Still Life photography

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by kdough, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. This is my first time working in the studio. I'm supposed to come up
    with some still life shots with a medium format camera using tungsten
    lights. I'm aware that I will need to use a light meter and a tripod.
    I need some advice on how I should set up the lighting and also what
    type of a background to consider. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks
  2. hi K,
    your post is a tiny bit generic. so, i suggest that you start by giving us a hint (link or image) of something that you like, and might like to use as your target, either for the mood or lighting. and this can be a painting, a film still, or another photograph, but it will make it a lot easier for us all to give you any help. fundamentally you can use any light and any background, but everything will make a difference to the end resul that you will obtain.

  3. Yeah I agree this topic is a bit generic. This is a class assignment that is supposed to be shot on black & white film (125 iso). In the studio we have 250 and 500 watt tungsten lights. We also have a black and white pull-down sheet to use as a background. I have little to none experience with doing any studio work. I'll be back with a few example pictures that I would like to try to replicate.
  4. Well I haven't been able to find really anything good by searching thru Google. Mainly I would like some tips on what I should experiment with. Placement of lights? What to look for (shadows/reflections)? Anything that would be of use to me would be good to hear. Things to avoid? Sorry but if anybody have anything worth hearing, I would appreciate it. Thanks!
  5. hi K,
    well, limiting it to B+W makes lighting a lot simpler, in some regards. so what you need to look at is tone and contrast. also, you could easily light it with a single tungsten bulb, so i would suggest that 500w is overkill.

    Witkin uses B+W to create his interpretation of reniassance still life/genre paintings:

    and Bailey paints what often look photographic in his bizarre realsim:

    both of them being contemporary interpretations from the likes of this:

    but these are also still lives, of a different kind:

    so, what next?
  6. keep the background simple. keep the lighting simple too. I am surprised that your
    instructor isn't giving you instruction and doing demos about how to set up a simple still
    life and creating different lighting effects, etc.

    What school are you attending?
  7. Why don't you do something with flowers. I love doing this type stuff in my spare time. Soft light, soft focus and B/W and you have this...
  8. some lighting advice:

    relative to the object size you are lighting and subjectto the distance from the light to the
    object , a large light produces less contrasty lighitng than a small light.

    Lighting from near the front of the camera creates a flatter less dimensional look than
    lighting from a larger angle.

    Always try to light with one light first.

    Use white and/or silver "fill" (AKA "bounce") cards to fill in the shadows. Move them in or
    away and try at different angles to the light and camera until you are geting theeffect you
    desire. if bounce cards aren't doing the trick only then think about using a second or a
    third light.

    Pay attention to shadows as well as highlights.

    Light (mostly) moves in a straight line.

    The angle of reflection = angle of incidence.

    When it looks right from the cameras point of view, stop and shoot a test. If you don't like
    it think about what you you need to change and repeat until you are satisfied..
  9. Thanks for the suggestions thus far. Like that picture of the flower posted, how did you get the background to be completely black? I know you can use a black sheet as the background, but what would you set it on? In other words, how do you get an object to "stand" the way you want it to?
  10. start as simply as possible. if you can get a simple object against a simple background (white for example) to look good then you're getting somewhere. start with one light. when you have it how you want it, start thinkig about accenting other areas of the object. try out and use any and all kinds of reflective material for filling in shadows and highlighting. look at albert watson's brilliantly simplistic b&w stills (book: Cyclops) and see what can be done with nothing but a simple object against a white background.
  11. What are the advantages of using a medium format camera for this assignment, as opposed to using a 35 mm. I figured print quality would be better, but I'm wondering why wouldn't it be the same print quality as long as you are using the same film speed/ISO?

    Thanks again everybody. I think this will be a good learning experience for me. Any other suggestions are welcome.
  12. nz


    Size matters. All other things being equal bigger negative will produce better results.
  13. what an odd proposition, that bigger is better. from women to photographers, i guarantee you that size is subjective, and what matters is how you use it.

    a larger negative yields much higher grain density, using the same film. however a 35mm t-max 400 has higher density than a 120 on pan-f 50. so there would be no technical advantage in certain situations.

    also to consider, is that grain has its benefits. Scott, above, used a soft focus, or fluo filter to reduce the sharpness of the image. grain can also do this. grain is very good at hiding skin defects in models, and can completely change the mood of an image.

    size does matter, but no one is better than the other. you also have to take cost into consideration if you are a student, as on 645 format your film stock will cost approximately twice as much per frame as 35mm, and most labs also charge more for processing 120. i would generally advise that you stick with 35mm, and rattle off more variations on composition and lighting, rather than trying to obtain the highest detail with medium format.

  14. Hello K,
    About my flower shot... if you look at it, the background isn't completely black... the lower right was lit with a small snoot to give slightly more dimension. As per how I hang something or prop it up... you do it ANY way you can make it stable. I have put things in the air with mono so thin that you cannot even see it. This particular shot was in a glass held in with a stone in the bottom of the glass. I positioned my 4x5 so that the glass and edge of the table top is just out of the frame. The rose was lit with a small softbox and positioned above and behind the rose, feathering the light towards the camera. The background is just black seamless paper. For the softness, I used my Imagon soft focus lens with the f8 disk.
  15. Hi K, Try some Booze ! A bottle of Liquor, Lemons, Olives, Shot Glasses, Stuff we usually have around the house.... Manny D.
  16. On the main page of this Lighting Forum, on the right side, there's a catagory called Administration. Click on the Administraton section and you'll find Lighting Themes, most of which are still-life techniques and setups. All the information you need you can find there.

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