Shooting Still Subjects

July 11, 2016

The Bowens Streamlite 330 kit with light cocoon is perfect for even lighting of still subjects and objects.


There are advantages to shooting still subjects, especially indoors in a studio, such as the ability to control light and choosing camera settings that can take you through the entire sitting. Still, it’s important to keep a few basics in mind because, even experienced shooters make these missteps, and it can show in the final result. When prepping for a sitting or a product photography shoot, take these tips with you for fantastic final results:

Light it right: There is nothing more important in photography than good lighting. Studio or indoor photography is synonymous with big, expensive strobes and flashes, but this is not always the case. Lighting comes in many forms. It could be as simple as natural light coming in through a nearby window, or it could be a dedicated flash setup. You can also make use of "continuous" lighting systems, that is, specially-designed LEDs and lamps that provide a constant stream of light, rather than strobe flashes. These products run the full range of prices from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands. Either way, good lighting is key to getting professional still life shots. Photography is the art of painting with light, so make sure you have enough of it!

Go Low With ISO: Consider starting at ISO 100 for indoor studio shots. This is particularly important for new photographers beginning in studio photography. ISO 100 offers the lowest noise option and the best quality. You can adjust as needed, but you consider adjusting your lighting first to properly cover your subject.

Tripod, Tripod, Tripod: Your subject isn’t moving, so make sure you aren’t, either! A tripod provides important stability, which results in increased sharpness in your images. Of course, there are situations where handheld photography is necessary or desirable, but be aware of the need to minimise handshake as much as possible.

Manual Maximizes Exposure: Consider switching from auto-exposure to manual mode when shooting in studio. A camera’s auto exposure modes will read ambient light, not light from strobes, and this will impact your overall exposure. Some initial test shots will help you choose the proper exposure setting for your light setup.

Close In: When photographing in studio, one of the most common beginner’s mistakes is leaving too much space around the subject. For certain compositions, you’ll need to leave room for the background to properly accent the subject and to create the imagined mood for the image. Just make sure that part of the sitting includes tighter shots. Zoom in closer than might be a bit comfortable than normal. Take a few photographs with varying distance and evaluate the results in the editing room. Many photographers find that closing in brings some of their best work in studio. It may work for you, too!

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