Still Life Photography: Creating A Dark & Moody Flower Setup | DENISE LOVE | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Still Life Photography: Creating A Dark & Moody Flower Setup

teacher avatar DENISE LOVE, Artist & Photographer

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

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.

      Course Introduction


    • 2.

      Your Class Project


    • 3.

      Equipment I Recommend


    • 4.

      Styling Our Setup


    • 5.

      Background Choices


    • 6.

      Some Of My Favorite Props


    • 7.

      DSLR Camera Settings


    • 8.

      Shooting With Natural Light


    • 9.

      Adding In Studio Lighting


    • 10.

      Real Flowers VS Fake Flowers


    • 11.

      Shoot Recap & Editing In Lightroom


    • 12.

      Final Thoughts


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Still life photography is one of my very favorite types of photography. One of the best things about doing still-life photography is that it can be done in almost any space near a window you have available to you in your own home. No need to go out when it is raining, cold, windy, etc… you can practice your storytelling and photography anytime.

In this class we'll cover:

  • The equipment I use and what I suggest for you
  • Styling our moody flower set up whether you choose to use fresh flowers, dried flowers, or fake flowers
  • I'll tell you my thoughts on using fake flowers vs real flowers
  • We'll talk about lighting - why I prefer natural light and what I recommend when you need to add some studio lighting to your set
  • We'll talk about your backgrounds
  • Some of my favorite go-to props
  • Camera settings
  • And we'll look at the photos I took and some editing tips

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. I'll share with you some of my own thoughts and preferred gear that I use to create beautiful artistic images, so you might consider your options after watching the class. And you'll need a few props and some flowers to photograph.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image


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

Level: All Levels

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Course Introduction: Still life photography is one of my own very favorite types of photography. I love how creative that you can get and how much control you have over your environment, the props, the stories, the backgrounds. I love every aspect of creating here in my studio. I'm Denise Love and I'm a photographer based out of Atlanta, Georgia, and I've been doing photography professionally for more than 10 years. In this class, we are going to learn a ton. We're going to go over styling a set, picking your props. If you want to pick out fresh flowers versus dried flowers versus fake flowers, we're going to cover some of that information for you. We're going to go over lighting and how easy it is to set up in a window and what you need if you need to supplement that light with any type of studio lighting, and we're also going to talk a little bit about your gear, and if you're shooting it from anything with a pro camera down to a iPhone, it doesn't matter. You could do different sets like this, no matter the equipment that you have, and I'm just going to talk a little bit of some of my favorite bits, of equipment to give you some idea of what you might be interested in, and then we're going to take a look at some of the photos that we got and do a little bit of editing. You'll feel comfortable after you've taken some photos, seeing what it is that you can get. I'm even printed some of our photos from today's set up because I did take a long enough break to let the prints come in. Look how beautiful we can get in our stories telling the full story and some details, and now I have some beautiful art to frame from a house. I'm pretty excited about the different things that we're talking about today, and then you can see how beautifully some of these print up. It's a great class. We've got lots of information whether you're just starting out or you're just looking for some new inspiration of super excited to have you here. Let's get started. 2. Your Class Project: Let's talk about your class project. In this class, I want you to take at least two photos. I've done some prints of some photos that I took of this particular setup to give you an example. I'd like to see one far back photo and I'd like to see one of a close up of some details, whether that be dried petals or the dried flower heads or whatever it is from your setup that you like the detail of. I would love to see one pull back and one detail shot to go with that. Look how beautifully these print out once you have some printed, and why I like a detail and a pull back is because then you're extending the story of your photos past one particular shot. We've now extended into a pair, I could frame these and hang them together, it can be something that we have as a series, and it's the way that I have grown into shooting different sets myself. I do like having a little pair printed so that I can go have these framed and hang them in my house because I love them that much. These turned out so beautiful that I'm pretty excited about them. That's our class project. I want you to do at least two photos, one pull back, one close detail of some part of your setup, and come share those with us. All right. I'll see you back in class. 3. Equipment I Recommend: Let's talk about your gear in this video. You can certainly do any of these projects with your phone if you want to do mobile photography. But I'll be using a DSLR through out this series. I'm shooting off a full-frame camera at this point. I did start with a Canon Rebel, and at some point after I figured out what that camera couldn't do for me, I upgraded to a Canon 70D. Now I'm shooting on the 5D Mark 3, which I really love, and I only recommend you upgrade your equipment as you figure out what your current equipment isn't doing for you. I do love having the upgraded camera. If you have a consumer camera like I started with, I used that camera for five or six years easily, before I finally figured out, "This is [inaudible] it's not doing for me." I recommend if you're shooting on a DSLR and you only have say one lens choice, and you want to make it a good one, I would go for the 50 millimeter lens. That's either like a 50 millimeter, 1.8, which is the nifty 50. That lens will do almost anything you could ever imagine. As we get further along, I'll tell you about shooting my camera settings. Most of the time I'm shooting with an F4, F2.8, something pretty wide open. If you have a 1.8 or 1.4, that's way more aperture than I tend to use. The nifty 50, which is barely inexpensive, under $150 is the lens that I've used for years. It's the best. To make it have macro capabilities, I would add in the Kenko extension tubes. In that way, you can do regular photography and you can do macro photography with the one lens. The extension tubes extend the range of every one of your lenses though. They're really nice to have. Because I shoot with a lot of vintage lenses, old film lenses that have a little converter on them to use them on my regular DSLR. What I like about those is you can get them off of eBay, fairly inexpensive. I think I might have paid $40 or $50 for my Helios 44-2, which is one of my very favorite vintage lenses to use. Not only can I use it as a regular lens, I can add the extension tubes in there to make it a macro. I love that option if you're on a tighter budget or you're looking to expand your creativity, vintage lenses are an excellent choice and they're not very expensive. You just need the little convertor ring which you can get off Amazon, fairly inexpensive to mount it from this camera mount, your camera mount. I love that option. You can use a macro lens. If you have a macro lens, 100 millimeter, 90 millimeter macro lens, either of those are fine. If you have it, use it. If you don't have it and you're wanting to do macro, I'd get the one with the vibration reduction in it. It is a tad more expensive to get the vibration reduction, but it's a feature you can turn off if you don't need it and it's better than not having it when you do need it. Because if you get the lesser expensive lens that doesn't have it, most of the time I'm shooting hand-holding when I'm out, say at the botanical gardens, I'm not setting up on a tripod. I want that vibration reduction option, so it's worth a couple hundred extra dollars to get it because you can always turn that feature off. But in lieu of a macro lens, you can definitely add extension tubes to any lens that you have and make it a macro lens. If you're going to use a zoom lens, I don't recommend the kit lens because those are variable aperture lenses and so the further you zoom out, the bigger that aperture goes from 3.5-5.6. It doesn't stay fixed, so you don't get any of that beautiful blur that I'm shooting for, and I'm shooting for the blur. That's a specific feature that I know when I'm looking at a lens that lens is not going to give it to me. Those tend to be lightweight, not as well-made, and the glass is not as nice. There are a couple of reasons why I don't like a kit lens. But if that's all you have, definitely use it. I'm not saying don't use it. But if you have a choice, I'd buy a camera body and a 50 millimeter, I wouldn't buy a camera with a couple of lenses. Then if you have to use a zoom lens, if you can get like the 24-72.8 lens, whether it's by Tamron or manufactured by your camera brand, that's probably the only zoom lens I would actually recommend because it is a really nice, high-quality piece of glass and it will give you beautiful results every time. That's the lens that I wish I had early on. I had some people in the photography clubs that had that lens and I was so jealous of it because the Canon version of that lens, I think at that time might have been $1,200, which if you're on a really tight budget like I was early on, $1,200 just seemed unattainable. That lens just seem like a lens that I would never ever have the ability to own a much less a pro camera or other expensive lenses. It took many years before I got to the point where I even got this lens and it came on. I used camera that I bought. It actually came with that camera in the purchase so I didn't even purchase it outright by myself. The funny thing is, is now after I lusted after this lens for so many years, I don't even use it. I love art lenses more than regular lenses and it took me 10 years of shooting to get to the point that I'm at now. It's not a decision that you might make early on. But now I look for Lensbaby lenses and I look for vintage lenses, and I look to change those lenses into macro with my extension tubes, and most of these options, I could probably buy all those lenses for the price of that one lens. My very favorite lens to use, and I will use it on quite a bit of the photos that I'm shooting is the Lensbaby velvet lens. It's my favorite because it gives the very prettiest velvety look to the entire photo, and it gives a velvety feel to the blur, and it's just such a beautiful lens to shoot with. This is the 56. This lens would be like a nifty 50 in length. It's 56. It is probably the one that doesn't come off my camera now. But it's all manual. It's like using a vintage lens. It's all manual. If you're early in your shooting, manual lenses are very frustrating to comprehend or to get your head around because you have to set all the settings yourself. You're working in manual, so you're going to want to master your manual settings on your camera. For years I had some Lensbaby lenses, not this particular lens. The ones that tilted and I just couldn't nail the focus. I couldn't get it to do what I wanted it to do. I hated the lenses. I was very frustrated. When you're learning all the cameras stuff and how to shoot a good picture and learning all your settings and setting on a tripod you're trying to get composition in, it's really hard to throw one more thing on top of that. Shooting with specialty lenses, I would say until you're really comfortable with your camera inside and out. You're comfortable shooting, you're getting photos that you love, but you're like, "What's the next step?" I love going back and revisiting every place around me that I've revisited with a regular lens and revisit with each art lens that I acquired because it makes each place new again, it's so exciting when you have a new lens and how can you take these photos this time to get something different? It just makes everything new and exciting again. But I wouldn't recommend an art lens or a specialty manual lens until you're comfortable shooting with regular lenses and you've got everything else down pat because there is a learning curve to the vintage lenses and the manual lenses and the extension tubes. Then maybe early on it's too much to add to the mix. But I'm going to be shooting most of the photos that I do end up getting for this particular little workshop. I'm going to be using my velvet lens because it is my favorite, and I want to see what beautiful art photos I can get out of this wonderful setup that we'll be shooting today. I will see you in class. 4. Styling Our Setup: Let's go ahead and style our scene that we're going to do today. I've got my dried flowers off the desk that I use for different things. I had these, these were real roses that I used in a workshop that I did. Then when I was done with him, I photographed them for many days. They were like nice and beautiful and fresh. Then many days later when they were starting to droop, I put them over there on my desk and just let them sit there until they completely dried out. Now I've had these for about a year, so these do last a very long time. There are still, some of these are ugly, but some of these are really beautiful. I like keeping flowers through all parts of the life cycle. You'll see in this setup that we're going to do today with these photos that I'll take. How beautiful even dead flowers can be. There's even whole movements out there for lovely dead crap that you can find on Instagram and stuff where people take photos of beautiful things that have dry stuff like these flowers. I'm using my favorite little wood pedestal. We're not going to see it. It's more for just a height thing for here. I like using pedestals and risers, cakes stands. What have you? Because gives my photo different heights. It gives me something to drape fabric on, to then give different layers to the photo. That's what I'm going to do today. I'm going to go ahead and use my pedestal. One of my favorite fabrics, which is a very loose weave, drape bubble fabrics. When you're out looking at the fabric store or wherever it is, vintage market, whatever, look for fabrics that just have this really loose weave and this beautiful way that it can just drape and wrinkle and look beautiful when you go to use it in some styling. I don't like fabrics that are too stiff. They're hard to work with. They don't look as natural. Can't get the beautiful wrinkles and folds in it nearly as easily. That's what I like on a fabric. I've got my really pretty vase that I'm going to be using. In that vase I have a whole bunch of dried petals. Basically that's the rest of the flowers from this original set that just dried and I kept because petals are beautiful to photograph also. It'll make really nice elements around my setup here. Not only do I want to keep dried flowers, I want to keep all the petals that fall off because some of these would be beautiful macro photos, the details, the veins, the wrinkles, the color. Those are going to be really stunning if you choose to do close-up macro photography for some of your photos. But basically what I'm going to do for starting the first little set-ups. Generally I'll do lots of setups, so I won't just set it up, take one photo and call it a day. I want to get as many photos out of one setup as I can. You take a lot of time to think up these different sets. It's a real shame if you don't spend a lot of time photographing it, getting the best you can. Because the very first photos that I get of a set are my very worst, they're the ones that are the most obvious. They're the ones where you're getting your feel of the land. When you start snapping your photos, they're just not inspired, they're not the best photos I generally get. How pretty that is, all those wrinkles and colors, that's so beautiful. Save these. But anyway, so generally what I'll do is I'll get out my initial idea. I'll start styling and figuring out which ones I want to have in the setup. I don't want it to be full vase. Like I've got here in this cup. I wanted to be sparse and a few, I want these flowers to be the subject, but I don't want there to be tons of them. I am picking out the roses that have this particular colors in it. I'm not picking out the ones that are mostly yellow or they have that bright red color in this little sets. I'm just picking out the few that I really want to photograph today. Then while I'm shooting, I want to shoot down on it. I want to shoot going straight on it. I want to move the flowers around in different angles, and they all dry at different heights. I want to see what it is. As many ways as I can move it around, and down and get some petals and pull back and get the whole thing. I want as many photos of this setup as I can get. Then not only that, I might want a few close ups of some of the individual flowers, and I might want some photos of just petals. I want you to do a setup like this that you can leave set up for a couple days. I don't do a set and then take it back down. Generally, unless it's perishable like berries or food or something like that. If it's something that I can set up like a still life and I'm using props or dried flowers are things that aren't perishable. I will set this up and I'll leave it for a couple days and I will come back. I'll take all the photos today and see what I got, and then decide what do I like, what I do not like that I get that wow photo I was looking for. Did I miss it somehow? Did I not get a set that I thought in my mind, I might want to get or to think of new things or new ways to shoot. Or maybe I want to come back with a different lens or a different fabric or different vase. I want to start swapping things out and changing things up. Because the longer you work on a set, the better those photos get, you start thinking past the obvious. You start thinking past everything that you've already thought of, and then you start thinking outside that box. What else can I do? What else can I get? What can I change out to make this different? Can I change out the background? Can I change out the base that we're sitting on? Can I change out the pedestal? Can I of take off the fabric, can I change out the fabric? Can I change out the vase? Can I use a different vase? Can I set the flowers down on the pedestal and not have a vase? All these different things are running through my mind as I'm changing the sets in and out, trying to get several photos that I love, maybe many that I want to print. I want to get as many different types of photos. I want to get some that are real close in, some that are pulled back, some that are details, some that are going down, some that are straight on, some from the side, some with some backlighting. I'm thinking of all of these things as I'm doing this shoot. Coming to a shoot and taking a set of photos and spinning a half hour at it may not be enough to get the best out of this set that you can get. I want you to make a habit of using things for a little while if this is newer to you. But this is not new to me and I still do this, just my habit, but use things that are not perishable, or if they are perishable, put them in the refrigerator and bring them out again tomorrow, and leave your general setup set up, and come back tomorrow and do this set again. What can you change about it and what can you do better? Maybe you need to set up on a tripod if you didn't get enough clear photos from handheld shooting. I want you to shoot this set 2-3 different times, different lighting, different times of the day, different elements that you've changed out. Just to see how far you can push each set that you think up or try to do. This set of things ready to get a few photos of, so I'm going to go ahead and start shooting. Just so I've got some good stuff to show you, and I'll see you back in class. 5. Background Choices: Let's talk a little bit about our backgrounds that we're using. This particular setup for me is going to be a dark, and moody setup. The way that I make it dark, and moody is by photographing on a dark surface here as my beat up wood table and my charcoal gray painted cloth backdrop that I have back here behind my set, just hanging on a backdrop stand. The charcoal gray backdrop is one of my favorite because it's not solid black, so it's not super-duper stark. To me, the black black is just almost too stark, and has less depth when I'm editing, and the charcoal has the ability to have different ranges of darkness in it. I love it because it's got wrinkles, and creases, and variations in the paint itself where it's not covered at a 100 percent. I got this cloth backdrop at Home Depot, so go to your local hardware store and, look in the paint department, and you can get, say, a nine foot by six foot painters drop cloth at a canvas, and you can get some charcoal gray flat paint. I went out to my driveway and just painted that on there, and now it's my very favorite backdrop that I use. You could hang this on a wall, if you're closer to the wall, you can hang it on a backdrop stand, which I've got that I'm hanging this on, and they're inexpensive on Amazon. I've got them hanging with some clamps from the stand, and I love that because the wrinkles create depth and movement. If you don't like the wrinkles in your backdrop, iron it before you paint it because once you paint it those wrinkles are painted in. But I love having that as a basic backdrop for a lot of sets, and sometimes I'm even shooting in a box, I have an old crate that I love, and I'll put the setup in front of the crate, and that box is my depth, and my darkness. But the drop cloth here has worked out fantastic, especially for this particular setup, so now I can shoot towards the black, I have some nice depth, and darkness, but there's no reason for anything else to be back there. I'm usually a little closer to the window, I want to be a little closer to my light source. The further from the light source you get the less contrast you get on that light, and I love if you're shooting with dark, and moody. You need all your services to be darker. The darkness soaks in the light, and adds to the shadows, and gives you the depth, and moodiness that I'm shooting for in a set like this. If you're shooting for light and bright, all your services need to be light, white, bright because they'll reflect the light back in the setting, and they'll make the whole setting brighter, and not moody at all. It would be the light and bright setting. For this basic setup, just a beat up old table is what I'm using, you can use photography boards, you can use a dark painted surface that you painted, and I used to just set up over here on a cheap folding table. I had some old wood flooring or photography war or peace of beat up wood that I found that the antique market that's about two foot by three foot in length is the perfect size. I would shoot on those photography boards instead of this table. You can be really creative on the surface that you're sitting on, and you might not even see that surface, so you could maybe just cover it in a dark colored tablecloth if you're not going to see it because all my setup, I'm seeing mostly the fabric, the vase, the background. Not necessarily seeing the table, and once I'm focused in on the table and making photos of the petals or something. Get pretty creative, find an old beat up table if you've got one, paint it black backdrop, or canvas backdrop back there. You could also have some foam core that you've got clamped on some little clamps, which I'll show you a little piece of foam core, and the lighting segment, but you could have a bigger one covered in a piece of canvas if you wanted to have a little tiny setup, and not something quite so large. Get creative there with your sets. Just tying something dark behind it. Some type of beat up wood table is my very favorite simple setup. Be creative there, and can't wait to see what you come up with. 6. Some Of My Favorite Props: Let's talk about some of my favorite props to do a very simple setup like this. In this one, I've got a pedestal, I've got some fabric, I've got a vase, and then I've got my decayed flowers that have been dried, and my flower petals. In this setup, these are some basic elements that I love to pull together for different sets like this. A pretty vase from the Garden Center that was just a couple of dollars. This vase has become one of my favorites to photograph things in. I've used it a couple times, and I love it. It is a little bit larger than some of the sets I generally do. I usually use smaller vases like this. This is an artist vase that I got in Charleston, and then a lot of times, I will use a coffee mug. I got the coffee mug at Anthropology, which tends to be one of my favorite places for some random photography props for some reason. T. J. Maxx is also another favorite source. Even though it's got the finger hook on it, you just have to turn that to the back, and then you have the most beautiful vases to shoot things like flowers and stuff in. Coffee mugs, one of my favorite items. Little pretty vases that you might find when you're out looking, another favorite item, and then, of course, different little pots from the Garden Center or Hobby Lobby, or somewhere fun like that. Another favorite element of this type of setup is a pedestal. I have random pedestals that I've picked up over the years. This is a plant stand, I think, that somebody made just out of some plywood and some wood spools here or thin ills, or whatever it is that these pieces are, and they're just nailed on there to make a fun plant stand. Plant stands are great choices. Cake stands are really nice choices. The one that I'm using in this setup is one of my favorites and when it doesn't have a piece of fabric on it, it's just a plain, wood vessel with really pretty wood beads that are on it that I just happen to cross out shopping one day. When you're out looking around at the Antique Market or the Garden Center or Hobby Lobby or wherever it is that you like to shop, look around for pretty bits like that and just grab them when you see them because if you don't grab it when you see it, you'll definitely regret that later when you can't find it again. Another of my favorite elements to a very simple setup like this is fabric, and the fabric that's on here is probably my favorite piece of fabric because it's not very thick. It's very, very drapable. I like fabric that is thin. You can basically see through it and when you go to drape it, it drapes really beautifully, and so if the fabric has any little wrinkles in it, you're just not going to tell and see because of the way the fabric naturally tends to flow when you drape it. This is my favorite type of fabric to look for, something very soft, lightweight, has a loose weave. Here's another one that's real pretty that I love to use, and you can see it's got a nice, loose weave. You can see through it. I love that. I also like to collect vintage fabrics with some type of laced decoration on it, and while it's not as drapey as the other ones that I look for, it is a nice element to add in or to use. Then another thing that I like to look for are kitchen towels or napkins, and they're definitely thicker, but sometimes they have a pattern or a color or something that adds to a set that maybe you're not going to get any other way. For this type of setup, that's my favorite things. Some type of pedestal or something to rise your subject up a little so that you have some different height differences, some type of fabric to maybe cover that riser, some type of vase or a vessel to hold your flowers, and then in this one, I'm using flowers that have been sitting on my desk for a while drying, these roses. I like two-toned roses because they're prettier. Some of these are not nearly as pretty as this two-toned that dried like this versus dried one color, but just test out any flowers that you happen to get. Use them in your setups, and then set them to the side and let them dry out, and then see what other pretty sets that you could come up with. 7. DSLR Camera Settings: Let's talk about camera settings for a moment. I generally shoot in manual mode because I've been shooting for a long time, and I want to control every aspect of my photo. What I mean about that is I want to control the ISO, which is the sensitivity of my camera sensor. I want to control the shutter speed, which is how fast or slow the shutter opens and lets light in, and I want to control the aperture, which is how big or small the blades inside the lens open or close, which controls how much blur that I get. So you have three settings, in this little triangle, of good exposure. If you're new, and this is what I did for years and years and years, I want you to shoot on aperture mode. Pick your aperture because out of all the different settings, the blur is what to me is most important. I'm shooting with a standard lens. This is the 24-70 F2.8 lens and I don't like shooting with a kit lens. If you have a kit lens and you have say, a 50-millimeter lens, I'll pick that 50-millimeter lens 100 percent of the time. That's what I shot with for years and years and years, a 50-millimeter compact macro lens. Because it gives you the most choices. Kit lens, that's a zoom lens, has a variable aperture and I never could get to the point that I had, the right amount of blur, when I was trying to take photos, so I was never happy with it. Those lenses are generally inexpensive, lightweight, and they're good for things possibly like landscape and things like that, but that's not what I want to take pictures of. I want to take pictures of things like this or I wanted to take pictures of people and have the background blurred, and blur just tends to be really important to me for what I like to do. If you're in aperture mode, you can pick the blur. The lower that F-stop is, and depending on the lens, will depend on how low you can go. If you're shooting with a camera lens like I've got the F2.8 lens where it's 2.8 no matter where it zoomed out to, and then 2.8 is the widest I can go. So it's going to give me a spot of focus on my subject and it's going to throw everything else in blur, and you can control where the blur is. Let's say I want to focus on something way down here. You see how this is now and blur and the vase is now in focus. Maybe I want to come up here and focus on this flower instead. Now I can focus here and all this other stuff is now back in blur. The reason why I love blur, and it's part of what makes up my own individual style, is that a lot of times I'm shooting to add textures to a photo, and the blur is what lets you add texture and create more of an artistic interpretation of that photo and lets the texture add to the photo. If you had everything in focus and then you added a texture to it, all of those elements will be fighting with each other. The other thing that I love about the blur beyond the fact that I'm shooting to add textures, is I like the mystery and what it does in the background. It just adds that element where your imagination now can decide what's going on back there, what could be further back. It makes the image continue on, what is it for all in focus and you can see every detail. Your mind stops there. It doesn't fill in anything and keep on going. I like that. It allows the imagination to then expand upon what it was I was shooting. So I like blur. I'm going to be shooting usually at an F4 is generally where I like to be. The further you are back, the wider open you can be. But if you get closer, that aperture needs to be a little bit higher because your planes of focus get closer together and one plane will be in focus and the other planes will be out of focus. Further back, the planes are bigger, closer up, the planes are smaller. If I'm on a 2.8, I might just get the tip of the front of this flower and focus. If I were on an F4, more of my subject would be in focus and I would get more of this flower, but still have plenty of blur all around it. It depends on how close you get as to how high the aperture needs to be. If I was right up on that flower shooting a macro of it, I might need to be on an F5.6 or an F8 because the planes in a macro photo are completely different than the planes of focus on a still life, which are different than the plains of focus on say like a landscape. The closer you get, the higher the F-stop you need to be at to get the right amount of focus for your subject. You'll notice that I've got my grid turned on so I can see the lines of my grid. What I like about that is I can now position that photo along one of these lines for a rule of third type composition. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I'm probably shooting for the rule of third. I might center my subject and then move slightly to the left or move slightly to the right, or move slightly up or move slightly down so that I'm centering that subject matter on that line. See how easy that is to line that up? The rule of thirds is just more interesting. When we line this up on one of these lines, and sometimes even on one of the cross points, we've then decided what's the most interesting composition, rather than shooting straight on. As I'm deciding on aperture, that's F4, we can move on up and I'm going to adjust my shutter speed so we can still see stuff. The further I go up with that F-stop, the more I'm getting in focus with that picture. If I take a look at the photo that I just took, I can see now I've got tons of stuff in focus. But what if I go back to F2.5, take that same photo. You can see I've got tons of stuff in blur versus tons of stuff in focus, big difference there. What you're going to need to do is decide, that's one of the main elements here, that you need to decide, how much blur do you like? I want you to set up your setup here, and I want you to start at F2.8 or whatever lens you have, whatever the lowest part of that aperture is. This is a 2.8 lens so start at 2.8 and take that photo and then go up to 3.2 and take that photo and then go up to 3.5 and take that photo and then go up to 4 and take that photo, and 4.5, and 5.0, and 5.6, and 6.3, and 7.1, and 8 - You'll notice each time I upped that F-stop, I had to go slower on my shutter speed because I'm going to think of your F-stop like the iris of an eye. F 2.8, it's wide open. It's opposite of what you think in your mind. But at 2.8, it's the widest it can get. It's like you're looking outside in the dark and the black part of your eye is huge. Then you get all the way to say F8, that black part of your eye stops down because there's more light coming in and your eye has to refocus on the amount of light coming in. You just got to think of that opening up and closing down depending on the number. If I'm at 2.8, it's real wide-open. If I'm at 5.6, it's medium open. If I'm like an F8, it's open way down here. Then if I'm at F16, that F-stops really tiny and I have very little light coming in. As I'm going up closing that my little aperture blades down, I got to let more light in. The shutter has to go slower to let the light in. Every time I was adjusting that, I was adjusting that shutter in correspondence to give me a good focus still. If you don't want to do all that because that's manually, set that camera on aperture mode, set your aperture, take the picture. Let me just move that. If I were to set the aperture, we're at 2.8, 3.2, 3.5, do you see how that color never changes? Because the camera automatically is making those decisions for me that I was just doing manually. If you're uncomfortable with manual, go aperture mode. That's my favorite mode. You may still have to set up on a tripod because whatever this shutter speed number is, the lower it gets. It gets under 160th of a second. You cannot generally, handhold without supporting the camera in some way, without the camera moving and giving you a lot of blur. As that camera shutter speed dips down below 60, you need to be on a tripod or you need to somehow be holding yourself like your arm, your tripod, or something leaning up on a table or use something that level yourself. If you're up above 160th of a second, like 180th, 100, 125, you can stand here and handhold, and get a clear picture and not be a problem. If you're not comfortable with manual mode, start off an aperture mode and I want you to take a series of photos at the lowest aperture you can get at, and go all the way up to the very highest aperture you can get at. You definitely need to be sitting on a tripod for this project and take one photo at each aperture. Then when you get to your computer, pick, out of that dozen or so photos that you took, which one was your favorite? My favorite tends to fall right around F4, generally, depending on what I'm doing. Now, when I'm out shooting, I'm probably sitting on an F4 already because I know that's how much blur I like for most things. If I already know, on that triangle, what my favorite aperture is because I did this little test of aperture pictures and are picked out my favorite. But I already have one number set in stone. The next number that's important the aperture is, how much blur? The ISO is, how much grain? How sensitive that camera lens sensor is? It's going to determine how much grain you end up on your photo. If you're shooting film, like when I was a kid, we shot 100 film for bright sunny days, 200 film for cloudy days, 400 film when we were indoors, that is sensitivity that has now moved over into our digital cameras. That ISO is the sensitivity of your lens sensor. I'm sitting at, on this one, ISO of 200. I can change that ISO from 100 all the way up to, I don't know, 12,000 something. The bigger and nicer the camera is, the higher the ISO can go and the better the sensitivity reacts. If you're on a consumer grade camera and it's one that you could buy, say at the camera store with a couple kit lenses and it's a consumer grade like Rebel or Nikon, or whatever, you need to be shooting somewhere below, I'd say ISO 400 because on the Canon Rebel that I had, the higher the ISO went, the grainier it got. Anything over 400, I didn't like how much grain I had. I knew to shoot from 100, 200, or 400 to get the amount of grain I needed. If it's a cloudy day outside, maybe I need to be at 400 to let more light in for my different settings. I would set that at 400. If you have a nicer camera or you go up to a pro camera, you could probably get an ISO of a 1,000 and it gives you a good result without too much grain. The drawback to getting a 1,000 on a lower-end camera, tons of grain. The benefit of upgrading to a pro camera is you could shoot in a higher ISO, low-light situation with very little grain. I don't recommend you buy a new camera every year. I only bought a new camera when I figured out what my original camera couldn't do for me. Because I thought I could shoot out in bright sunlight high noon at the flower market, I didn't know that high ISO was going to hold me back for many years. When I finally learned what better light was and I can recognize it, and I could decide how much of the diffused light, I could use a handhold, how high I could get that with the ISO, that's when I figured out I couldn't handhold that 1,000 ISO and get no grain. I was like, I have figured out with this camera, now limits me to, now it's time to upgrade. At the point that you're using your camera and your equipment and stuff, and you don't know how it's holding you back, keep on using it until you figure out one day, here is what is holding me back. Let me now upgrade. Don't upgrade until you know why you're being held back for whatever it is that you're working on or doing. Low ISO, 100, 200, 400, that's your second setting of that triangle because the first setting was, how much blur? Second setting is, how much grain? I know I want lots of blur and little grain. The third setting that you're going to have to get good exposure is, how fast does that shutter need to open and close to give you the right amount of light to give you a properly exposed photo? If I take this photo, that's the one we took, I had 180th of a second. I was on at F4 and then I can see here, I was slightly overexposed for however much light I had coming in. If I were on an aperture mode, the computer here in my camera decided what that setting should have been, I may have that set, if I'm in an aperture mode, to overexpose slightly because that's the setting in your camera that you can decide. I don't like it to be slightly over. If I go back to manual and I'm trying to decide how much in or out of overexposure I am. My goal is to be on the center home plate. Like if I'm taking it right there, I know 130th of a second at F8. I don't want F8, let's change that. I want it way down here. I can see my little line move as I'm going. At 2.8, 250th of a second, that's going to be what I need to get properly exposed. Now, you can see I don't have the plus or minus overexposure up here. I've got a nice exposed photo at that F-stop. You've got a low ISO. I'll go ahead and set that where I want it; 100, 200, 400. You've got how much blur do you want? I want a lot of blur, so I'm going to set that one at F2.8 or F4, or something like that, depending on how close I am into my subject. Then how fast does that shutter need to be to give me that properly exposed photo? That's the only other setting in there that you got to decide. If you are wide-open, you're at F, your ISO 200, 1-250th of a second was what I needed for that to be properly exposed when I had it right here and I was deciding on exposure. You can see now, I'm at the home plate, so you're trying to get everything lined up where it's centered on the home plate, not overexposed or overexposed, with those three settings. How much grain? How much blur? How faster that shutter got to go to make it well-exposed? How much grain is the ISO? How much blur is your F-stop? How fast does the shutter got to go to give you proper exposure? You're going to have to practice with that. If you're not comfortable making all the determination yourself, set your ISO 100, 200, 400. Decide on how much blur that you want. Put that on aperture mode and let that decide. You can put ISO on auto if you wanted to. But I find that if it's on auto, then the camera doesn't know that I don't like lots of grain and it might auto-ISO to1,500 and then I'll have a really grainy photo. I do like this to be a set number. I don't like it to be on auto. Then if you're on an aperture mode, if you set that on AV mode and pick the amount of blur that you want from that little aperture test that you did, the camera will figure out the shutter speed for you. I want you to play working in aperture mode and manual mode, and figure out, how am I getting a good exposed photo? Pay attention to your exposure line you want to be right here at the home plate. 8. Shooting With Natural Light: Let's talk about lighting. In my setup, I'm always using a small table by a window. In this instance I've got a rather large table which is newer to me. Because I found it at the antique market and it was so beautiful, I couldn't pass it up. But this table has folding legs, so I can put it in a closet because most of the time, if you're like me, you're going to be shooting in your house. You want to be near a window, and you want a little table that you can fold up and put away. I used to shoot with a little cheap plastic table over here in front of this window. I would have a photography board on top of that plastic table. You couldn't tell it was a cheap plastic table. I'd be setup right here in this window on a very inexpensive setup. The reason I picked this window, is because we're in an upstairs bedroom. This is a room I've turned into my office. This window gets really nice morning light. We are on the east side of the condo here in this window and the sun rises in the east, goes on top of the building and then sets on the backside of the condo, setting in the west. If you've got an east facing window, you're going to have morning light. Sometimes the light like today is going to be very strong, and you're going to have lots of harsh sun and shadows coming in. In an instance like this, I've got some lightweight curtains and these are actually not even solid. They're like a cheese cloth fabric, which when I hung them up, but I didn't think that's what they were going to do. I may eventually replace these with a solid white. But if I move this out of the way, you can see this light over here gets even harsher. The light and the shadows become so harsh that they're just not very pleasing in the photo. I've gotten the curtain closed, that light is a little softer. I could probably take photos with this diffused light on my photo if I wanted. But generally I prefer to have the light completely diffused. I have a diffuser that sits up in this window. All a diffuser is, this is a 24-inch reflector. It's one of those round things that we get from the photography store that's got a white side and a gold side, and a silver side and a black side. The silver and the black are on the inside here. A diffuser, I've got sitting in the window, is the center part of that reflector. It's this really nice translucent white centerpiece that I have, that I sit in this window over here to diffuse the light when I'm shooting over here in the morning. What I love about the diffused light is it's beautiful, it's soft. It makes my setup beautiful and soft. It gives me the perfect contrast without the really harsh light and shadows. Early on, I couldn't tell what beautiful light looked like. When you're just starting to shoot with your camera, you may not see that the light is harsh or diffused or soft. Because I was convinced, I could go out to the gardens and take great photos at hot noon, with no clouds in the sky and you couldn't tell me otherwise. When you're trying to learn your camera and your equipment, and your settings, and your lenses and your composition and you're really trying to figure everything out, lighting may not be the thing that you can see the best because you're trying to fit everything in. Once you get to the point where you're like, I'm taking pretty good photos. I've figured out my camera. I know how my lenses are, but something's wrong. What's wrong? The next element that's wrong probably is that lighting. Lighting is such a big deal. You're looking for soft, diffused lighting. When I'm shooting, if the light's not soft and diffused, I need to make it soft and diffused by putting that diffuser in the window, diffusing the light I have coming in. Once the sun goes on top of the building and comes along to the backside, it's almost too dark in this room for me to shoot comfortably. I generally spend my time up here before lunch. If I was shooting downstairs in my dining room, which I used to do, I used to have everything set up in there because it was convenient, and I could just run over and take pictures what I wanted. I didn't have to take it down. This room that I'm in now was a spare bedroom. I didn't feel like I had space in my house for a studio until I got rid of stuff. But down there, I could shoot down there in the afternoon. From about one to four or five, I had some pretty good light come in before the sun started dropping below the trees, and it got too dark before it set. If you're at a west facing window, that's probably good afternoon light. The same principle still apply. I don't want the sun streaming straight into the window very harsh on my setup. I still want to diffuse it with a diffuser in the window but that's what enough light comes in that I could get some pretty fast camera settings and not have to always be on a tripod. If you're on a North-South window, those windows are good, probably most of the day because they are always diffused. There's no direct light coming in. But you're going to need to practice in those windows at different times of the day to see when you actually have enough light to shoot the way you like to shoot. But if you're a morning shooter or an evening shooter, the North-South windows should always have some diffused light coming in for you. Other things that I use with the lighting are black surfaces and white surfaces. You'll notice, right back behind us, I'm going to very carefully move our camera. Right back here, behind us, is a black backdrop that I have hanging behind my table. It's not pure black, It's actually like a charcoal gray. I like a charcoal color personally better than black, because when I'm editing, there's more depth in charcoal than there is in black. I can get it darker or lighter, or I can see variances in there. If it's just black, black, it's almost too stark so I do like a charcoal gray and that sucks up some light because I like to shoot dark and moody. Not everything has to be light and bright. For me I like most things to be dark and moody and have some depth to them. Even if I'm using other backer board, your backdrops, behind my setup, I still generally have that black or charcoal gray canvas piece hanging up back here all the time because it just sucks up some of that light for me. This is a drop cloth from Home Depot or Lowe's. It was a painter's cloth, drop cloth that I painted with charcoal gray flat paint. You can do that right outside on your driveway, just paint it then you can always have one to use. I like the wrinkles in it. I like the spots where the paint is not solid. I like all the folds and things. I think it adds some movement to the background, and sometimes you can see it, sometime you don't. But I don't iron out the drop cloth to begin with. Now, if you don't like all the movement in yours, iron it before you paint it because after you paint it, you've painted all that in. That is one element that's always set up for my lighting, is that black backdrop or charcoal gray. Another element that I personally like to use is black cards and white cards. Black cards are used to remove light, just like that background back there. It's going to give me the dark and moody, it's going to allow me to control where light comes in on my scene. A lot of times I have several of these and sometimes I even have these clamps that I got from the hardware store. I will just clamp these clamps on the bottom of my black card and use those to stand, that's like my third hand. When I don't have enough hands, this is my third hand. A lot of times I'm using these on the side the light is coming in. If I'm trying to make a tunnel of light or somehow really control the light being right here, for instance, but not over here, I can use those to direct that light. The other thing that I like to use is a white card. These you can just form core boards from the office supply store. That black card is from the office supply store, you can get it in different sizes, you can cut it with a utility knife. This actually I think may have been one of those science project boards because it's already got some folds in it. But what I like about it is I can set it up over here to reflect white light back in. That's also what these round reflectors are for, the white, black, gold, silver, the little round reflectors. I use only the white and the black because if you use the gold or the silver, you get really a harsh color tone. If you're further back, it's maybe less harsh but further back and it may not really be doing anything at all. But these come with a white and a black also. You could also use those clamps on the bottom of them like I've done with the black card and it can stand up over here on its own if you need a third hand to help you out. But if you don't have a round reflector like I do, you can use these cheap cards and they are just to reflect light back in your scene. You can see right in here, no light, extra light. How much light we can get to come in there if we need it. In general, I like nice shadows and I like nice directional light. I'm set up in a way that I'm shooting that the light is coming in from the side. It's not very often that I'm putting extra light in on something but the longer you shoot at a setup, the more you think, now what could I do to make this better? Then you start thinking, okay, maybe if I had a tad more light right here or something like that, that would make it better. Then this would be the time to start experimenting with your different light options. You certainly could say, I'll just fix it in Photoshop. But I'll be honest with you, the longer I shoot, the less I think that early on when I was shooting in the noonday light at the gardens and I was like whatever I can fix things in Photoshop and I'm going to have something amazing and I'm just going to show you. You know that you can't fix that harsh light in Photoshop, there's never going to be an instance where you can make it as good as if you had taken a beautifully diffused photo to begin with. There's only so much technology could do. You might think in your mind, I'll show you, yes I can and then you could go for it and show us what you can do. But there really is no substitute for getting the very best photo right out a camera that you can get. Editing is not the thing that I want to spend my day on. I want to spend my day on coming up with a creative set, seeing how I can manipulate that light to make that set really amazing in camera focusing on things and the details like what prompts I've used and the different petals that I've done and the different lenses that I want to try out and I want to come out with a photo out of camera that's so amazing, that it's inspiring that somebody's like, woah, how did you take that photo? I don't want to take an average photo and then go to Photoshop and try to make it amazing. I want to be amazing to begin with so I spend all my time up front playing with things, moving things around, working with my camera, working with my equipment, and seeing what amazing photo can I get right out of camera? Then how can I just adjust and tweak on the editing side if need be, and really spend hardly any time at all on the computer. That's just not the part that I want to do all day anymore. I don't want to spend all day on the computer. I want to spend all day in my studio making cool sets and then doing the last little tweaks in Lightroom and Photoshop then being like, look at this photo I got. I want you to get out of the mindset of I can fix it in Photoshop because it's the mindset, in my opinion, of an amateur. That's the mindset that I had as an amateur, it's the mindset that I hear out of everybody new coming into things like this because, how can you make it better? Because up front you're not as good with the cameras as you'd like to be. I feel like the more you work it, the more you learn it, the more professional you become, the more you're trying to get the best thing in camera that you can possibly gain. I want you to experiment with these different things and the lighting and the setup and the focus and the composition and see what can you get out a camera. I don't want you to get a composition that you're thinking, oh, I can fix that composition on Photoshop. I can crop things down. Yes, you can. You can crop things down, but then you've sacrificed a lot of pixels and size that maybe you need. I want you to really focus on getting it right in camera, the setup, the lighting, the props, the equipment, the different things that you might manipulate the light with. I don't want you to fix it in Photoshop. I want you to start thinking in your mind, got to be great out of camera so that when I get to Photoshop, the whole backend is so much easier. One last thing I want to talk about is some studio lighting. I got lots of studio lighting and I don't use most of it. I've got box lights, I've got table lights, I've got handheld lights, I've got ring lights. My favorite studio light to use now is a ring light. I'm going to turn the ring light off because I'm using it to light our setup to talk about this. 9. Adding In Studio Lighting: But this is a ring light, it's up on a stand just like a box light. It's a circle. It's about inch and a half deep there. It's got a bendy head on it, it's got this piece right here, that bents so that I can then flop this light around, instead of it just always being standing straight up. What I love about the ring light, which I hated about the box lights, is that it doesn't take up any space. You see I can have this right here in the window. This can now supplement my light in the window that I like to shoot in, and I like to shoot in natural lighting. I'm shooting in a room with all the lights turned off. The only light on my setup, is the window light. We get a really nice variation from light to dark, which is in that moodiness that I like when I'm shooting. But let's say that we didn't have a day like today where it was nearly a sunny as it is. Then I would need to pick a different day to shoot. Be willing to set up on a tripod so that I could get all my settings right without having camera blur, camera shake. Because is hard to get a crispy, clear photo, if you don't have enough white and you're not set up on a tripod. Now with these, I can now supplement the light that I have coming in to the window. I like using window light in addition to studio lighting. I don't like using studio lighting instead, because I think the natural light coming in the window is all infusing. It imbues your setup better than any other light you can get. A light like this, or a box light, or a small handheld lighter tabletop light, in my mind, it's very directional. It's not going to spread out and be as all infusing as the natural light coming in the window. I'm not going to get that same feel, in my mind. Now, it could be the same feel, but I have convinced myself in my mind that it's not. This is my preferred way of shooting. Some of this you're only going to figure out for yourself after shooting a lot and deciding what really works for you? How do you like to use your equipment? How do you set things up to look the most amazing that you can get them to look? What's going to work for you? For me, I like the window still coming in even if it's darker. Then I like this sitting in the window, enhancing what I'm doing with the light, if I need more light and my thoughts could be totally wrong, you might set that up and think, no I can get something better using just the studio lights, sitting over here on this wall has no window on it. That ends up being what you figure out for yourself and what works for you and how you get your beautiful work, then great. Some of these things are just what sets up your personality and your style of your shooting. Studio lights are great, but I don't love it. For the most part, I've tried to shoot on days when I have enough light coming in. If I have to I'll supplement it a little tiny bit with a studio light, if I have to. But for the most part, I generally want to shoot in all natural light. I like the ring light because it doesn't take up any space. I can use it as task lighting over here at my art desk. Whereas a box light is 2 foot deep, there's no way I could have put a box light over here in this window, and kept my subject matter near the window. I would've had to slide this way down to the middle of the table. Then I might as well know how to do natural light at all. When I'm shooting, I have this as close to my light source as I need it. Generally, I'll be fairly close to my window or light subject over here so that I have as much coming into work with as I can. Then if I need to supplement that with things like my white cards or my bot cards to pull some of those details back in, I'll do that too. It's all about figuring out what works best for you. To start off, I would start with a little set up my window using natural light. Then as you look at the photos, and you grow in your photography and you practice more and you revisit this setup a couple of days in a row like I suggest. Then on Day 1, just do natural light. On Day 2, what can you do with directing a light with white cards and black cards? How does that change the photos that you've got? Then on Day 3, I want you to change out your camera equipment, pick a different lens, don't shoot with the same lens all three days in a row. See, how did that make your setup even more different? Just say what you can get. Then, shoot on a cloudy day with this same setup. Supplement the light with some studio lighting. Then you have four different days with different focuses that you can do on lighting with one setup. Let me tell you the things that you'll learn through all those days and all those pictures, and then looking at what you got, here's warm so much your photography will turn a corner pretty quickly. If you do a couple of these a week or if you do this for a couple of weeks or let's say you do a project and your photography project is to do different photo a day, you could do this setup today, natural light, this setup with some supplemental light. This setup with changing out the lens, this setup with adding in some artificial light. There you've got four or five or a week's worth of your projects, photos, and focus. Because when I did a 365 day project in 2011, that's what put me on the path that I'm on now and elevated my photography to a level that I had not been able to achieve before that. Some of that focus in the project, was lighting, and that's when I started to see. Maybe I can't take the best photo out in the gardens at high noon with no clouds and nothing diffusing the light. You're just gonna have to do some of these projects that you think, what a pain, to get to the level of mastery that you're going to want to be at. This my challenge for you. Put your set up in a window, gets yourself up foam core, white and black card, of a manageable size. Maybe some of these little clamps from the hardware store. I like the blue or black clamps don't get the ones that have the red or the orange as the rubbery parts because that color reflects back into your photo and you don't have to have any studio lights, just this basic setup of a diffuser for your window, and some white and black cards to manipulate and move that light around your set really is enough to get started. To be honest, is what I use 99.9 percent of the time. I just don't like to use the artificial lighting even though I have everything, basically, that they put out there. As I've tried it through the years, it's good to at least try it so you know what it does. Then if you ever get into a situation where you need it, you'll know how to use it. But in my general art shooting, because I like to shoot a lot for myself my artistic, creative expression more so than shooting for people, for money or anything like that, in my own artistic endeavors, I like shooting in a window, with the satellite, couple of black card, white card maybe diffused through the window. I'm going to go for a couple hours, let me shoot things, move things around, change things out. It doesn't have to be a big, expensive setup, to get a beautiful photo. I'll see you back in class. 10. Real Flowers VS Fake Flowers: Let's talk about real flowers versus fake flowers because this is probably the one question I get asked more than any other questions since I shoot a lot of flowers. I used to shoot a lot of flowers by going out to the botanical gardens, out to my yard, out around the neighborhood, I would stop on the side of the road and shoot a field of flowers. I'd go to the sunflower festival to shoot sunflowers. Everything I did was out and about whenever I happened to come across, which for the most part is basically free. But when you go to shooting the flowers in your studio or in still life sets or different things like this, then you tend to get into purchased flowers. I'm not saying that you can't go out to your yard and pick some flowers and use those because I certainly do. If you've got a rose bush out there, go cut some roses and do this with those and let them dry and use your roses but I don't have that, I live in a condo community. I go cut stuff off of flowers in the yard, it might not be my yard. But anyway People ask me all the time, do I shoot with real flowers because real flowers can get expensive. If you're buying flowers every week, they're not cheap. Sometimes if I'm in a real heavy shooting mode, I'm feeling inspired, I want to create a lot of work, or maybe I'm shooting a workshop like this, and I'm like I need some flowers, I buy a lot of flowers. Do you use real flowers or fake flowers? My philosophy on fake flowers and I have some here, are that they look fake. These don't look real at all. If you're getting any type of focus on this flower, you know it's fake. It's plastic, doesn't have the same look as a real flower, it's usually weird colors or brighter. A fake flower looks like a piece of plastic. If I'm shooting, where the flowers focus, I do not use fake flowers, I use real flowers. Never use fake flowers. If I'm shooting where the item is, say a background element and maybe it's going to be in some blur because I like to shoot with a lot of blur. If I'm not going to be able to see all the nice, crispy details then use fake flowers, that's fine and that would be perfect in the background as a background element. If you don't shoot with a lot of blur and you shoot with everything in focus, then I would consider using real flowers because again if you've got full focus on a fake flower, you can tell it's a fake flower. That being said, the only exception I might consider beyond this better be in blur, or this is in focus is if you're practicing and learning on a skill like this. You've got some fake flowers to start with, then go for it, practice it. Figure out your lighting, figure out your focus, figure out the composition, figure out all the things that you've got to figure out, do a project on it. This could be included in the project for figuring out how to shoot in a window in your home for a still life and you don't want to spend a $100 a week on flowers, use those fake flowers until you get better. But once you get better, put the fake flowers away, invest in a couple real flowers to photograph because you can tell and you're not going to make some great piece of art off a photo when the flowers are fake, and they look weird. Unless that's an actual element or purposeful thing that you did, make them real flowers when you get to the point that you're taking serious photos. 11. Shoot Recap & Editing In Lightroom: In this video, we're going to take a look at the photos that I took to give you an idea of some of the photos that you might be trying to get for yourself, just to give you some ideas and to show you my thoughts while I was taking these photos. Then I will edit a photo in here in Lightroom, which is part of my own workflow, just to talk through some of my thoughts as I'm editing. Some of these are already edited and some of them are not. I'm just going to open up the basic panel to start with. I took a close-up of the leaves, because remember in our assignment, I want some detailed shots and I want a pull-back shot. In my own photographing, I was trying to keep that in mind of, let me get in close and take some really nice detail shots and let me pull-back and take some nice shots. I'm trying to get all of that as I'm shooting. I'm also keeping in mind composition. I'm keeping in mind color, texture, interest, with these dried flowers, they just are so interesting that I wanted to get in on the heads of the flowers and take some from the back, top back where I could see the stem, some coming in from the front, some of just the petals themselves. I wanted to change up my orientation. Here, we have a landscape orientation versus a portrait orientation. I want you to also be thinking of that. Take some in portrait orientation and then take some in landscape orientation. I'm just going to keep going here. I went around the flower heads, pretty good because I just thought they were so beautiful. This is one that I really loved just for the softness and the detail and the color. I just really loved all of that. I came in and took some of the flower head itself. Not at all my favorite photo, but I did at least take the photo so I could look at it and think, okay, not my favorite. I love this particular one. I liked the yellow in it versus the pink. This one was really a beautiful side piece of one of those dried flowers. It almost reminds me of vintage silk, like an old dress, and the ruffles, and the trim. How pretty is that? I actually took quite a few detail shots. Part of my own photography style is to get in close and take those close pictures. I actually have to remind myself pull-back, pull-back and get the bigger picture. That's why in this assignment, I want you to consciously pull-back and take some photos and getting close and take some photos, because maybe your natural tendency is the pull-back and maybe you don't get the detail shots. It just depends on your own shooting style and the lens that you have and what you're comfortable shooting, but I did finally come back and pull-back on some of these shots. I do particularly love some of these here. The way the roses have some movement and draw you through the photo as you're looking around, what's in focus versus what's out of focus. This is one of my favorite ones. I really love this photo, and I love that it's off-center. If you get into talking about your composition, you'll notice that nothing that I've taken or that's fully in focus is completely centered. For instance, what I've got in focus here is on the right line for the rule of thirds because I may center something up to focus it, but I always shift my camera slightly left or right to make it more rule of thirds so that whatever is in focus is on that rule of thirds line. It makes the photo more interesting than a straight-on shot. It helps move the eye around the photo, starting with what the most important elements should be. That just it is my own reflex now. There's other rules out there. You can center the shot, you can do the golden triangle, you can do the move things through with leading lines, but the rule of thirds tends to be the one that I lean towards the most, and I'm shooting for when I'm doing different orientations. You'll see here I'm still on this rule of thirds on that right line, even in the different orientation. This bud here isn't completely right there in the center. It just makes for a more interesting photo to have those things slightly off looking a little more natural, and less contrived. Again, if we look at that rule here, I've come up towards this upper quadrant for my whole subject. Just play around with that as you're shooting in your different orientations. How can you make it more interesting and center your composition on one of these lines, and even like your subject on one of the cross-hatches of two lines. Let's take a look at this photo, and just talk through the edits for a moment. I'm going to go ahead and just crop it a little bit, looking at my vase, just trying to see where does that base looks the best. I don't want it to look so skewed and crooked that it looked odd because if we reset, you can see I'm coming in at an angle and it looks a little crooked. For this instance, I'm going to straighten it a little bit. Still have this off-centered, pulls your eye through this little triangle here. I love that. I'm going to tweak the exposure and I do keep my eye up here on the histogram, and you're looking for mostly a bell curve usually that tapers off near the darks and rises in the middle and tapers off near the lights. You don't want to push your exposure so far to the right that you're overexposed and you're off the chart, and you don't want to push it so far to the left that you're underexposed and you've lost all your light. I tend to want it nicely exposed, but maybe not as bright as it could be. I like that dark and moody, and in that dark and moodiness, I don't want to push it so bright that I lose the moodiness. I want the exposure to be just a tad up usually. I'll add some contrast. Then I will play with the highlights and the shadows, just visually looking at it to see what I think it needs. You could also hit the auto button right here if you wanted to see what the computer things it needs to be. Sometimes that's over contrasty and too much, and I almost want to do those edits myself because if we look at what I've done versus the computer, if we back it back down, you can see it's brighter and it's more contrasty, and I may want that or I may not. I'm just going to go ahead and manually tweak these. Maybe I'll add a little texture and some clarity. You can see if I go too far this way, it makes it almost plasticky and fake looking, and if you go too far that way it makes it too detailed and grungy. Really, so be real sparing on some of these sliders. Don't overdo. Sometimes I'll up the vibrance and the saturation. The saturation really pumps up the yellows and oranges and it makes things look fake and I don't like that. Usually, more than anything, I'll desaturate something and pump up the vibrance. The vibrance pumps up all the other colors and doesn't overdo the orange and the yellow. Sometimes if you desaturate it a little bit and you pump up the vibrance, you get a really beautiful, vibrant color without it looking over, done like this with the saturation. It really just depends on the photo. You don't have to mess with those sliders at all if you don't want to. But I do like to, in general, add a little extra vibrance. Then I'll get into the tone curve, and this is where I'm really going to manipulate some of what this photo's doing. I like my photos to look a little bit more film-like, and I want it to have that mat-background where there's really not a true black in the photo. It's more of a soft gray back there. That's my own personal preference. I'll just play with these. I just set little control points down and I will just adjust and play with those until I get the look that I'm wanting and loving. You'll notice here on these ones that I processed already, that's how I did that soft-muted film look. I did that curve that I'm creating here on this piece that I'm doing now. Depending on how dramatic or subtle that you want that, you just tweak these until you get it right where you're hoping it would be, and move those little points to where it's perfect. I like to pull the black up so that it's not a true black, it's more of a nice charcoaly-gray. Sometimes I will pull the highlights down a little bit, more of a film feel there too, so you don't have the whitest whites and you don't have the blackest blacks, just my personal preference. If that doesn't suit what you're wanting, don't pull those out when you play in that curve. Sometimes I will play in the HSL sliders, and that's the hue saturation luminance sliders. If I need to tweak color or make a color stand out more, I will tweak those here in these color sliders. I don't really want to change much in this. But you can see if I'm in the hue, I'm changing the color hue. If I'm in the saturation, I'm changing how saturated that particular color is. You can see I'm in the yellow, so it's really saturating any yellow bits in there versus desaturating the yellow. That's really nice a lot of times with grass. If I'm in the luminance and I go way up, you can see down versus up how that really brings in dirty shadows and blown out highlights if you go too far, so you have to be careful what you're tweaking there. Then you can go to the all and tweak all the settings at the same time. You can see we're changing the colors. I actually like the colors that I had in this particular photo. I'm not going to change any of those for this, but it is a fun box to play in. The color grading is also fun, and here's where you can change the overall underlying color tones in the photo. Let's say if I want to do shadows or highlights, I can move this all around and change the overall shadowing of the photo or the overall highlighting in the photo. It's just adjusting the dark spots versus the light spots really. Just tweak it and change it. Sometimes I really like to do that. Maybe I want a slight pink tint or peach tint or slight blue tint. I like the blue tint a lot of times with flowers. Just something that you can play in and blend it and balance it as you're going. In the detail box, this is our sharpening box and always sharpen in Lightroom using the top slider. You can pick a specific part of that flower and really decide what's the right amount of sharpening. But I always want to hold down my Optional key and then adjust this masking slider. Because if you don't mask off any at all, everything that's white is being sharpened. At this point, every single pixel in this photo is being sharpened. That's bad because you may be adding in a lot of grain to your photo that you weren't expecting. It's really bad if you are using say, a higher ISO. Maybe you already had quite a bit of grain in your photo to begin with. Well, now you're sharpening all that grain and you're really making it stand out. That's just not good. If you'll hold down your Option key, if you're on a Mac or Alt key if you're on a PC, mask that down to just the details that you actually need to have sharpened, like in this, for instance, just around the flower bits that are in focus, then everything that's black is not being sharpened. You're not adding extra grain and extra sharpening to all those extra pixels. I like to mask off. Then if you do have all that extra grain, you can use your noise reduction luminous slider here to adjust that and play with those settings. The other thing that I like to do in still life photos is in effects. I will add a little bit of a vignette. It just pulls the eye in because it darkens the edges and makes it really more of a fine art photography-type photograph. I like the edges to be rounded. I like the midpoint to be fairly large. I will pull the darkness in at the point that I needed. If you're doing a light and bright photo and you wanted that vignette to be white, you could push that all the way to the right and that'll give you a light vignette. There's a place for that. But I'm doing dark and moody, so I want the black vignette. I never wanted it 100 percent personally, but I do want a slight vignetting in there. Look how pretty that is. Then once I get all of that set, I will actually go back up and decide, did I like where I had all of these? Did I have it too contrasted? Do I have it overly done, so where it's almost gradient dirty or too detailed? If I want it to be a softer hardy photo and I had that bill that lens and wanted that soft bill wideness, did I add too much contrast in there, making it look dirty rather than soft and velvety? I just like to go through and do my initial tweaks and then come back through and spot check to make sure everything's really where I want it to be for this photo. Then once I've got that set, I'm going to call that done. A lot of times I will create a preset of those settings. I actually come over here to my preset box. I'll hit the "Plus" button to create a preset. I might call those Denise's custom presets and then I can apply that preset to every single one of the photos in the series and probably get a very good edit really quickly because I don't have to redo everything that I just did. I'm using the same subject matter. I'm using the same lighting. I might just be one-click and done. I want you to consider doing some of that. Make yourself some shortcuts when you're working on things like this. If you took 20 minutes to do a fantastic edit, and then you're looking at the rest of your set and you're like, well, I got five more. I want to do this too, make yourself a preset and then you can just pop that preset onto your photo and be done after you've spent all the time making one. When I create those presets, I don't have checked the auto-settings, the treatment and profile, or the white balance or the exposure. I'll leave those unchecked. That way, no matter what other photo I'd like to apply this to, I can set the exposure first and then apply the preset and this won't reset those settings. Take a look at the boxes that I don't have checked and uncheck those when you save your own preset. I hope you enjoyed taking a look today at the photos that I took to give you some good ideas of the photos that maybe you want to be trying for. I want some close-up detail shots. I want some pullback shots. I want you to keep in mind rule of thirds. I want you to do as much as you can in camera before you get to editing. Then in the editing, go ahead and edit one photo and consider saving that preset for the rest of your series. I hope you enjoyed this little look at editing and my own thoughts and my own process. I will see you back in class. 12. Final Thoughts: Hey, I just want to say thank you for taking the class with me. I hope you've enjoyed all the information that we've covered in a very short amount of time, and I can't wait for you to start shooting. Get your setup together, come back, and share your stories with us. Don't forget on your class assignment, I want you to come up with a larger pullback of your set and some type of detail photo for your set, so two photos to come back and share with us. It's been a great time. I've enjoyed having you in class and I can't wait to see you next time.