Learning Still Life Photography: Lighting Flowers with Flash
It didn’t take me long to abandon natural light and portraiture for a foray into off- camera flashes and still life photography.
When it comes down to it, I am just a flash girl and I am not ashamed to admit it!
I love natural light photography, but it limits my shooting to ~12 hours a day. To make matters worse, my four, fresh-faced little models insist on breaks for breakfast, school, lunch, naps, dinner, and the occasional diaper change. Often, I can’t really focus on photography until they are in bed…. and the sun is visiting the other side of the planet.
Enter off-camera flash and still-life photography. They offer some huge benefits by giving me greater control, and allowing me to shoot when my models and the nearest star have retired for the evening.
For this shot I used:
- One flash in a soft-box
- A tripod
- Sigma 50mm
The tripod really helped me to nail focus when working at such a close proximity to my subject.
I have fallen in love with this Sigma 50mm macro lens although I have neglected it over the past several years. I even started to list it several times on Craigslist but never got around to it. Sometimes there is a pay-off to procrastination!
I used my softbox just like I would for a human subject and brought it in close to the tulip for soft light.
I tried a variety of angles with the placement of the light and also positioning the flowers at the rear of the softbox, the middle and the front.
One of my favorite things about photography is the problem solving that goes into it. When I need light in a certain area or I want a certain composition that is difficult to get, my brain begins to smolder with questions and possible solutions. I feel like I am putting a very satisfying puzzle together and it is very gratifying when things start to come together like I envisioned.
For this image, I added a small amount of light to the tip of the flower with a flashlight.
Creating an image in camera is my favorite part of the photographic process.
For me, 99% of image making joy takes place in the setting up of the scene and pressing the shutter button. Sometimes, I go weeks before even looking at the resulting images.
The fun part is over. That is especially apparent to me when it comes to post-processing. I loathe it. I would much rather be doing mostly anything else than sitting in front of my computer.
I usually bring an image into Lightroom for some quick adjustments then head on my merry way. I only delve into Photoshop when I absolutely have to. Kind of like my use of Facebook.
I am finding that for still life images, I am spending more time per image on editing and I don’t mind it as much. I think because I am not dealing with human subjects, I have a bit more freedom in what I can do with my images and it makes the editing process a wee bit more bearable.
- I love my tripod. Seriously. I love it. I have it on standby for every macro and still life shoot.
- Putting the camera’s self-timer at 2 seconds helps reduce camera shake when using long exposures. This wasn’t really an issue when working with a flash but it is something I have learned over the past couple days of still life work.
- I used packaging materials to stuff around the stems of my flowers in order to position them where I wanted.
- Another perk of working without living subjects is that I could play all the sappiest music from my youth without the slightest bit of shame. There is no way I’d listen to “One More Try” by Timmie T, “Nothing Compares to You” by Sinead O’Conner, or any of the Paula Abdul or George Michael songs blaring in the background of a client session…..unless it was a really, really cool client.
Sigma 50mm macro lens
I am really enjoying working with the still life and macro genre. There is something uniquely cathartic about it that other photography does not have for me. It leaves me feeling refreshed and calm instead of excited and energized.
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