Still Life

Now that I have a little bit of down time, I took some time to work on other types of photography outside of portrait photography.  I recently shot a still life, because I wanted some photos to test my updated computer processing speeds in Lightroom and Photoshop.   I’m quite happy with the improved processing speeds of my updated computer, I’m also happy with how the still life photos came out.   

The inspiration for the still life photo came from two places, one while I was eating some mandarins at work and the old Dutch Masters.  Several of the Dutch Master still life paintings are simple with only a few elements and very low-key.  I will admit some of the painting may look very low-key due the paintings age and it needing to be cleaned to remove the soot build up from over the years and the darkening varnish.  However, I’m going to stick with the darker images I have seen in art museums.

Basic Shoot Set Up
For this shoot the set up was simple. I used a black backdrop laid across my kitchen table. The back drop was propped up in the back by a cardboard box.  I placed a speed light with a small soft box on a light stand to the camera’s right pointed down at the fruit. The flash was set to a 25mm zoom and 1/8 to ¼ power. I also had a white reflector on the camera’s left to reflect some light back into the image to ensure some definition and separation from the background, without loosing the low-key effect.  (See image to left.) For lens alternated between a 60mm macro and an 18-200mm lens with 51 and 66 frames shot between the two respectively.  I was shooting at ISO 100 with and F-stop between F9 to F20 with most frames being shot at F13.  My shutter speed ranged from 1/100s to 1/250s with most frames being shot at 1/250s.  The focal length ranged 24mm to 70mm with most a bulk of the frames being at 60mm (due fixed length lens) and 28mm. I shot 117 frames and kept 40 images.  

For the shots I build up gradually from five little mandarins to a full scene with apples, cheese, a cutting board, knife, a poinsettia, wine, and a glass.  I then broke the image back down to just the mandarins with one being peeled. This first image is my starting image, it is a bit boring that is why I added the apple.  The second image is better but still lacking. That when wen I started rummaging around the kitchen for additional items.   So, I started adding pieces like the cutting board, cheese, and knife. (If your wondering the cheese is Parmesan.) Then since it is the holiday season, I added the poinsettia, that I just bought.  Now it is starting to look like a full still life, but also a little bit like a corporate Christmas card, in my opinion.

ISO 100, Aperture F/14, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  60mm
ISO 100, Aperture F/16, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  60mm
ISO 100, Aperture F/9, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  60mm

ISO 100, Aperture F/13, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length  32mm

What really makes several of these images is the post processing. The original lighting was important but the post processing is where it really started looking like an old master painting.  I’m quite fond of these tow with the faded look.  In this case I applied fade filters which reduced clarity, reduce the highlights and whites, added some grain, and a strong vignette.   The other one is supposed to be reminiscent of old Hollywood. This filter reduced the whites but balanced the highlights, blacks and shadows for a very flat look but increased the color vibrance while reducing the saturation which gives it that faded look.

ISO 100, Aperture F/13, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  28mm
ISO 100, Aperture F/14, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length  28mm

I ended shooting by going back to just the mandarins, and the original though I had of a peeled fruit. The final image didn’t meet what I had in my head but works in a simple way.

ISO 100, Aperture F/13, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length  70mm


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