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Friday 10 October 2014

Still Life

I had a wonderful time with this month's Photo Challenge on still life.  I'm eager to show you my pictures and tell you all about them, so let's jump right in.

Aperture Priority setting     Shutter: 1/250     f/5.6     ISO 100

Tomatoes.  They're rolling in from the garden -- beautiful and sweet and so photogenic.  For this photo shoot I dragged the dining room table close to the patio door and threw a blanket over one of those tri-fold science fair booths for a background.  It was a sunny morning and the tomatoes are in direct sunlight while the backdrop is not.  Can you believe that the backdrop is actually a white blanket?  I didn't expect it to look so dark, but I like the effect.  The tomatoes certainly stand out.  Looking at my pictures now, I wish I had played a little more with depth of field.    The glare is disappointing too, but overall, I'm happy with this one.

Aperture Priority setting     Shutter: 1/100     f/7.1     ISO 200

Confession:  My enthusiasm for this particular challenge on still life photography is strongly driven by my Etsy shop.  Good pictures are everything when you sell your handiwork online and I still don't have a product photo set up and I'm truly happy with.  This is one of my crochet baskets.

Getting enough natural light is a huge challenge; I'm far too dependent on the weather.  For this photo, I took my cardboard science fair backdrop and a white table cloth outside to the patio table.  It was mid-morning, a sunny day but not in the sun.

The first thing I notice here is that outside at this time of day the light is soft and less directional.  It doesn't make for a very dramatic photo, but it does show my product well.  I think I'll experiment further with the outdoor option.  As long as the rain holds off, that is.

Manual setting     Shutter:  1/30    f/6.3    ISO 500

Finally, a small Hydrangea bloom from my front garden.  It's another simple composition, but I had several experiments in mind.  For starters, I wanted to try using a paper backdrop like several of Donna's recommended articles suggested.  I've always used fabric simply because that's what I have, but it wrinkles.

The set up for this shoot included a meter stick stuck through a roll of kraft paper and balanced between two bar stools.  I pulled the paper down and taped it to the front of my daughter's colouring table (just the right height).  I moved the whole works around a couple of times (note the wrinkled paper) and landed up beside the family room window.  

Then -- drum roll, please -- I switched my camera to manual.  For the first time.  I don't have much to say about that as I didn't really know what I was doing.  See the results for yourself.

Several of Donna's recommended articles waxed eloquent on how controlled still life photography is, how leisurely and drawn out the process can be.  I had to laugh.  Clearly those photographers did not have two-year-old helpers.  Miss S was involved, to some degree, with all of these photo shoots.  She especially likes climbing up on a chair beside the tripod and pushing the button.  Leisurely, no.  Fun, always.

A big thank you to Donna for hosting this Personal Photo Challenge and to all the other participants for joining and visiting.  I'm excited to see what you've done.


  1. I like all the back drop options you've included. The paper one is one I'd like to try, too. I think the tomatoes look very painterly, your product shot shows the basket nicely, and my favorite is the hydrangea on the paper. No, my favorite is the last one showing Miss S as your photography assistant.

  2. You sure went the distance on this challenge, with three very different photos which all hit the mark. I like the tomatoes the best, and I don't know what glare you are talking about. I think it adds to the picture that each tomato has a shiny spot.

  3. These are all beautiful...the first one almost looks like a painting.

    But...that adorable 2 year old stole the show in the end!! :)

  4. Backdrops are my biggest challenge and I would like to say your solutions have helped me with ideas. I like how the weave of the tablecloth enhances that of the basket.

  5. These are lovely - Miss S is a good little helper. :)

  6. Wonderful. This is a very good tutorial on how to do a proper still life. We'll done. How could you not do well with such a sweet helper.

  7. ahhh. what a great helper! Your photos are beautiful! I also had some problems with the glare of the lights. I tried to use it to my advantage along the way. Thank you for sharing! xxDazee

  8. I had to laugh about little Miss S being your photo assistant! Leisurely? Not! hahaha.....

    I always look forward to your challenge posts, and you never fail to delight us all. The conga line of tomatoes is a wonderful composition. It is a static scene, but it is visually dynamic because of the leading lines and the vibrant colors. The light gives dimension. But if those light spots bother you, try shooting with indirect or diffused light (e.g., bright overcast day).

    I'm so glad that you discovered the magic of diffused lighting with your second photo. With etsy product photos, you want to showcase the item, not create a photo with high contrasts. You might want to be on the lookout for heavy lap robes with the changing season. I have one in a cream color that drapes very well for photography and isn't shiny (so it doesn't pick up flecks of light). If you want a dark fabric for product photography, then pick up some yardage of black velvet.

    Congrats on getting your camera on manual! LOL, now you have to figure out what you want to adjust when you use that setting. I confess that I use aperture priority about 99% of the time, and speed the other 1% (for wildlife).

  9. I love those tomatoes! All three of your photos are great. I like your creative backdrops too. Thinking outside of the box for sure. Your little helper is adorable. Oh. I like your crocheted basket. Sweet!

  10. Thank you, I am learning so much just by visiting others posts. Miss S is gorgeous, a great wee helper.


  11. Love the tomatoes...I miss mine already.


  12. Love these images -the hydrangea especially- the behind the scenes shots of your helper are priceless!