How to Shoot a Still Life in Your Garage and Get Great Results

One of the great things about photography is that you can practice it anywhere. You don't need expensive equipment to get the shot or a massive studio to get the photos you need.

There's a lot of problem-solving involved when practicing photography, and one of the things that will make you a better photographer is starting with a basic setup and working your way up, and if you're stuck at home, there's no better time to try out some new techniques.

While fighting the lockdown blues, I decided to challenge myself by creating a still life image with various items I found around the house. The goal was to create a classic-looking image, reminiscent of a Caravaggio painting, and use the cheapest equipment around — no use of fancy flashes or studio equipment. I wanted to challenge myself by shooting it in a garage, using standard bulbs to light the subject, and later, combining all the images in Photoshop.

The unprocessed image, showing a single light source from camera left.

I set up two Elinchrom studio flashes first, but I only intended to use the modeling lamps as I wanted to see if I was able to achieve the look and feel I wanted by using two ordinary 100-watt bulbs one can find in most lights around the house. I used a Canon 5D Mark II and a 100mm macro f/2.8 lens on a tripod, using a remote release to fire off the shutter. I took a few images with one light on and another one was off, so I could later combine the two images with different lighting and paint in the details. If I decided I wasn't happy with both lights, I could always hide the images I shot of the bothersome light and use the light that gave me a look I was after. 

Two images blended together to paint in details in the shadows and create a more painterly feel to the overall picture. 

For a step-by-step guide to processing this image, have a look at the video at the beginning of this article. 
In conclusion, the image came out quite close to what I wanted to achieve. It was great to see one doesn't need a fancy studio and expensive lights to create the images you want to create. 

Have you learned any new techniques recently?

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2 Comments

Daniel Hobebila's picture

Am I the only one who sees an screaming evil gnome/devil/demon with wild upright hair and long nose in the youtube still frame ... ?