Still Life Photography: A Few Of My Favorite Things Set Up In My Tiny Studio | DENISE LOVE | Skillshare

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Still Life Photography: A Few Of My Favorite Things Set Up In My Tiny Studio

teacher avatar DENISE LOVE, Artist & Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class project


    • 3.

      Props I love - a few favorite things


    • 4.

      Shooting in a box


    • 5.

      Styling our setup


    • 6.

      Using Natural Light In Our Set


    • 7.

      Camera settings & shooting


    • 8.

      Shoot Recap & Editing in Lightroom


    • 9.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Still life photography is my favorite type of photography and prop shopping is a part that I truly love. I get so inspired by being out at the antique shop and finding something new and exciting that inspires a photo setup for me. I love shooting still life because you can set up a space in your own home without the need for a huge studio. We can get creative with our sets and props. And the best part is we can shoot any day all year long no matter the weather outside. I enjoy coming up with creative sets and I can't wait to share with you today's setup.

In this class we'll cover:

  • I'll show you one my favorite photography tricks - shooting in a box
  • I'll show you some of my favorite props that I use over and over again
  • Styling your set up near a window for natural light
  • How I take away more of the light when I want to make it dark and moody on one side while using my box set up to control the light also
  • I'll style the setup and talk about a few photos I might end up taking
  • We'll also look at my final photos from this setup and do some editing in Lightroom.

This course is perfect for beginners getting started and needing ideas. It's also great for experienced photographers wanting ideas and tips for doing studio setups.

Required Gear: A camera. You can do still life photography with any camera you have. A few props to tell your story, and a box - whether it be one like I'm using (a vintage crate) or a shipping box, doesn't matter which. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Artist & Photographer

Top Teacher

Hello, my friend!

I'm Denise, and I'm a mixed-media artist, photographer, and creator of digital resources and creative workshops.

I have always been passionate about art and the creative process, and have spent my career exploring various mediums and techniques. Whether I am working with paint, pencils, or pixels, I am constantly seeking to push the boundaries of what is possible and find new ways to express myself.

In addition to creating my own artwork, I also love sharing my skills and knowledge with others through workshops and classes. I believe creativity is a vital part of life, and I'm dedicated to helping others discover and cultivate their own artistic abilities.

I'm so glad to have you here on my Art channel.

Looking forward to... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Still Life photography is my very favorite type of photography. I've done all photography, from portraiture to landscape to botanicals. In the end, I love to control all the different elements of my set. I want to control the environment. I want to control the lighting. I want to shoot in a box and control the different elements that I pulled together to create my set. I have some very specific things that I love to use over and over again. Some favorite props that are my go-to props, things that I look for when I'm out shopping for props. I'm going to share some of those favorite things with you today. I'm Denise love and I'm a still life photographer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Today, we're going to be doing a set-up a little different than the stories that I've tried to pull together with my still life photography. The story in this today is my favorite elements in a still life. I love to shoot in a box. I'll show you how I do that and why I like doing that to control the lighting. I'll show you some of my favorite props, including the books I like to collect, some fun bottles that I like to collect. Just some different elements and things that you might look for when you're out shopping for props. We'll talk about camera settings and my light setup, and how I like to shoot in a window here in my studio. Then I'll show you, I've actually taken a couple of the photos that I did from this set and had them printed out. Look how beautiful the spines of books are. This I can't wait to frame up. [LAUGHTER] But just to show you how fun it is to shoot in a box and concentrate on some beautiful elements of the items that I love. I'm excited to have you here in class today. I can't wait to see what you come up with after seeing some of the ideas that I have for you. Let's get started. [MUSIC] 2. Class project: [MUSIC] Your class project today is to come up with two photos to come back and show me. So I want you to do your setup of your favorite items. I want you to take all the photos that you can take. I want you to get close in. I want you to pull back. I want you to give me some details. I want you to take as many pictures as you can when you do all the effort to put a setup, and I want you to come back and share two photos with me. Here's an example. I want a detail shot of something that you've got in your setup that you love the details of, and I want you to give me a pullback shot of something that you love about the entire set. I want the whole setup in there. That's our class project, pullback shot and a detail shot, and come back and share those with me. [MUSIC] 3. Props I love - a few favorite things: [MUSIC] Today I thought I would shoot a Still Life with a few of my favorite things to collect. [NOISE] One of my very, very favorite things to collect is old books. I like them to have different decorative edges because I like to stack the books. I've got one that's got a lot of decoration with printing [NOISE] and then this one's got decoration with leather on the end. This one's very decorative because parts of the book have flacked off and you only see a little bit of the original letter that's on there. This is one of my favorite. I love all the texture and detail going on with that book. This is another favorite and it's book in German. It's probably the most decorative cover that I have. I've got a little ribbon on it to keep the spine from falling off because it's not completely attached, but it's so beautiful. This one here, spine is falling apart, the leather pieces completely fell off. I like each of the books that I collect to complement each other but not be the same. You're just not going to find some of these yummy options in modern books. The stack here is so beautiful that I use it over and over and over again in many different setups. I like old books. I don't spend a lot for them and I look for the most interesting cover that I think is going to add to the ones that I already have. Another thing I like to collect is pretty bottles. I've got several of these that I've collected throughout the years of looking around at the antique stores. I'll just pick them up when I find them and then a couple that are glass bottles with sterling silver decoration on them that I think are just absolutely beautiful. These little bitty ones that all had different color tops from around 1900, [NOISE] very Art Deco in their look. They all have a different decoration on them. These are some of my very favorites. I like tiny things that are beautiful. I've got these pretty bottles. You could also use apothecary bottles for something like this. If you've got some old empty pretty apothecary bottles, which I do have some of those I could have used [NOISE] that in this setup. If you've got some old apothecary bottles, I've got some that look fairly new [NOISE] and some that had the frosted glass and I've got some that are colored, some that are cool shapes. This is another way that you could easily do this project if you had some old apothecary bottles and maybe you didn't have the perfume bottles that I had. I'd like this to be some of your favorite things that you collect. [NOISE] Take a look at your props and see what have you've been collecting through all the years that you look around for Still Life stuff. If you're new at this, definitely start looking for books. I use those in almost every setup that I can put them in because if you're doing a food setup, these could represent cookbooks. If you're doing a setup of any other thing, these could represent your collection of books that can add to the scene. There's a lot we can do with books. Number 1, favorite thing to collect. I'm using perfume bottles but you can use whatever bottles or vessels that you happen to love that maybe you've collected. I also like to randomly, [NOISE] at Christmas time, collect vintage looking ornaments. I don't believe these are actually antique. They are too new-looking to be that but they were at the antique store, so I'm sure it's one of those situations where the company that creates really beautiful antique look and stuff that [LAUGHTER] isn't [NOISE] really antique probably made these and put them out last Christmas. These are really pretty in their glass and they look antique. I really loved these and I'm going to combine all these in our setup today. [NOISE] I want you to look around your stash of stuff and see what is it that you could pull together and create. One other thing to have as a favorite prop that I like to collect that I'll talk about real quick [NOISE] are architectural elements. I use architectural elements and the books sometimes to set up a bookcase in my box and make a [NOISE] statement of those items in addition to whatever it is that I'm actually trying to create in there. These pieces, the corbels that are decorative with the chippy paint, make such a beautiful background element that I've really enjoyed collecting those. I will say price-wise, [NOISE] I try to keep the books under $20 a book, mostly under $10 a book really. I've gotten really lucky on these. I found an old book one time at a antique market and it was like 300 years old and I almost paid $300 for it but I just [LAUGHTER] couldn't bring myself to do it. It was the most amazing looking book. Occasionally, I'll splurge our prop because there's some props that I'll use over and over and over again, like the books or the corbel. There's some props that I'm going to use once and I'm probably going to give it away to my dad to put in his antique booth. Decide, is this going to be a favorite prop that you use for the next 10 years over and over and over again. If it is, then it's worth splurging and then you can set it around your house as some decoration until you shoot it again in the Still Life. If it's not something that you're willing to use over and over again then don't splurge on it and try to keep it pretty reasonable and know that you're either going to give it away or resell it or something. For these little bottles, I actually collect little bottles. [NOISE] The expense there is just on [NOISE] which you can find. I've spent anywhere from $20-60 on these 20 little tiny bottles. [NOISE] The corbels and architectural pieces, they might be a little more expensive. I think I might have paid about $75 for the pretty corbel. I have a couple of them because I've come across them at different times and they look different. They add a different feel to whatever setup I'm doing, so they don't have the same corbel over and over. A lot of people don't want to spend $75 on a corbel or something but that's about what those range. They're not cheap, you're not going to find them for 10 bucks usually and if you do, you better buy all of them. [LAUGHTER] I actually thought it was worth spending on those. I had been shooting Still Life for many years before I was like, I'm going to bite the bullet and spend that on a corbel. I've had those but it took me quite a while to get over the price for that for a prop. I do set those around and look at them and admire them too. They have been very handy. I use them over and over and over again. That's a prop that I'll continue to pull out. Just evaluate the prop that you find. Will you use it more than once? Will you use it for several years? Is this a one-time deal for a special setup that you're putting together and then evaluate what you'd spend for that. I love my corbels, I use those more than I care to even think about. [NOISE] That's wonderful. I get my money out of it but for this setup, I like some books. I like some bottle that you've collected and then just see what setup we can come up with. [MUSIC] 4. Shooting in a box: [MUSIC] Let's talk about my box that I have sitting back here. I love shooting in a box. The box that I have back here right now is an old drink crate. I've had several different versions of the drink crates. Some of these are like milk crates and they're a little smaller and they've got metal grates inside of them and those you don't want, the metal grate gets in the way. I tend to not want to tear apart an old crate that has a grate in it. I had one of those in the past and then trying to use it, figured out, oh, this doesn't really work very well. [LAUGHTER] Because these things, like I need to try all the ways to then say, "Oh, this is what works for me and all these 15 other ways I've tried didn't work very well at all." That's exactly how I tend to do everything. It seems like I want to try every way there is, and then say, "Okay, this is the one that actually worked best for me." With the drink crates, the larger the crate, the better. This crate is about 15 inches wide, it's about 18 inches tall and it's about 9 inches deep. That's the biggest crate that I've ever had. I had a crate before that that was probably 12 by 16 or 12 by 15 and I liked it and I used it all the time. Then last year, I was at the antique market and randomly went by a booth that had this crate and I thought, "That's like the perfect crate," because I've many times thought that my crate was slightly too small. [LAUGHTER] I wish it were bigger. Then one day, I walked by the bigger crate and it had no inside to it and it's decent construction so I can move it around my prop room and not be afraid that I'm about to bust it up, and I like the depth. It could actually even be an inch or two deeper and that would be great. I don't like a shallow crate. If you've got something less than nine or 10 inches, that's probably too shallow. But you don't have to have a crate unless you just end up liking to shoot in a box also. The reason I like to shoot in a box is because I'm controlling the light on the sides and on the back a little bit more than if I'm shooting wide open. If I put my setup and it's wide open and I've got a backdrop behind this, I'm not controlling the light all around my setup, and I like to shoot dark and moody. That happens to be the current mood that I'm in when I'm shooting. [LAUGHTER] I might get into a light and bright phase later. Who knows? But it's been dark and moody for quite a while and it seems to really work with what I've honed into as my style that I like to shoot and I like to do. The crate allows me to control the light way better than if I'm just sitting out in the open. I could use my black card that I like to have around to manipulate the dark by taking out light. I can manipulate and have several of these. I can have some on the left side of my setup and some on the right side of my setup. I can have my charcoal drop cloth that I use as my background. I can control the light that way and box my subject in with dark surfaces and you can do that too. If you don't have a box and you don't want to work hard at finding a box because you don't think that's going to be your thing really, have a drop cloth that you get from the paint store or a canvas drop cloth and paint it like a nice charcoal color like I've done back there using flat paint. Charcoal, I think, works better than black because it's not as flat as black is. It's a color that's going to give you some depth to the darkness. I really like depth to my darkness. [LAUGHTER] You'll hear me talk about that probably in several of these little classes. I like there to be some depth. Even when you don't know what's back there, your imagination let's that scene continue on. Whereas if it's just a flat black surface like a black card, you might hit a roadblock mentally, you might see that and it's flat and it's black and it looks like the scene stops and then your imagination doesn't carry that scene outside the photo. At least for me, you may disagree. [LAUGHTER] You could have a black background back there or a charcoal gray. You could have a couple of these ones sitting on each side of your scene. Then that could be your way of faux shooting in a box. But I'm going to be shooting in the box because I love it. I'm going to set up my setup in the box. I actually use the set in the box and use the box as a light manipulation. These boxes, I like to spend $50-$60 on them, $75 if it's the greatest box you've ever found. But other than that, they're so plentiful and you can usually find them so easily at the antique stores and if you don't have that resource, then maybe Etsy or eBay. Just really depends on if you find the box, and you find it's perfect, then if you like shooting in a box and you're going to do this over and over like I do, then whatever you spend on that box makes it worth it. If you want to try shooting in a box and you're not sure you want to actually commit to a crate like I've got here, you can use a shipping box. Make it somewhere around these dimensions. If you can, find one that's somewhere around 15 inches by 18 inches by 9 or 10 inches deep. Cut those flaps off of the front side, and then you can use that to shoot into your box. If you're having trouble getting rid of, say, the crate itself in your editing because most of the time I'm shooting in the box and my editing makes that back disappear. If you're having trouble with that, then you could paint the inside of your box like a dark gray or dark brown or black, and then that would serve as your darkness back there. My little speil on my favorite box [LAUGHTER] and that I will be shooting in a box during today's set up. [MUSIC] 5. Styling our setup: Let's go ahead and style our set. I've talked about the favorite props that I like to use. I didn't mention that sometimes I also love favorite fabrics. They're neutral. They can go in with any set. A fabric is another yummy piece that we could have added into the setup. I don't think I'm going to today, but it is another option for you. I like fabrics that are loose weave. You can almost see through them as I have my hand back there and they drape really pretty. If you've got a pretty fabric, you might consider using that pretty piece of fabric in your styling. I don't think I'm going to do that today though. I'm going to use my stack of books. We're going to center that maybe a little more to the side that the light is. I usually tilt my box towards the light. It's coming in and then dropping off as it gets over here. These pretty little bubbles are heavy. They're heavy enough that I really just want to use the box and the edges to hold it. [NOISE] Once we get them where they're not moving all around, there we go. It'll just hold them there. These just might be an edge decoration to my setup when I do like a pullback shot from this angle perhaps. Then I've got pretty bottles here that I might set around and decorate my set with. I'll probably play this set for a while, just moving the bottles around, testing out the different shots that I want to do. Some straight on, some from the top, some with little pieces that are emphasized, maybe some macro shots and I'll just move all of these around, getting a ton of photos. Then another shot that I really want to get is just the book stack. The stack of books, because the spines are so interesting that I think that's going to make a beautiful photo on its own. Here's today's project that I'll be shooting. Pretty things that I collect. The story might not be as obvious as some of the other stories that I pulled together. But it means pretty things to me. I've used, for instance, these perfume bottles in the past in different setups and people recognize those. I've had some ladies and some of my groups go, I have my grandmother's bottle that looked just like that. I have the one with the blue top or I have the one with the green top or whatever. Then we love seeing things like that because I actually saw a beautiful perfume bottle in somebody else's photo one time. I'm like, I love that little perfume bottle. What is that? She looked at the bottle and I didn't have a name or anything on it. It's got a little top in it. These little tops come out like they just unscrew and it has a little glass, little stopper in it. I started searching on Etsy. I was like miniature silver perfume bottle from the 1920s I think is what I was searching. Some of these came up and I'm like, instinct collection, I bought every one I could find at the time that I found them because I love them for me. These would be pretty sitting on a piece of little glass mirror in your bathroom or your van de somewhere where you do you're primping in the morning or something with your other perfume bottles. I don't know. I just love really beautiful antique pieces like this. That day that I'd seen those bottles, I just freaked out. I'm like, I love those more than anything I've seen in a while. Then instant little collection of four. I resisted looking again because I want them all. I want to have 100 of those little bottles and just be like look at all my mini perfume bottles, but I have resisted. [LAUGHTER] I stopped with the four. Then that one's also when I found that pretty tall bottle there. It's good for Etsy, especially if you look every several months instead of every day because you're more likely to find a turnover of inventory that people have come up with to sell. While this isn't telling you any story other than beautiful things that I collect. That's what we're going to go with today because I think I can get some beautiful photos out of this. [MUSIC] 6. Using Natural Light In Our Set: [MUSIC] I'll pull back a little bit so you can see my whole setup here now. I'm just sitting up on my beat up wood table that I use for photography. Used to I would set up on a folding table, just a plastic folding table, just in front of the window and I'd have a photography board on the table, and that was my setup. But this table is so big, [LAUGHTER] and it's so heavy that it basically lives in this corner. I don't even bother taking it down. It's got folding legs, so if I need this space for something else, I can take it down and set it up out of the way. But that table weighs like 200 pounds I almost killed myself getting it in this room. But the top is so amazing. It's a reclaimed wood top from something and it's really beat up. I feel like it was like the floor of like a railroad station or something and it's got the most wonderful silver bits that are nailed into it on the top that I love. This has become my go-to wood surface to photograph things on. If you find an antique table that's got to a beat up wood top, that's a decent price, probably smaller than the one I've got here because this is a full five-foot table and I wish it was a two foot by four foot table. This is like the size of a dining table. It's like 30 inches by five-foot. It's way too big, and I wish I could resize that smaller, but there's no way to take this apart. It's got metal bits and all kinds of things going on with it, but it truly is my very favorite surface to photograph on, so to me that made it a worthy purchase, and I figured I would just deal with the size by using this side over here just to house props and things that are sitting there. It is convenient for that I can set stuff on it. [LAUGHTER] But I want you to pull up your table, whatever it is. I've also shot on a two-by-two antique table because it was small and I can move it out of the way. I would set a photography board on it that was two foot by three foot, so the board was a little bigger than the table, and that was super convenient for setting up by the window and moving all around it. That's another thing I might recommend. I like pulling up to the window because I love shooting with natural light. That's what I recommend for you. I'm in a east facing window in this room, so I have good morning light. If I were in a west facing room, I'd have good afternoon light, and north and south, I'd have hopefully good diffuse lighting all day with no light directly coming in the window like we have today. Look around the different windows that you have in your house and set up in the different windows and then figure out when do you like to shoot? Do you like to shoot in the morning or the afternoon? What window's going to give you the best light for the shooting? I used to shoot things in the afternoon and work in my dining room, and then all the props started taking over my dining table, and then I had a bookcase with props, and then the bookcase got full. Then I was still taking over my dining table and then I moved into my little living room because my living dining room was one area here in this condo. [LAUGHTER] At some point I was like, do I live at a prop closet or do I need to start rearranging things to make it work better for me, and that's when I turned my spare bedroom into my little studio, and then all the props and everything can explode, make a mess in here when I'm doing something fun, and my living room can be a living room. [LAUGHTER] But the window that I loved in there was a west facing window so I could work in there after lunch into about the afternoon, going into evening, and that was a great side if you like shooting in the afternoon. Today, I've got my setup to the window. I've got the props about eight inches or 10 inches from the window. You want to be closer to the window because the further back from the window we get, the less light on our setup that we can actually see. You want to be right up, close in your window, and then I will be sitting right here on this side shooting this way. I actually have a chair that rolls around. [LAUGHTER] A lot of times I'm sitting in that chair working because the chair can lift up and can lift down and it's easier on my back. When you're young and spry, you can be out there shooting at all hours of the day, up and down and doing everything that you do, and the older you get, [LAUGHTER] the harder some of those things are. Part of making shooting fun for me, is making it convenient. I want to have control of my environment, control of my props, control of my setup, control of my lighting, control of my environment that I'm shooting in. If I'm going all over the city shooting stuff, you have no control over any of the elements. You can maybe take a diffuser with you to keep some sunlight off of say, some flowers you're shooting. But you don't control all the elements and you don't control the weather and shooting indoors stops all that for me. I can control every element and the weather. Even on days that it's cloudy, I can supplement the light with my ring studio light. This makes it super convenient to shoot all year long. Anytime I have an idea, I'm always up here photographing and practicing something or making a workshop or having some fun doing something. Whereas used to be when I would shoot out in the city, I had to pick a day that it was going to be sunny or cloudy, a day that it wasn't going to be snowing or raining or so hot that you melt in the pavement and I don't have those restrictions with still life. That's one of the reasons why I love still-life. This window we're setting up in, you can see the sun is out today because I can see where the wood cross hatches of the window are showing on my diffuser. What I have in the window there is my photography diffuser, and this is the center part of a reflector. I took off the reflector cover and this is what's in the center of that, is this translucent white round ring, and this is your photography diffuser. This is what you use to make the light nice and diffused and even and pretty on your set. If I were to pull a diffuser out of the window because I've got a big one that sits in this window, if I pull this out, you can see that I have harsh direct lighting on my setup there. Really early on, I found it hard to see the light just because when you're learning to shoot early, you're trying to figure out everything. You're trying to figure out what do you want to shoot? How do you use your camera? What's good composition? What is the best times a day to shoot? How do I use this camera? How do I use these different lenses? How do I figure out all the different elements that I need to figure out? Early on, all that added to now look for good light also, just didn't compute in my brain I guess. [LAUGHTER]. Because I thought I could be out shooting high moon, full sun, no clouds at the Botanical gardens and I could get something great, and you couldn't tell me otherwise. I heard everybody like, you should shoot a blue hour, you should shoot just after dawn. I thought, well, I'm not getting up at dawn and blue hours sometimes in the summer it's 09:00 at night, so I'm probably not going to be out with the gardens at 09:00 at night when they're closed, and so I didn't really equate some of that information early on that I should have. When I look back at some of those photos, I cringe. [LAUGHTER] But as you keep going and you figure out how to do some of the other things with your photography and you figured out your camera, and you've figured out your editing, and you figured out composition, and you figured out how to use different lenses, then you need to start figuring out how can I up my game with my photo? What's the next step that I can focus on? You might focus on lighting early on that maybe something that clicks for you, or you might take a few years like I had to and then it might click later on for you. With a set-up like this it's really easy to control the light because we control all the elements so I can take a photo in full sun just like this, and then as a test, I can put the diffuser backup in the window and I can take that photo again. I should be able to see how different those two photos are and recognize that the diffused lighting really is beautiful on my setups. Even if I wasn't convinced and I needed to do that experiment, that's some of the experimenting that I love to do up here in my studio. I like to experiment with aperture, I like to experiment with lighting, I like to experiment with lenses, I like doing those that you think, oh, that's tedious, but sometimes doing those tedious things are actually fun, and you learn a significant amount of information in doing it. Because now I know that the diffuser just needs to live in the window unless it's a cloudy day. If it's cloudy day, I'll pull it down and shoot with the diffused light coming in because the clouds are diffusing the light. But other than that, I know that I need that diffuser in the window for beautiful light and now I don't have to think about it again. Now I can move on to the other important things that I need to be thinking about when shooting my photo. The other thing that I like to do, I'm shooting in the box to control the light. I have back behind, I've got side that I'm blocking light coming in because I've got a side to my crate block, and then as it comes in and the crate is dark brown in there, so it's sucking in some of that light, which is the same thing that it would be doing if I had a black surface back there. Black and brown and dark colors suck in the light, and so if I wanted to manipulate the light and I didn't have a box, I'd set some black cards on each side of my setup. That would soak in some of the light for that yummy, dark and moody look that I like. But I also might use a black card on some little clamps. These are clamps from the hardware store, and when I get these, I get a brown or black because if you get the ones that are orange or red, that orange or red shines into your photo and will give you a color cast that you're going to be like, where did that color come from? [LAUGHTER] I do like dark colored clamps and then these become like a third hand for you, and you can now move these all around and manipulate the light and create some shadows and some dark moodiness on whichever side you want really easily as you're shooting. I do like having some black foam core get those at the office supply store. That's a nine inch by 12 inch board there. I have some that are larger, but that nine by 12 on little still-life sets is a really convenient size. If you have a couple of those, you can move them all around to where you need to see you can create some good light direction and being real purposeful with things that you're getting the light to do for you. [MUSIC] 7. Camera settings & shooting: [MUSIC] Let's talk about our camera and our camera settings. I'm using a full frame camera today. I've got a lens, that's a manual art lens, and that's just my preferences on shooting. I want you to pick your favorite lens and put that on your camera, whether it'd be a pro camera or a consumer camera or whatever camera you have. You can get amazing stuff out of your cameras. I want you to start getting comfortable with your settings. I shoot on manual. But if you're not comfortable with manual, shoot on aperture mode, the AV mode, and get off of auto. Auto tries to figure out all your settings for you to make a good photo, but it doesn't allow for the artistic things that you're wanting to make decisions on. I love taking photos with a lot of blur. I did an aperture test on one setup that I had one time and I started at the very lowest aperture that I could pick. If on this lens it's 2.8, so I did 2.8, and 3.5, and 4.0, and 4.5, and 5.0, and 6.0, and 8. I went all the way up the range of apertures that I could get on this lens. If you're sitting in AV mode, you can change the aperture, take the photo, and the camera will figure out the other settings for you to give you a good exposure. Starting out, that's the easiest way to do it. Decide how much blur do you want. I shoot wide-open, but I really don't. If I say, if it's wide open at 2.8, for instance, on this art lens, it gets a glow. Maybe my subject, which might have been this little bottle, maybe my subject would not have been completely in focused. Maybe the front corner would have been in focus. I actually might want the entire bottle to be in focus and then the rest of the scene to be thrown into blur. The most important setting to me is the blur. The aperture is what I am most concerned with. The ISO, I don't necessarily want the camera to decide that for me, but if it does, it's not the worst-case scenario as long as I have the blur that I want. The ISO is, how sensitive that sensor is on your camera. If you're shooting at 100, 200, or 400, you're probably not going to get a lot of grain. If you're using a consumer camera and you're shooting over 400, you're definitely going to start seeing noticeable grain and dots in your photo further back. If you're on a nicer like pro camera, you might push the ISO all the way up to say,1,000 and still not see the grain before it starts getting too grainy. That's what makes the cameras more expensive, that setting and that feature in there, being able to shoot in low light situations on a very low ISO to get a good exposure. I'm usually shooting on F4. I like my ISO to be 200 or 400, somewhere under that. Even though I do have a nicer camera now and I can push that setting, I still go back to when I had my consumer camera and I mentally keep those settings in there. Then once you know how sensitive you want the sensor, low enough so there's not a lot of grain and you have the aperture at the F-stop that you want it at, so F2, F4, F8, whatever the amount of blur you want. That's two settings that you already know that you can set in stone. The third setting to getting a great exposure is then your shutter speed. How fast do the shutter need to open, or how long does it need to stay open to let enough light into that sensor to get a properly exposed photo? If we're up near a window on a sunny day and we're diffusing the light, then we might can shoot it 160th of a second. That's fast enough for me to be able to handhold and get a tack sharp subject. If it's darker out or the clouds are out, I'm not going to be able to shoot that fast. If I'm under 160th of a second, I certainly am not going to be able to handhold. I'll need to be up on a tripod. Really, it's dependent on how much light is coming in here as to if I need to set up on a tripod, or if I feel comfortable shooting handheld. The longer you shoot, the less in a hurry that you get, and now I am more likely to shoot on a tripod than I was years ago because I'm not in such a hurry. I'm also more likely to tether, put it up on a tripod, wirelessly tether my camera to my iPad or something where I can see a really big version of this photo I'm setting up. Then I'll move all my elements around to the perfect layout, and then I will take that photo. That's different than when I'm hand holding. Because when I'm hand holding, I'm shooting all over the place trying to get the right photo and maybe I'll shoot 100 photos. Whereas, if I'm on a tripod and I'm tethering, I'm trying to get that perfect photo in one shot. As the older I get and the longer I shoot, and the more I've done, the slower I go with my setups. I'm not in a hurry anymore. Used to be if I were out shooting, and I shot less than 1,000 photos that day, I didn't work hard enough. [LAUGHTER] Now, when I'm doing something like this and I have an idea and I'm going to show it to you, maybe I'll shoot 30 photos for the day and we'll get downstairs and edit five or six of them that turned out amazing. It's a lot different in the way that I shoot now than I did early on, and that just takes practice. The longer you do this, the easier some of these things get. Then the longer you think about things and the more ideas you have, your vision begins to develop and your style starts to come out. It's just all these little elements that go together. If I'm shooting today on an F4, I've got my ISO at 400. It was a random setting it's sitting on. I'm able to shoot at 1/60th of a second. I'm going to take a bunch of photos today and as the light changes, those settings may need to change. But that's what I'm working with today. If you're comfortable in manual mode, I definitely encourage you to use it, but if you're not, then I encourage you to use the AV, the aperture mode, and decide. Take a whole set of photos that every available aperture that lens will give you, starting from the lowest, going to the highest. Look at that set of photos on your computer and decide, this is the one I love, what aperture did I shoot that one at? Because you can see your settings in your program and be like, this is the setting I like, and I want you to go from there. I want you to use that setting, use aperture mode and go from there. Then as you get more comfortable with the settings and the things that your computer's doing, then you can venture out into manual mode and see if you can determine how much ISO you want to have, maybe you like 100 ISO all the time and then you can determine how much speed your shutter needs to get that perfect exposure once you've started making some of these decisions for yourself. I'll see you back in class. [MUSIC] 8. Shoot Recap & Editing in Lightroom: Let's take a look at some of the photos that I took today and then I'll edit a photo for you here in Lightroom. I went in for some pretty detailed shots of the bottles and just started moving them around and then I also ended up with my one stack and I put another stack of books out front so I could create some depth in my photo. Then this is a perfect photo to play with focus and pulling the focus on different elements. I could have focused on the front little bottles here. I chose on this photo to focus on the center bottle, which then put the back bottles in blur, but I could have focused on the back bottles, the center bottle, or the front bottles, and created three different photos with three different fields. I want you to experiment with that also. What are you focusing on and then move your focus to another element and take that photo also and just see how pulling the focus on different elements in your photo changes the lookup. You might end up liking something that you didn't expect. I really didn't expect to love this focus in the middle with blur in the front and blur behind, but what a fun surprise that that element did for us. I also came in on here on these just those baubles, but I didn't love this photo. But it's okay. I did come in. I like to come in better from the angle and then I was playing again with the different bottles. This could probably be straighter. I like the bottles to be straight even if maybe the books are on an angle and I just played in there with some of the bottles. Then I focused on each of the bottles in some of the photos. That was fun because these are some fun decorative artist bottles that I found at the antique store one time. That lady was so creative. I also like focusing on just the books and this is probably going to be one of my all-time favorite photos. I love the book stack. I love the way the different elements look paired together and every time I get some different books, I'm probably going to try to take this photo again and see if it can be improved upon, but I don't know that it can. It's almost magically perfect. Just like it is, it's amazing. Again, just came in with a few more angles here. I'm going to pick one and we'll just edit that. Maybe the one where it was beautifully surprising to have the focus in the back. I'm just going to reset that. I was playing in the photos just to have some fun. But I think I'm going to go ahead and maybe hit the “Auto” button and just see what the computer thinks and that's way too bright for me. I'm going to come back down on the exposure and I'm going to come back and visit these settings in a moment. I'm going to add some clarity. I do like the vibrance that it added. I very rarely add saturation because saturation pumps up the oranges and the reds and when I upped that saturation, you can see exactly what colors it's pumping up and that looks fake and I can't stand when I see over-saturated colors. But I do like all the colors in the setup to be more vibrant and that's what the vibrance does. It focuses on the rest of the colors and adds to the vibrance without pumping up the oranges and the yellows like it did. Then I'm going to come down to my curve and I'm going to drop some basic control points there. I'm going to start playing with the element that I love which is, I like it to be dark and moody and matte like an old film picture. That's how I do that. If you don't like the matteness, don't pull that bottom point up. That's how I add the moody atmosphere into my photos. I start playing with the curve that's on those photos till I get it just right. Then I'll also come down and I love the color grading in the shadows. Sometimes I like to add in a slight blue tinge to the shadows. I don't do it all the time. It looks especially nice with flowers. But I do like to come test it out because it may look amazing on that photo when I didn't expect it and I do like to blue up the shadows sometimes. For the sharpening, I'm going to go ahead and pick our little picker here and I'm going to come in where I can actually see what's supposed to be in focus on this photo. I'm going to pick a point and then I'll be able to see what we're sharpening. I'll go ahead and up the sharpening and then I'll come down and hold down my Option Alt key. It's Option if you're on a Mac, Alt key if you're on a PC, and I'll hold that Option Alt key down and mask off so that not every pixel is being sharpened. If everything's white, every pixel is being sharpened, everything black is not being sharpened. I just want to move that mask slider so that it is sharpening the bits I want to have sharpened, but not sharpening all these pixels in there. Then if it's extra grainy, you can play with the noise reduction by upping that luminance slider. Then I like to come down and add a vignette. I like it to have a wide midpoint, be pretty round and be feathered. Then I will tweak that. Look how pretty that is. Then I will go right back up to the top. There's a couple of other panels in here. You can adjust specific colors with the hue, saturation, and luminance panel. I do that less frequently than other people do. I think I don't do that a lot. Transform is if you have crooked buildings or something because you are looking up and taking a photo up. That's that panel that straightens out that distortion. Then Lens Corrections are if you've got specific lens issues, you can find those and correct those known issues of the lenses in that panel. But I'm going to come back up here and then retweak my first panel. I'm just going to tweak the exposure. I like it to look like the light is glowing off the screen, but I don't want to be blowing anything out. I don't want to take away from the yummy moodiness that I've created, that I've gone through and so carefully changed my settings on. I'm just going to tweak those and I might take away a little bit of clarity or it might add to it. There we go. Look how beautiful that is. I'm very excited with how this one turned out. I may take a little bit of that vibrance out. There we go. Absolutely perfect. I love it. Then I could save those settings as a custom preset if I wanted to save that because that's how I come up with preset collections. I'll edit photos manually and then when I find one that I'm like, I love that, I'll create a preset out of it and then I can use it again going forward. Not all presets work for every photo, but it then gives me a collection of presets as a jumping-off point and it speeds up the editing when I have those to play with. A lot of times I'll come over here and add Create Preset and I will create that into a preset if I particularly love it. I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos that I took. I can't wait to see what you come up with in your sets and I will see you next time. 9. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] [LAUGHTER] We got to the end of class. [LAUGHTER] I have so enjoyed having you in class today and I hope that you like this basic setup that I've shown you. It's one of my very favorite go-to setups. Shooting in a box near a window and changing up all the elements and stories that I've put together in that box. It's one of my very favorite ways to shoot still-life by a window, I can't wait to see what you take away from this and what you come up with with your own photography. I've really enjoyed having you here today and I'll see you next time. [MUSIC]