Still life photographers often tell us that lighting their scenes is the biggest challenge they face. In fact, lighting is one of the most common photography problems in any genre. In this tutorial, Ali Jennings of our testing team singles out 4 foolproof still life photography lighting techniques that you can use anywhere.
Each still life lighting technique shows you how to adequately light some of the most common subjects for still life photographers: flowers, fruit, images for eBay and stock photos. Follow these techniques and you’ll be well ahead of other still life photographers!
The key to successful tabletop studio photography is the lighting, and how you use it to create different effects, without spending a fortune on equipment.
We’ll use a variety of different simple light sources – window light, a pocket torch, and a pair of common-or-garden desk lamps to cut down on the additional kit needed.
But you will also benefit from a few extras – such as some fabric and paper for the backdrops, and a reflector and a light tent for creating a more even lighting for some of our close-up set-ups.
So, find a bit of free time and clear some space, and have a go at our four still life photography ideas in the comfort of your own home. But first, let’s take a look at some….
Essential gear for still life photographers
01 Desk lamp
A small lamp with a flexible head, such as an anglepoise, lets you direct the light, so is ideal choice for small home studio projects. Using two adds foreground and background lighting and boost other lighting on dull days.
02 Black velvet
This fabric has the amazing ability to absorb light, so when lit correctly it looks as though a subject is literally floating in black. Buy a couple of metres at a material shop, but make sure you don’t buy the crushed sort!
Light painting is a quick, easy way to manipulate the light in exactly the way you want. A small powerful torch, such as a Maglite, can directed as needed, and with a focusable beam it gives you creative control.
04 A2 paper
An inexpensive and easy solution for creating backdrops, as well as being cheap and readily available from all art stores. When you make your selection, a paper with a matte and subtly textured finish will help to avoid reflections.
05 Light tent
The advantage to these simple translucent structures is they create even lighting for product photography using nothing but natural light from a window, and cut out reflections. A Hama light tent costs as little as £30/$45.
Even with diffused light shadows can be a real issue, but with a small reflector these problems can easily be resolved. For still life projects look for one with both silver or white surfaces. This Lastolite Trigrip costs £55/$70.
PAGE 1: Essential gear for still life photographers
PAGE 2: The still life photographer’s guide to lighting flowers
PAGE 3: The still life photographer’s guide to lighting fruit
PAGE 4: The still life photographer’s guide to lighting eBay images
PAGE 5: The still life photographer’s guide to lighting stock photos