Photographing Still Life Part II

About three months ago I wrote an article about my work with still life objects. I’ve been continuing photographing still life since then and experimenting with different ways of post processing the images. In this post I will show some of my more recent works. Click on the images to view larger version.

In this image I went with simplicity in shapes but added more interest using texture.
Still Life with bottle and wine glass

Here, on the contrary, I wanted to create a more complex image with additional elements. My main problem was to choose these elements so that they would fit harmoniously into my composition. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether I succeeded or not. 
Still Life with bottles, mandarins, and leafs

I especially like this image, mostly because it wasn’t easy to come up with the idea for it. I started it by trying various compositions of glasses and the bottle, and various liquid levels. After I achieved something that looked good to me, I still felt that something was missing from the image. So I looked around for an item to add, and decided to add the two marbles. But I needed an aesthetic way to place them, and after a while I solved this puzzle with a spoon. I made a couple of shots and still wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. Suddenly it hit me that these marbles on the spoon look like musical notes! To make this idea more visible I added musical sheet to the background and the photo frame, and finally I felt the image was complete.
Still Life with bottle and glasses

 

This is my best still life image to date. It has an interesting idea and a nice execution. In addition this image was accepted to 1x.com !!! It was my dream to have my image featured there, and I finally achieved it. You can see it on 1x.com here.
Still Life with bottles

 

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Photographing Still Life

For the last several months I’ve been focusing on photographing still life images. I don’t know exactly why but I am drawn to still life photography. I like to create various compositions putting emphasis on shapes, light, and color. In this article I’ll share some of my creations and talk you through my thought process. The images that you will see here where created by me during the course of the last five months.

I started experimenting with simple shapes and gradually added more components using bottles and other items I had at home. My first images consisted of two objects and were shot in black and white. This way I was able to concentrate purely on shape and light. Here is one such example, which I liked. There is a contrast between one dark, “solid” object on the foreground and one light, almost transparent object in the background. I tried intuitively to place them in a way that would look interesting and pleasing to me.

Still life with bottle and vase in black and white by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

Next I added one more object, some color, and changed the lighting. The reason I changed the lighting is for the color to bee seen, but I still wanted to have shadow in the image. This way I aimed to bring a certain mood into the image. Looking at it on my computer screen I felt that something was missing, tried to add texture, and liked the result. This image is still very simplistic, a building block in my studies of still life photography.

Still life with bottle and vase in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I kept on trying various compositions, and here’s my attempt to add some humor. There’s not much sense to it, but I like this drunk zebra 🙂

Still life with bottles and toy horse in black and white by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

The image below was inspired by images of Victoria Ivanova . She has some very cool conceptual still life images with pears (and other items). I call this image “Examination”. Will let you figure this one out for yourself 🙂

Still life with bottles and pears in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

Concept imagery is pretty difficult to come up with, and I didn’t have much luck with it just yet. In the meantime I continued to focus on form, light and color. In my next composition I wanted to emphasize a single color, so it would become the whole theme of the image. It doesn’t mean that there is only one color but that it is the vividly dominant one, so there’s no mistake as to which one is it.

Still life with bottle vase apple and glass in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I also tried to change backgrounds and match them to my subjects. One of the things I learned from the photo below is that I don’t like empty things. I didn’t notice this at first, but when I looked at the final image I kept thinking that something was missing, and finally I realized that all the items were empty!

Still life with bottles and glasses in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I didn’t repeat that mistake in my next image. In this image I made an emphasis on color. Seeing the final image I saw that vivid colors add a lot of interest to it. Ideally, of course, it should also be the shape, the light, and the meaning of the image together to form a good one.

Still life with bottles glass and fruits in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

The image below is the most recent one I created. When working on its’ composition I felt that only glass objects with (or without) liquid created a lacking picture. I tried to add various objects but nothing worked. Then I went out to the garden and looked around, saw this sprout and tried to add it to my composition. Finally I got what I needed, and the image was complete. There is an interesting “cross-balance” (term I thought of just now 🙂 ) in this photograph: A diagonal line of three filled objects from top left to bottom right, and another diagonal line of two empty objects from top right to bottom left.

Still life with bottles glass and flora in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

A few technical notes regarding my lighting setup: I generally had two lights. One is located below the table on which I created my compositions. That light was lighting the background and adding the glow to the bottles from behind. Another one is located to the left of the camera and just a bit above the bottles. On it I placed polarizing gel and also used a polarizing filter on the lens. I turned the polarizer on the lens so that the reflections of the light source in the bottles would not be visible. In some cases I created two exposures of the same composition – one with reflections and another without. Later in Photoshop I loaded the two exposures as layers, completely masked out the exposure with reflections, and only revealed the reflections that I wanted to be seen.

Your comments, questions, and thoughts are highly appreciated!

Photographing still life in studio – how to shoot reflective surfaces

Have you ever tried to shoot still life with bottles or any other glass object? If you did then you know that it is difficult. It is difficult because glass reflects bloody everything. Theoretically I knew that, but I totally forgot about it when I suddenly got the urge to shoot me some bottles 🙂

I realized that only after first few clicks of the shutter, when looking at the back of my camera I saw reflection of me, my camera, ceiling and most of other irrelevant stuff in my studio. Then I started thinking what can I do to eliminate all the reflections.

First thing I did was to turn off all ceiling lights, leaving only modeling lights from the strobes to light the studio. It helped, but I didn’t want the strobes to be reflected in the bottles either. My solution was to place main light under the table pointed at the background, so the main light itself wasn’t visible at all and the bottles were lit from behind. I still had to add some light from the front, and so I did.

In the photo below you can see the reflection of the front soft box ( I cleaned it a bit in post, but it is still visible). This photo is a composite, in which bottles were shot fist and then I shot two additional photos while holding the grapes with two fingers at each side of the bottles. Having camera on tripod all the images were aligned to begin with. Later I loaded them as layers in Photoshop, and masked out my hands from the grapes.

Still life with bottles and grapes

For the next image I didn’t want to have any reflections on the bottle and glass at all, but I still needed to light the vase from the front. Since the vase wasn’t transparent, when I only lit the scene from behind, it was almost totally black. Therefore, to create the image below I shot two photos – first only with back lighting, and the second with additional light from the high left. In Photoshop, again, I loaded the two images as layers into a single file, and used the bottles from the first image and vase from the second.

Still life with bottles

It took me a while to create the image below, and not due to technicalities. On the vast plains of the Internet I saw a few creative still life photos with pears, and felt like trying something creative with them myself. It turned out to be not simple at all (not that I thought it would)! At first I just tried to arrange pears and other items without any intention – just to make something nice. After about an hour I realized that it doesn’t work. Then I put everything aside, and just sat on the couch and thought about what I really wanted to create. I thought about what happened lately in my life and in the world, and little by little ideas started popping into my head and I ended up with the image below, which I call “Examination”

Examination

 The background texture was added later in Photoshop, if you were wondering 🙂

P. S. There is one really cool way to get rid of the reflections of your light sources in the bottles (or any reflective surface), but it requires additional equipment, part of which I didn’t have. You can buy sheets of polarizing gels and put them on your light sources. Also you’ll have to put a polarizing filter on your lens. Then by adjusting the polarizing filter on the lens you will be able to completely eliminate the reflections.

Your comments  and thoughts on this post and my works are very much appreciated, so don’t hesitate to write them in the comment section below !

Flowers Macro Photography Tips

Sometimes I see a photograph, and I wonder how it was done, what tricks or special equipment (if at all) did the photographer use to achieve the result? In most cases there is  no way of asking him, and I have to guess and speculate on how it was done.

A few days ago I did a few flower macro shots, and posted one of them in a couple of forums. In the responses I’ve received I saw some questions as to how I did it, so I decided to write a post about it.

Flower. Macro Photography

  • I used Canon 100 mm f2.8 Macro lens, a light tent, and two flashes – the main one from the right side, and another flash from the left side. I set the second flash to be much weaker, so it would make the back side of the flower just a little brighter.
  • I didn’t want big depth of field so I set my aperture to f5. On the contrary, I wanted to be able to control what exactly will be in focus.
  • The shutter speed was 1/200 of a second, but it is not important in this case because I didn’t use ambient light – only strobes.
  • Since I had total control of my lighting, and I could set it to be as bright as I wanted to, I used ISO of 100, the lowest ISO on my Canon 40D. As you probably know, the lower your ISO setting, the less noise you’ll get in your photo.
  • Of course I used tripod. This is an important point. You might think that shooting at speed of 1/200sec doesn’t require the use of tripod, and under certain circumstances you might be right. For example when using wide angle lens with fairly closed aperture. But in my case I used telephoto lens (100mm) with f5, which means that even the slightest movement will shift the focus from where I want it to be to another random location. So, the conclusion is that in macro shots tripod is almost always an essential piece of equipment.

As you can see on the shot I sprayed the flower with water. Water drops are a very nice touch to many natural subjects, not only flowers. Sometimes photographers photograph the water drops on their subject in such a way that a reflection of something would be visible in the drops, and it makes for great images. In my case I wanted to achieve the exact opposite – I didn’t want any reflections in the water drops in order to focus the attention of the viewer on the flower, and to achieve that I photographed my flower in a white light tent.

And finally, the background. In the shot above and in one of additional examples from that photo-shoot below you will see that my background wasn’t plain white. But what was it? It is easy – I used one of my calendars with colorful photos as the background. When shooting macro, DOF is so tiny that a photograph placed 30 cm behind the subject becomes totally indistinguishable collection of colorful splashes, which makes for a nice background.

Below you can see a few more examples from that shoot

Flower. Macro Photography Flower. Macro Photography

Flower. Macro Photography >Flower. Macro Photography

I hope you learned something from my experience.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

Cheers,
Greg.

P.S. For those of you who wonder, the flower’s name is Morning Glory

Symmetry and Abstract

Hello Everybody!

This is another photo-sharing post. Recently I had the time to revive my small home studio, so while I was at it, I took some photos… actually I took a lot of photos, most of which aren’t worthy of sharing.

Here’s the only two I liked:

This photo was taken inside light tent with two flashes (one from each side). I call it “Almost  Symmetrical”. Nothing much to it, just having fun 🙂

Almost Symmetrical

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And I also liked this abstract photo, which is really a closeup of glass filled with cold bubbling mineral water, with yellow light in background.

Abstract

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As always your comments are highly appreciated.

See you next time!

Greg

Photographing Still Life Using Available Light

In this post I would like to show that you don’t need sophisticated lighting setups and other “special” props to create interesting still life images. All I used in the photos that you will see below was a glass, an apple, two small sheets of black paper, and two cardboard frames.

The main player here was the light. For quite some time now I’ve been noticing that I have a beautiful light coming from my kitchen window during the late afternoon hours, and finally I decided to take advantage of it. Writing these lines it is a late afternoon of another day, this same light again coming from my kitchen window and I struggle with a strong urge to leave everything and shoot some more still life.

I liked how the glass shadow looks on the black sheet of paper. To enhance it I poured water inside the glass to make it wet, so the shadow would look more interesting, and here is the result.

In post processing I converted the photo to B&W (when you shoot RAW you always get a colored image), and increased contrast and clarity. That’s it.

Glass and its shadow.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the next photo I deliberately used a green apple, because I intended for the shots to be in b&w except for the apple, and being evenly colored green it was very easy to leave only the green color. In lightroom rather then directly converting the photo to B&W, I separately decreased the saturation of all colors except the green. Then I had to increase the green saturation to bring back the original color of the apple. In this photos I simply put one black sheet of paper on the kitchen table, and another one was acting as a background. The rest is obvious. The direction of the light can be easily determined from the highlight on the apple. Because I couldn’t move the light source 🙂 I created my composition so that the light would be falling in the desired direction. In post processing, in addition to what I already described, I also increased clarity and contrast, and added just a touch of vignetting.

Glass with green apple

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the next three photos I was playing with geometric forms, light and shadow. I poured some water into the glass to get additional horizontal line for my geometric formation. Actually I did that intuitively, and only now, realized why. Here again, two most important factors were light and creativity. You should understand that I didn’t come up with these compositions right away. It took me quite some time of thinking, imagining, trial, and error to come up with something that I thought was working for me.

Shapes and Shadows

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here I tried to shoot just a fragment of the whole, and ended up liking it. In my opinion it gives a hint of the whole leaving enough room for imagination.

Glass and apple fragment 1

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this final photo I tried a more complex approach to my composition by adding more detail. I think it is a risky thing to do because I could easily over complicate the photo thus loosing the viewer’s attention. I hope I didn’t, and I’d be glad to hear about it in the comments to this post.

Glass and apples

Click on the photo to enlarge.

So here you go. Still life photography that doesn’t require expensive equipment or artificial light. I hope you liked it, and I hope that you got inspired by it to create your own still life images.

As always your comments are appreciated, and

Remember, you only need to enter your name to leave a comment!

Wishing everybody a Fruitful and Creative New Year!

Greg.

Expressing Emotions Through Photography

One of the greatest powers of photography is the ability of expressing one’s emotions through it. The most powerful photographs out there are the ones that successfully convey a certain mood or emotion.

But to convey an emotion through photograph is not an easy task. Often times you photograph a scene and think that it is pretty powerful, and then the resulting image disappoints. In order to successfully achieve the desired result many things have to come in place.

Let’s see what are the tools that if used correctly will allow your photographs to be emotional.

Light. It is very important in any photograph, and it has to be just right when expressing emotions. For example when you express anger, you might want to keep the scene in dark colors, while photographs expressing joy and happiness are mostly bright and shiny.

Color. Another important component. The first example that comes to my mind is the Red color, which can represent danger (in various signs) but in other contexts can also represent romance (red roses, red lips). Another example would be Green color, which has calming effect, if you want to create sense of tranquility in your photo you might want to fill it with green color (trees, plants, jungle, sea). When you consider various combinations of colors – the possibilities are endless, and don’t forget the power of black and white photographs!

Composition. It is absolutely essential to have an appropriate composition for expressing any emotion through your photograph. Sometimes just a slight change of camera angle can make all the difference and emotionally faded image comes to life.

Focus. When you want to emphasize a certain part of your image you put it in sharp focus while making other parts more blurred, but this rule isn’t written in stone. Sometimes the blurred parts of an image create all the mood, and hint the viewer about the story of the photograph. So it is not about the image being sharp or not, but about using the focus in such ways that will contribute to your final result.

There can be endless combinations of these components, and it is photographer’s job to find and create the ones that work, the ones that convey emotions to the viewer in a powerful way.

I decided to try and convey the emotions of love and affection. There are million of different ways to do that – photograph a young couple in different settings,  a mother with child, etc. I decided to do that with still life.

When Ira and I were on vacation a few months ago, we bought this tiny figure of two hippos as a symbol of our feelings, and this figure immediately came to my mind as being perfect for the task. But just a figure wasn’t enough, so I thought what else can I add to the composition? I knew for sure that I wanted the image to be in bright and happy colors, so I was looking for something colorful. I ended up with these beautiful tiny blue flowers (forgive me for not knowing their name), and below the hippos and flowers I placed dry tree leaves, which were bright yellow.

Hippos In Love 1 Hippos In Love 2

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now, when I had all the components, all that was left was to combine them together in one composition. I tried many different variations and the two that you see above I liked the most. In order to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the hippos I used wide aperture and focused on their eyes. This way most of the flowers were blurred creating a happy, bright, and colorful background for the “hippos in love”.

Photographing hippos, I noticed how tender these flowers were, and photographed them alone to try and show their tenderness. Two photos below is what I came up with.

Flowers in Black and White Flowers in Color

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I can’t say to what extent I succeeded in conveying the emotions of love, affection, and tenderness through these images. It is for you to decide. Can you feel it through my images? How would you express your emotions through photography?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,

Greg

How Photographic Ideas Can Come to You

This is a very interesting question you know. I am sure that anyone who takes interest in photography at times thinks about it. In my head sometimes these thoughts sound like “I’d really like to make a great photograph… yeah… but what should I shoot?… what should I create?…

If you really want to create something, especially if you are not sure yet what it is, you have to allocate a certain amount of time to thinking about it. I mean that you have to tell yourself – “today between 10:00 and 11:00 I am thinking about creating an interesting (also can be beautiful, romantic, breathtaking, sad… anything you prefer) photograph”.

I want to demonstrate this from my own experience. A few days ago I felt this urge to photograph something at my tiny home studio. I didn’t have any idea what it would be, but I just had this desire to create. So I made myself sit down for about 45 minutes, come up with ideas, and briefly sketch them on piece of paper.

My first problem was that not ANY idea that came to my mind was possible to shoot because I was limited to the objects that I had in my apartment. Having realized that fact, instead of just thinking of any idea for photograph, I started looking around my home at different objects and thinking how can I use them creatively?

While looking I saw my table lamp. Actually it was always standing on my table, but until I made myself to think creatively, I never thought about this lamp as a subject for my photographs. And then, while looking at this lamp I remembered of some TV program I saw as a kid that had these two lamps jumping around like live beings, and I decided to try and create something in that direction.

I still had no idea what would come out of it, and I didn’t have any definite final result. So I just started sketching this lamp standing on the table in different poses and thinking what can be done with that. No, I can’t draw, and it doesn’t matter, because you need sketching only to help your thinking process.

One of the ideas that came to my mind was to photograph this small lamp with it’s light bulb lying beneath it, while the lamp “sadly looking” at the bulb. And so I did as you can see in the image below.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this image of lonely lamp looking at its light bulb I used only one flash from the left side with 1/2 CTO gel on it (this gel makes the white flash light to be warmer). I wanted a warm lighting here. Looking at the result I felt that it is not enough for an interesting image… I felt that it doesn’t conveys the “stare” of the lamp at the light bulb.

And then suddenly it hit me – I need another lamp to make this more interesting! And luckily my life partner Ira had one on her table. I took that lamp and started playing with two lamps. Finally great idea came to me – to make the second lamp “look” inside the first lamp as if to see “what happened? why you lost your bulb?” and so you can see my compositional setup in the photo below.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now, having the final idea of a shot in place I started thinking of little details. I wanted to emphasize the fact that the second lamp did have its bulb. How would I do that? Well, I decided that I would light the whole scene with white light, but I would also have yellow (warm) light coming out of the second lamp towards the first lamp. And you can see in the photo below that the down-looking lamp is warm-lit.

The final photograph below I accomplished using three strobes. Two strobes without any gels from left and right sides (I had to play with their powers to achieve the desired lighting), and the third strobe with 1/2 CTO gel on it I held in my hand and pointed inside the first lamp.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

After getting the final image above, I felt that there is not enough emphasis on the light that comes out of the second lamp. I wanted those rays of light to actually be seen. And here is a point that I am sure not all of you thought about. Rays of light are invisible unless they reflect off of something and hit our eyes. So in order to make these rays of light to be actually visible I had to have them reflect off of something – for example dust, or smoke. So if I would fill up the whole area with smoke then the rays of light would be seen. But then the rays of my two other flashes would also be seen, and the whole image wouldn’t be clear and crisp.

So I decided to take this work to Photoshop, and artificially add the rays of light, using the original light warmth that 1/2 CTO gel gave me (just used eyedropper tool in photoshop to sample that color). To give you an idea how I did it – think of Radial Blur filter in Photoshop. If you have additional questions regarding how I did it feel free to ask me in the comments. And for all the people who are against “Photoshop manipulation” –  in the case of this photograph my goal was not to show reality, but to convey an idea of mine, therefore I am totally cool with using Photoshop here.

Here is the final result, which I am pretty happy to come up with.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In conclusion – the main idea of this article is to show that in order to come up with interesting photographs, you have to allocate time for thinking – what you want to do and how you are going to do it. Even if you don’t have any specific idea in mind, just make yourself sit down and think for half an hour or so, and I am sure that you’ll come up with something interesting!

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Do you agree with this article? If you don’t then why? Can you suggest additional steps towards being more creative?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,

Cheers!

Greg.

Smoke and Bubbles

In every photographer’s evolution process comes a time when he tries to photograph smoke. As a result you can see many photos of smoke on the internet. Now my time has come!

As always I wanted to do something different with smoke, so that my photos will differ from most of what can be seen online. Common practice with photographing smoke is to photograph it with plain white flash and then add color to it in photoshop. But I decided to do it a little bit different – I used flashes with colored gels on them, so I received the colored smoke “in-camera”. That was not enough for me and I tried to use two flashes with different color gels pointing at different parts of smoke, and here you can see what came out of it:

Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The red flash had a gobo so that the light wouldn’t spill on the top blue part, and it was also stronger than blue flash so it would overpower the blue light spilling from above. Of course I didn’t get the result that you see in the photo above right away. It took me couple dozens of shots to achieve it.

My next move was the following one – I thought that most of the beautiful smoke I saw online wasn’t “attached” to anything, so I tried to add a “source” to the smoke as you can see in the photo below.

 Smoking ceramic man

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this photo I faced a technical issue – the flash power that I needed to properly light the smoke was too much for the “smoker” and resulted in overexposed lower part of the photo. I solved this issue by using again two flashes. The flash that was lighting the smoke was placed behind and to the right of the “smoker” and set to “high” power. Then I used a second flash to light the smoker, and placed it in front of the smoker and a little bit to the left. This flash was set to a much lower power and was directed in such a way that the light from it wouldn’t spill on the background (because I wanted a black background).

Here is another attempt of adding a source to the smoke.

Colored Smoke with pipe

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

For this shot I also used two flashes – one with dark-green and another with red gel on it. The red flash was placed from the left and pointed high up to light the upper part of the smoke, while the green flash was placed to the right of the composition and pointed to the lower part. In this photo I had a glossy background and you can see the greenish reflection of the flash in it. I tried to shoot this scene also with matte background but I liked this version more because it adds nice color touch to the overall dark image.

Continuing my experiments I placed two smoke sources and tried to blow on the smoke to create different shapes while I am taking shots of it. I got many interesting photos this way, and this is the one photo I chose to present here:

Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Strangely it reminds me of two opposite sex persons having a conversation. In this shot and two of the following shots I used two flashes with blue and red gels on them, placed from the sides of the frame pointed up at the smoke and away from the background.

This is pretty important – if you want your background to remain dark, you have to point your flashes towards the camera and away from the background. When I say “towards the camera” it doesn’t mean that flashes have to point straight into the lens, they just need to be pointed in the direction of the camera and, again, away from the background. This way, since the light travels in straight lines it won’t hit the background (unless it reflects off something, so make sure it doesn’t) leaving it black.

During the time that I was experimenting with smoke I was constantly thinking what more can I do to make my photos stand out. And one day, at work, my friend brought this childish toy to make soap bubbles. We had so much fun playing with it and remembering the days that we were kids… and then it hit me – I can combine smoke with bubbles to create beautiful images. At this point I started to visualize what can be done with smoke and bubbles, and the idea that I liked the most was to create image of a soap bubble resting on top of smoke pillar.

This was not an easy task to do, as I didn’t have anyone to help me shoot this. So here is what I did: I placed my camera on a tripod, and pointed it exactly at the area where I intended to “place” a bubble on top of the smoke pillar. I focused the lens on the plane of the smoke and changed to manual focus. Then I connected a remote shutter release cable so that I could stand away from the camera. Then I just made a soap bubble and tried to place it where I wanted, shooting in continuous mode during this whole process. Then bubble would pop, and after checking the LCD and seeing that I didn’t get any satisfactory results I would repeat the process.

Eventually, after way too many failures 🙂 here is what I’ve got:

Soap bubble on top of Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is pretty much what I had in mind. But in the process I also got the following image, and I like it much more than the image above. It looks like a planet in deep space…

Soap bubble and Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

One more tip if you decide to try this yourself – bubbles reflect everything, and I mean EVERYTHING around them. So after seeing myself being reflected in the bubbles, I had to wear black sweater and a black hat to eliminate my reflection as much as possible. I also turned off any additional lights in the room.

In the next, and last photo I tried a little different approach – I used only one flash but I shot it through umbrella in order to make my light source bigger. In the result below you can see that umbrella can be recognized in the reflection, but I still like this photo. I call it “Aliens!” 🙂

Aliens

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I hope that you learned something new from my experience with smoke and bubbles and it inspired you to try this yourself.

Comments, suggestions and critiques are welcome as always, and if you have any questions, technical or other, you can leave a comment or drop me an email to greg at photopathway dot com

Still Life first Attempts

Recently I was learning a lot about lighting and together with that I am now slowly making my way into the still life photography. I made me my own little studio. Well not really a studio, but a table and some accessories so that I can try and photograph still life. For one of my sessions I decided to shoot a glass with liquid in it. It turned out to be not a simple task as glass reflects absolutely everything! So that particular session wasn’t successful at all, but I didn’t give up, and after working on it for a few weeks, I finally got my lighting straight and about a week ago I made the following image:

Simply Red

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

It looked pretty darn good to me, so I posted it on PhotoSig to try and get some critiques. To tell you the truth I was hoping to receive more compliments than critiques. I actually received some compliments, but there were two critiques that simply opened my eyes to still life photography, and I would like to present here several tips from those critiques. But first take a good look at the photo above and try to see what is wrong with it.
… ok, now, when you have your own opinion on my photo lets see what improvements I could have made to that shot.

  • The highlight on the glass seems stronger than the highlight on the pepper, and therefore takes away more attention – reduce the highlight on the glass.
  • The pepper that was chosen is not flawless, but it is also not an old one so that little imperfections that it has don’t emphasize its age, and only disturb the eye of the viewer.
  • Pepper has a darker are due to my lighting imperfection. I should have put a reflector near the pepper to light better that area.
  • There is a reddish area at the foreground that should be fixed.
  • The definition of the foreground (the contrast) could also be better.
  • The glass is poorly separated from the background. In order to better separate it, two black cards can be placed at two sides of the image (outside the composition). They would throw a black reflections on the glass contours, making it better separated from the background.
  • The background darkens towards the top of the photo. A reflector or soft box could be placed on the top to fix that.

Now I also received additional and very useful tips that I sure will use in my still life photography (when appropriate of course!). Here are some of them:

  • Always dilute the liquid to make it less dark
  • When possible slightly crumple some foil small enough that it can’t be seen and place it behind the drink, so that it will add sparkle to the liquid.
  • If you want to add bubbles to the liquid, then add glycerin and use straw to make a bubble.

Thank you Steve Chong and Randy for your helpful critiques!

I hope that these tips will help you too, and if you find them useful or have  something to add, please comment!