The subjects of Still Life photography can be loosely defined as anything that doesn't move. It's mostly inanimate objects, but even fruits, flowers and leaves can be considered as still life since they don't move.
Product photography on table tops is a sub-type of still life photography, which on most cases - is shot by professionals using controlled lighting in a studio setup. But don't fret if you don't have flashguns or studio backgrounds at your disposal. The following tips should get you going in terms of using natural available light and basic household stuffs to create exciting still life photographs.
At the end you should be able to create a few interesting images of otherwise mundane objects that lie around in your house, but never received the deserved attention as an engaging subject.
1. Use cardboard and white paperAll you need to get started are a few pieces of cardboard, a clean sheet of white chart paper and a couple of clamps (like the one showed below) from your nearby hardware store.
2. The Window is your light sourceUse a window in your house as the primary source of sunlight. The bigger the better. In case your set up is lying in some corner of your room, move it closer to the brightest window in your house.
3. Diffused lightThe timing of your shoot is important to get the best results. The preferred light coming through the window should be diffused and not direct. Direct sunlight can create stark shadows of your subject and make your shots look ordinary. Look for the time of the day when there is enough light coming through your window and its not direct. Plan your shoot around the same time.
4. Use a tracing paper as a diffuserOne way of working in direct light is by using a diffuser. Get a tracing paper from the nearest stationary store and it can work as a diffuser. Make a square hole inside a cardboard sheet and paste the tracing paper onto the hole. Use two more clamps to hold the cardboard vertically. Your diffuser screen is ready!
5. Mirror as a reflectorA small mirror can come in handy for filling up the shadows in your image. Place the mirror behind the shadow on the subject and see how it lits up the subject properly by reflecting the light coming from opposite direction. And sometimes, you might just want to see how your beloved camera looks in a photo (see below image). A mirror and a timer (delayed shutter release) can do the job for you.
6. Use a tripod if possibleShutter Speed is one factor that can make or break your image. The quality of light might not be good while shooting in available light inside your house. At most times, your camera's shutter speed needs to be cranked down for exposing the picture correctly. Low shutter speeds can bring in handshakes making the image look blurry and blunt. If you have a tripod, this is when you need to use it.
7. Careful choice of ApertureAperture of your lens is an important factor in setting the depth of focus in your image. Most professional product shoots will have the subject completely in focus to display its details to the target customer. In other cases focusing on selective areas and making the rest out of focus by using shallow depth of focus can bring out artistic and attractive results.
Hope these tips will give you a roadmap to your first product shoot at home using natural light and inexpensive household equipments. Why not share a few products that you don't mind endorsing? Got a Rolex?? Time to flaunt it here ..