DIY Photography Hacks: make a table-top studio for easy still life photography

DIY Photography Hacks: make a table-top studio for easy still life photography

In our latest DIY Photography Hacks post, find out how to use a few common items from around the house to make a simple table-top studio that’s perfect for still life photography.

DIY Photography Hacks: make a table-top studio for easy still life photography

This week in DIY Photography Hacks we’ll take you step-by-step through a project that’ll help you unleash your creativity.

Using nothing more than a camera, a flashgun and a sheet of black velvet, we’ll reveal how to make the perfect table-top studio for your still life photography and other creative photo projects at home.

We’ll take you step-by-step through the process of setting up your mini makeshift table-top studio, which takes no time at all once you identify the items you need.

For our project we shot smoke trails, but you can tailor your table-top studio to shoot just about anything!

How to set up your DIY table-top studio

How to set up your DIY photography table-top studio: step 1

Take control
For ultimate control over your exposure, switch the camera and flash to Manual, and shoot in raw format. When you’re working in a controlled environment there’s no need to rely on your camera’s automatic and semi-automatic modes. In fact, they can get in the way and start trying to alter your exposure when you don’t want them to.

 

How to set up your DIY photography table-top studio: step 2

Manual focus
Switch your lens to manual focus. It’s really difficult to focus on moving smoke against a black background, as we were trying to do, so autofocus will search backwards and forwards for something to lock on to. We got the best results by switching to manual focus (MF) and pre-focusing on the point where we anticipated the smoke would rise – using the tip of the incense stick as a starting point. If you ensure there’s no draught, the smoke should rise fairly evenly.

 

How to set up your DIY photography table-top studio: step 3

Secure your flash
We used tape to secure our off-camera flash, which, due to the short length of the remote cable, wouldn’t stay in the correct position on the table-top. It’s always a good idea to carry some kind of tape in your kit bag – it has some surprising uses!

 

How to set up your DIY photography table-top studio: step 4

Use a flashgun
We used a Canon Speedlite 580EX flashgun attached to our Canon via a dedicated flash cord, rather than our SLR’s pop-up flash. This way, we could light the smoke from one side, rather than from straight on, and the cable kept the camera and flash synchronised.

 

How to set up your DIY photography table-top studio: step 5

Control the smoke
As we were shooting smoke trails, it’s nearly impossible to control the pattern that smoke makes, so we needed to experiment. If you, too, are shooting smoke trails set up your DIY table-top studio in a room free of draughts, because even the slightest air movement will interrupt the flow of smoke. We used a fly swatter to manipulate the smoke while looking through the viewfinder!

 

How to set up your DIY photography table-top studio: step 6

Take plenty of shots
Because capturing the perfect smoke pattern is going to be a little hit and miss, it’s best to shoot as many images as possible, leaving you with plenty to choose from. Ensure you’ve got lots of space on your memory card and try different techniques to get the smoke to behave in different ways.

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