A tiny studio

A tiny studio

– doesn’t require a lot of gear or effort to set up. Here’s what I use for photographing most small objects, including the pocket knife image used for this post.

  • A window with diffuse light, in my case I built a shelf under this one, as it has a day night blind.
  • Timber offcuts  assembled into a upside down “T” with a small bulldog clip to hold the background paper.
  • Some plain A3 paper for the background
  • A small reflector to get some detail back in the shadows
  • A camera and for me that will usually be a digital SLR on a tripod but this setup should work with a phone or compact camera.

Here is a hasty image of it in action. It’s a great way way to work when the outside is uninviting and takes up very little space so you can leave it up.

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Looking and listening this week

Looking and listening this week

I revisited the image I made last weekend as I had left everything set up. This time, instead of window light I used a small LED torch and long exposure selectively for light painting the subject and background. I really enjoy the lack of predictability inherent in the technique.

This week I finally broke my commitment to avoid adding anything to my unread pile when I picked up a reprint of Brassai: Paris, a collection of images that reflect the broad range of things he saw and recorded in Paris before the Second World War. the night images are all the more remarkable when you consider the limitations he worked under, including film that was at best equivalent to 25 ISO today.

Listening to Shirley Manson out front of Garbage.

Collection

Collection

I have probably had these two matchbox sizes light meters for over 30 years. They were a common find in second hand and antique shops and fairly cheap back in the 80’s. My guess is the design dates back to the 60’s.

The one on the right looks far more complicated but it is displays the same information as the one on the left. I used to use them but they require a little more thought and time than an in camera meter.

Out of respect I used my Calcuflash incident light meter to set the exposure for this image. I bought it back in the 80’s too and you can still buy them today.

Something found

Something found

It’s just seed cone I picked up walking the dog but it became an exercise in creativity and problem solving.

The details;

To start with I just wanted a clean simple image with limited sharpness, I used an A4 sketchpad as a background and an improvised light source using a big window with a diffuser blind plus an iPhone box that was laying around as a reflector to fill the shadows. My 30 year old Calcuflash incident meter read f4 at 1/60, 400 ISO so I went with that. It’s not too shabby.

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All up that was ten minutes effort but then I reworked the setup to get a sharper image. I could have gone with a longer exposure and smaller aperture but did not want to dig the tripod out so instead I went for flash. Using a ring flash diffuser I was able to use f11 at 1/160 sec, 400 ISO to get this;

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The sharpness is there but working so closely (within a hand width of the subject) the light is not getting to the top of the subject and a lot of detail is getting lost. The paper is also over exposed in the top left corner.

The ring flash diffuser is a recent eBay purchase best described as a cross between a donut, a folding soft-box light modifier and a small drum. It cost somewhere between 20-30 dollars and for that you get a small soft-box that is really portable.

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Solving this required a simple compromise using both the daylight and flash. Here is the result using f11 1/125 sec, 400 ISO. I also got a little further back to allow the ring flash to do it’s job better. The result is sharper and more evenly exposed. The only catch is the colour balance, which will always be an issue as the colour temp of daylight changes through the day.

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Finally, for completeness I got the tripod out of hiding and did this at f20 1/4 sec, 400 ISO

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Here is the set used.

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