for the arrangement, keep things simple. Apart from an odd number of objects being more pleasing, having two spoons as such here looks a little strange (unless there's some reason for them that I'm not aware of) so oe spoon would do.

I like the piece of chocolate at an angle as it looks less formal (after all a coffee is what we have when we relax to take a break) and the two bubbles in the coffee are an attractive touch.
Lakkou 4 Tunisia
19 Oct 2017 9:49PM
Thank you Keith,

Yes I was not happy with the lighting, I spent more than three hours adjusting lights(I made a lot of coffe cups to get these bubbles), actually the point is that I have only built in flash and I didn't like the reflexion, I used to expose the cup with a led lamp (7W) but the result is even worse, so I moved the lamp 90cm up and moved the direction from up-down to left-right I get a better lighting but even the lamp is in a higher level than the cup the shadow is still there (small contrast but it's there). as a final try I used the built in flash to eliminate the shadow of the lamp.

I'm going to look on how to make a light tent and do it my self in the other hand I liked the idea to use the paper tissue with the biolt in (I already tried it and it works fine)

Thank you again for your comment and help

dark_lord Plus
17 2.9k 795 England
20 Oct 2017 9:02AM
Thanks for the reply Akram.

It's good to see you experimenting with lighting.

There is a huge number of ways to control light, so look around for as many tutorials as you can. Some will be more helpful than others. Some will be quite complex or expensive but you can maybe take an idea from them.

Another thought.
Using your LED lamp you could bounce the light from a reflector. This could be nothing more than a piece of white A4 card for example, so something very inexpensive. The light source then effectively becomes that card, and being larger in size than the lamp will be a softer light source. You may need to experiment with the distance between the lamp and the card but you'll be able see the shadows soften and move on your subject. Exposure times will be longer but if you have a tripod that won't be a problem.
You can always use another piece of card to act as a reflector to further soften and lighten the shadows.

You could always try a piece of aluminium cooking foil as a reflector. The quality of light will be different again.

Do you have any shops or stalls that sell reflective panels that you put behind a car windscreen to help keep the car cool when it's parked in strong sunshine?
If you do, then the plain silver ones make very good reflectors for photography, and are light, portable and fold up.
And they are much cheaper than something you'd buy from a photographic shop Smile
Lakkou 4 Tunisia
20 Oct 2017 9:09AM
Thank you Keith,

I'll watch tutorials video on youtube, the use of aluminium foil is a good idea as well as the reflective panels, thank you for the ideas.

dudler Plus
18 1.8k 1895 England
20 Oct 2017 11:13AM
I actually quite like the stark effect of the flash...

Control is the name of the game with still life, and there's a lot to like in this.

And three suggestions:

1 crop tighter;
2 move the spoons to the left, and maybe angle at least one of them;
3 smaller aperture, so that the bubbles on the coffee are as sharp as the chocolate.

On-camera flash doesn't usually work: and off-camera setups are relatively costly: if you are going to spend money, I'd go for mains flash units with modelling lamps - the price is competitive with the more attractive 'speedlights' these days.
Lakkou 4 Tunisia
20 Oct 2017 11:23AM
Thank you John,
three value suggestions, I didn't finish with this coffe time, I take sonme time of reflexion and exercise (and also make my light tent) and I will try again the shot and take your suggestions in consideration.

TanyaH Plus
18 1.3k 411 United Kingdom
20 Oct 2017 1:25PM
There's some great advice above, Akram Smile The key thing is to keep at it until you start getting the results you want.

I do like your composition above - it's very neat and tidy, nicely laid out and (being a lover of both coffee and chocolate - often at the same time) it's evoking a slightly mouth-watering sensation, so as a visual stimulus it's working a treat!

I guess my only contribution to this from a critique point of view would be to consider your background more carefully. While there's nothing at all wrong with the cloth you've used above, it's very light in tone (which may not help when you've got lots of light bouncing around, because it will act as its own reflector!). It's also slightly textured, which I personally don't like. The other thing is on the bottom edge, just underneath where the chocolate is, you've got a slight wrinkle which is showing up massively, due to the shadows. That kind of thing can easily pull the eye away from the rest of the image.

You could try more natural surfaces, if you're able to - things like wood, slate, even concrete. Yes, they're also textured but because it's a natural texture the eye skips past that in some ways. I also think a darker surface (i.e. the dark grey of a slab of slate or something similar) would go a long way to showcasing the colours and forms of the rest of the elements of the scene.

Lakkou 4 Tunisia
20 Oct 2017 7:05PM
Thank you Tanya,
I have two colours of this tissue one is white the second is black, the black one hided (in my opinion) the importance of the coffee, so I used the white one, the use of natural surfaces is interesting I'm even thinking on something seen in the backyard. I'm goint to make another shot of coffe time probably in few days taking all the suggestions I hope you'll see it.

Thank you again


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