Still Life…Incredibly Soft Light

October 24, 2011 § 10 Comments

"Old Books & Glasses"

I mentioned in previous blogs how I started out as a still life shooter, but eventually closed down my studio and concentrated on available light/location work.  Well, I’ve come full circle and decided to go back to shooting still life images.  I’m not abandoning my location work, but I’ll now do both location and studio still life.  I’ll have a new “Still Life” gallery on my website within the next few days.  Ever since my original still life days, I was always drawn to the soft, “Dutch Masters” northlight look.  Artists back in Rembrandt’s day, used to paint their masterpieces using northern window light.  When I first studied photography, I was taught by Andy Russetti, and assisted Ed Nano once I left school.  These two gentlemen were two of the best photographers I’ve ever met.  Two of the most famous photographers using this lighting back in the 70’s were Phil Marco, and Michael O’Neill.  O’Neill now shoots portraiture, and I don’t believe you’ll find one still life  image on his website…interesting, since he was one of the all-time greatest still life shooters, but I guess we all move on…or in my case move on and then back again!  Just as O’Neill was moving away from still life, I had a chance to study with him for two weeks in the Maine Photographic Workshops.  He taught us an incredible way of getting the softest light, using what he called a “tissue rig”.  He would have a roll of tissue paper over his set.  He would then place one or more lights on booms over the tissue aimed down at the set.  He could put a grid on one light to direct the light at a particular element of the set, while putting another piece of tissue over the reflector of another light to soften it.  So while the main roll of tissue served to soften the whole set, he could adjust the softness of individual areas of the set.  I set up my old books and glasses(I used them previously in a beer shot), and used a silk instead of tissue overhead.  I used one light overhead which was bounced back into an Apollo softbox for a very soft effect.  Then, that light passed through my silk to soften it even more.  You can see a reflector in front to bounce a little fill onto the sides of the pages, and some white paper along the side of the book to bounce some light there.  The final touch was a small mirror to pop the gold lettering on the side of the book.  I included a few variations of the image to show how easy it is to change things around, once you have the general set-up done.  A little post work in Photoshop, and I was done!  Hope you enjoy my still life work.

"The Set-Up"

"Old Books & Glasses 2"

"Old Books & Glasses 3"

I have a couple of other studio images lined up, so look for them in future blogs.

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