In Home Studio Still Life

General Thoughts
Onion and Garlic  © jj raia

Onion and Garlic © jj raia

In last month’s post, I described how I brought along some black foam core to use as a background when my son and I visited a field of sunflowers to give the appearance that the images of individual flowers were taken in a studio rather than out in the field. The results seemed worthy of further exploration, so I brought the idea into my “studio” (or kitchen, depending on how you look at it) and grabbed a few items from around the house to photograph with a dark background using the same black foam core. But this time I placed these objects on a granite countertop called Blue Pearl that has some rather large reflective crystals that appear slightly blue, but especially so when the blinds are opened and there is a blue sky outside.

For lighting the chosen subjects, I utilized a very highly sophisticated set up incorporating the soft light coming in through the kitchen windows to the left of the subjects, combined with the latest iteration of reflective surfaces for an opposite side fill light using white cardboard I found in the storage room, held vertically with a full gallon of ice tea.

Silk Flowers  © jj raia

Silk Flowers © jj raia

For camera equipment I used my trusty full frame DSLR with an antique, manual focus 80-200mm f/4 set almost always at f/22 clamped on a tripod with a wireless shutter release in order to actually hold the black background in place (it seemed to slide down too easily on the granite endangering the delicate subjects) while I tripped the shutter. The wireless shutter release was much less expensive than hiring an assistant for the day. Once the proper exposure was determined, the arrangement of the subject could be changed slightly, experimenting with various placements, without ever having to think about exposure again since there were no clouds to dim the light source. All the other studio (kitchen) lights were turned off to keep the light source temperature consistently daylight and not combined with the warmer tones of tungsten.

There was a hesitancy in using f/22 because of the possibility that the images may become slightly soft from diffraction, generally caused by using such a small aperture. But after zooming in and inspecting the images on the camera screen, the subjects were found to be super sharp with every bit of necessary detail. So much for the deteriorated image quality using f/22… at least on this particular lens. Luckily, a few tiny leftover crumbs on the counter surface discovered later in post processing that were missed when cleaning beforehand, were easily removed with the clone tool in Photoshop. The telephoto was needed to narrow the angle of view on the subjects, which consequently decreased the depth of field available. To compensate, a high f/stop was needed to keep the entire subject in focus without regard of the black background or the closer countertop. The combination of black background and soft focus foreground probably made the subjects appear even more crisp.

Fading Roses No. 2  © jj raia

Fading Roses No. 2 © jj raia

One other note about equipment was the use of a polarizing filter which allowed to more fully control the reflections on the surfaces of the countertop and the subjects themselves. The only regret was not having a large enough countertop to allow for horizontal images using larger subjects. Since the top photo used small objects, zooming in eliminated the rest of the “studio” from the frame and a horizontal framing was possible.

Silver Vase  © jj raia

Mercury Glass Vase and Hydrangea © jj raia

It was a lot of fun searching through the house over the course of a couple days, and discovering different vases and dried flower combinations to create these still lifes[?]. Although the lighting and reflectors used were extremely expensive and required an advanced degree of technical ability, don’t let it deter you from trying to create a studio in your own home.

Wooden Vase  © jj raia

Wooden Vase © jj raia

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