When you are learning to draw, setting up a still life can be of great importance in helping you improve your ability to see the way the light is hitting your subject. This is true in photography too.
For this weeks challenge, you will need a worklight and a daylight balanced CFL or compact fluorescent lightbulb. Both of these can be obtained form your local hardware store for about ten dollars or so. I recommend using the worklight because you will have more control over the light hitting your subject than you would if you used a regular desk lamp. A worklight and CFL bulb are indispensable tools for any photographer shooting on a budget, and who isn’t these days?
About the CFL and daylight balanced.
Light travels at different speeds, and these different speeds are measured in Kelvin. The readers Digest condensed version is that the lower the kelvin value of a lightsource, the warmer or more red the light will be. Conversely the higher the kelvin value the more blue the light will be. There is an agreement that the daylight value is 65000k. If you search for a daylight balanced bulb you can be fairly sure that the colors in your shot will be close to natural. There are of course other variables to take into consideration and that is the quality of your lens and your camera’s sensor. Other things can affect the color cast or neutrality of your photos such as wall color or other sources of reflected light in the environment your shooting in. The amount of time the bulb has been on can also affect the color cast. It is best to give CFL bulbs at least half an hour to warm up and even out before you start shooting with them. Depending on the color of your walls you might consider going to the local art store and buying a couple sheets of white foam core which can be placed around your setup giving you a surface to bounce light off of.
I generally use at least two lights in any stilllife I shoot. Always start with one light set it up at a 45 degree angle towards your subject. Use small movements to get the light just right before adding the second light in. Use the second light to fill in dark areas and achieve the desired effect for your subject matter. Depending on the mood and style of shot you are going for, one light may be more than enough. The key here, is to use small movements of the lights and observe each time you move the light to see not only where you have it pointed, but all around your scene. Sometimes a small movement can affect an area of your image you didn’t intend it to. When observing the light on your scene, be aware that light travels in a straight line and reflects off objects at predictable angles.
There are a million sites with explanations of lighting, and understanding the way light falls off of your subject as you move it away from the scene is important. Its called the inverse square law and here is a great resource that explains the basics. http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/lighting-articles/rules-for-perfect-lighting-understanding-the-inverse-square-law/
This is the shot I did for this weeks challenge. I used a black t-shirt for the background and some scraps of wood flooring for the “bar” I used a close in light for the camera left illumination and a gelled (blue) light for the right side. I moved the blue light source far enough away to give a sense of color on the labels of the bottles and the shot glasses without overpowering the color cast of the image. Color in stilllife images can be overdone very easily and gels should be used to enhance this type of image rather than dominate it. Shot with a Canon 5dmkIII and tripod. I used the two second self timer to ensure no shake in the final image.