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Still-Life Photography- Painting With Light

Updated on June 10, 2010


Old Brass Megaphone
Old Brass Megaphone

Still-Life Photography- Painting With Light

It can be said that today people now more than ever are image literate. Contemporary still-life images permeate our consciousness, we are constantly exposed to photographs in magazines, posters, glossy brochures, packaging, advertising and the internet, still -life images geared to persuade us to buy a particular product.

When photographing a still-life it is important to generate some kind of emotive connection for viewer experience, such as seducing them with fine textures and soft mood creation. An example of this is my image of an old brass megaphone which has been enhanced using a lighting technique known as "painting with light". By keeping the background simple it was possible throw emphasis onto the main subject matter. In the case of the megaphone, the quality of the brass is brought out by the warmth of the painting light source. Using a powerful torch to "paint" light onto the product picked out the texture and details while the overall image remained softened by the warm surround. Indeed any specific areas can be selected for highlighting in this way. By using flash as the main light source, it having a colour temperature similar to that of daylight, the lower colour temperature of the torch gives out light that is yellow in appearance which was advantageous in this photograph.

To achieve a successful outcome when taking a still-life photograph it is essential the camera is securely attached to a steady tripod, any movement, however slight, will give a blurred image. In the genre of still-life photography a well disciplined approach is required for composition, styling and image integrity. The devil is in the detail and it is important to be scrupulous in setting up a composition. Attention must be given to each stage of a still-life set, a base exposure with additional lighting on the background to give depth, can be assessed to determine areas that require future attention for highlighting. By setting the camera to the lowest iso value such as iso 100 allows a longer exposure time and minimises noise generated by the electric charge of the camera chip. If 200 iso is lowest camera value available there are two other methods which bring about a similar result. Using a neutral density filter on the lens reduces the exposure value which is comparable to lowering the iso value. Or closing the lens down one stop also produces a longer exposure time, however this will increase the depth of field which can make the background appear too sharp. Experimentation with this method of lighting can add a new dimension to contemporary still-life photography.
The image of the red key is another example of this lighting technique.

Ivor Tetteh-Lartey Photography

More Painting with Light

Large Red Key
Large Red Key


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    • 49lart profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks, Sandyksk. There are still life subjects all around from food to technology and they all share common lighting techniques.

    • Sandyksk profile image

      Sandy Jauregui 

      9 years ago from Sanger

      Thank you...I'm working on some prints for our local fair gave me do some still life...thank you so much...:)

    • 49lart profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thank you,James.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Wonderful advice and article! Thank you very much. I surely learned a lot today from you.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      I love the contrast of light and shadow! That why I work with pen and ink.

    • 49lart profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Yes, prasetio. Lighting is an essential part in photography and the word photography also means painting with light.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I know that lightening support the result of the picture. This is very informative hub. When we want to produce beautiful picture we have to concern about light. I liked all the picture. It was great.

    • 49lart profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks for your comment tim-tim.

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 

      9 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      Love taking pictures! I get such a thrill to be able to capture some of the actions. Thanks for your beautiful still life photo!


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