Chardin and Dutch sixteenth and seventeenth century artists did much to create the still life genre. It lives on today in product photography and, to a lesser extent, in modern painting. Still-life and product photography aren’t always so very far apart since both rely on artistry to elevate the commonplace.
A jar of jam, my first light meter, or Grandma’s vase, are all lifted from the mundane world and have our attention focused on them simple by isolation from their normal background.
The photos in this blog were done with the simplest of means on the kitchen table. Find a clean flexible sheet of any material.This can be any sympathetic colour, or texture, or surface, as long as its crease free. I used a sheet of cartridge drawing paper to create an infinity curve against the kitchen wall. The table is pushed against a wall with about half of the sheet of paper on the table top and the rest curved gently against the wall. Blue tack was used to fasten the paper in place. From the side it looks like a letter ‘L’ lying on its back.
To the left of the picture another sheet of white paper or card was used as a reflector….you could use a Lastolite or the dull side of kitchen foil stuck to cardboard with double sided sellotape. Foil would give a slightly harder light.
Lighting was as simple as it gets: window light coming through the kitchen door on the right hand side of the picture. Most of the kitchen is painted white so its filled with a soft light everywhere. Its important that you don’t have shafts of strong sunlight coming into your picture area. A tripod was used and the mirror locked up in my camera to make sure that there was absolutely no camera shake. Many cameras do not have this facility. If yours doesn’t just try not to jolt the camera when pressing the shutter. Thus the lighting was soft but the exposure very sharp.
If a tripod isn’t available then increase the ISO number to about 400 or even higher and you should have just enough light to do a hand held shot. Do not let the speed fall below a sixtieth of a second. Remember that a photo that appears sharp when reviewed on the back of your camera will often be out of focus when enlarged to print size.
Almost anything can be used as subject matter, flowers, old tools, car parts, cakes, works of art, old toys, fishing tackle, medals, jewelery, collections of cups and saucers, babies shoes etc. This very simple background and lighting system is excellent for the type of small item sold on eBay that benefits from better presentation for online retailing.