A Simple Still Life Studio

Magnolia blossom. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Magnolia blossom. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

I’ve started a new series of still life images. The last couple of years I’ve been photographing a lot of botanicals around my house and thought it might be interesting to bring them inside, into a studio environment.

My idea was to shoot them in a very minimalist way against a simple seamless background in order to emphasize the shapes and textures of the forms. I knew the shoots would need to be quick and ‘spur-of-the-moment’, since a lot of these would be fragile blooms that wouldn’t last long. I wanted the ability to see something special, bring it inside and photograph it in a matter of moments, not hours.

Dried rose blossom. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Dried rose blossom. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

So how to set it up? I don’t have a studio space at home, but I knew I could easily create one for this project. One sheet of 32” x 40” mat board, a couple of big spring clamps and some north light from a window was all it took. I keep the mat board close at hand, next to the piano bench that I’m using as my support surface. Depending on the specific shot, sometimes I add a white sheer curtain to the window to further soften the light. A white card on the side of the shot opposite the window sometimes is needed for a bit of fill light as well.

Here's my simple still life setup: mat board, spring clamps and a north light window are all that's needed. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Here's my simple still life setup: mat board, spring clamps and a north light window are all that's needed. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

That’s all there is to it! About as simple as you can get, but it works beautifully for this application.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

5 Comments on "A Simple Still Life Studio"

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  1. Very useful tip. I made myself a product shot box by cutting holes in the sides of a cardboard box. I covered the holes with white paper to diffuse light through the holes. I use desk lamps with day-light bulbs on both sides for lighting. I have both a black and a white poster I cut to fit inside the box for backgrounds. When doing a black background, I also have a gloss black painted shelf that reflects a bit of an object I put on it.

    The window light and white card for extra fill is the part I wasn’t doing yet. The room where I have this setup gets lots of afternoon sunlight through the window, so it is a good place to set up some macros.

  2. Sounds like you’ve worked out a pretty good solution, Greg. The north light is key for me because it stays pretty consistent throughout the day.

  3. I applied your simple studio technique today for my photo of the day.


  4. Ana Matos says:

    Looks my improvised settings here at home, I just don’t know if the window light is from north 😉

  5. Evelyn in Oregon says:

    Thank you for allowing this blog post to be printed! I still prefer holding information in my hands when I’m trying to get information. I don’t have a piano bench and I have very little natural light in my house, but I intend to move some furniture from the north-facing window!

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