Anatomy of a Still Life

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In previous tutorials I described working with light modifiers and fill cards. The subject of this tutorial is combining the information featured in those two tutorials to light a complex still life subject; in this case that subject is an antique Cartier watch. This video shows you how to light such a subject in a step-by-step manner. We will be taking you on a journey that explains specifically why each light and fill card is added to the lighting design to get the effect we are looking for. That being the case, one might even say that this tutorial is an anatomy of a still life photograph.

ERRATA: When creative juices are flowing, things can happen pretty quickly on a still life photography set. So quickly in fact, that it is often difficult to document every single step that happens during the creative process in a video! In the interest of total transparency, just such a situation happened twice (twice!) in the video you are about to view. In one case a second sheet of Set Shop Tough Lux was added to a light on the left side of the set and in the second instance, a single sheet of Set Shop Tough Lux was added to the light mounted on the boom arm before the final image was made. By clicking here you can see two photographs that highlight exactly where these two extra sheets of diffusion material were added because they are pinpointed by red arrows.


Errata Image 1   Errata Image 2

Tutorial Supplies Checklist

  • Set Shop Tough Lux
    Set Shop Brand Diffusion Material Tough Lux is available in 60” wide, 4 mil thick and 48” wide, 3 mil thick, 15-foot long rolls. We also offer it at a per yard price. Our diffusion material is a polyester based film with properties consisting of being stable and heat resistant.

    Showcards/ Fill cards
    Set Shop Brand Diffusion Material Tough Lux is available in 60” wide, 4 mil thick and 48” wide, 3 mil thick, 15-foot long rolls. We also offer it at a per yard price. Our diffusion material is a polyester based film with properties consisting of being stable and heat resistant.

    Manfrotto Clips
    Great for creating quick flexible joints on showcards or foamcore.

    Translucent Acrylic Sheet
    This Translucent White Acrylic Sheet 4' x 8' and 1/8" thick. Often referred to as Milky White, this acrylic is glossy on both sides. A cheaper and safer solution to a real 4' x 8' glass, this Translucent White Acrylic sheet is a versatile plastic material that can be used in numerous applications and has great impact strength.

    A Clamps
    Classic metal "A" clamps with orange grips.

    X-acto Knife
    The X-ACTO Gripster Soft Grip knife is the precision knife for those who are looking for the epitome in comfort. Hobbyists and graphics artists who spend hours at a time with their work need two things they can count on: comfort and precision. This cutting and trimming tool maximizes both of these features. It's the same engineering that has allowed the X-ACTO precision knife set to make precision cuts and trims consistently and with confidence for more than 50 years.

    Armature Wire
    This Flexible wire is perfect for holding difficult to position objects, fabrics, gobos, etc. Available in three diameters (1/4", 1/8", 1/16", 3/16" and 3/8")- sold in a loop.

    Grip Head
    Matthews Grip Heads feature two holes of 3/8" and 5/8" diameter and castings that offer positive lock in all directions.

    Foamcore As Bounce
    This 3/16" solid white Foamcore comes 30"x40" and is perfect as a table top backdrop. Also great for framing and presentation and to make small reflectors.

    Boom Arm
    M.S.E. Mini Matthews Boom Black

    Saw Horses
    This hard to find and unique product called a "Heavy Duty Saw Horse" is a "Must Have Piece of Studio Equipment" These 30" wide by 30" tall saw horses support approximately up to 300lb. , and are quick to set up and store flat. These fold up to a 4" width and can be stored or hung on the wall out of sight very easily. Sold by the pair.

    This highly decorative 1/2" Birch Plywood has exceptional strength and is ideal for all aspects of a studio. Use as a surface for tabletop products or as a background for portraits, this Birch Plywood is a must have.

Steve Sint

Digital Still Life Photography: Art, Business, and Style

Steve Sint has spent a great deal of his life walking down aisles backwards. Over a 40 year career, he has photographed over 4,000 weddings, taken over 2 million photographs, and shot over 1 million portraits for his own studio and others in the New York metropolitan area. As a commercial photographer he has photographed thousands of executives and still life subjects. His client list includes, or has included, the American Broadcasting Company, Time Inc., Hearst Publications, Yves St. Laurent, AT&T, NCR, National Semiconductor, Miller Freeman Publishing, MacGroupUS, and Hachette-Filipacchi Magazines. His photographs have appeared on the covers of over 60 national magazines including LIFE, Omni, Stereo Review, and Modern Photography.

As a columnist and contributor his words and photographs have also appeared in Studio Photography, Lens Magazine, Modern Photography, Popular Photography, View Camera Magazine, Railroad Model Craftsman, and he has authored 7 books on photography. In his most recently published book, Digital Wedding Photography: Art, Business, and Style, he shares his experience with his readers in the breezy, knowledgeable, and accessible style his writing is known for. At this point in his career he limits his assignments to 50 per year for a select New York clientele, photographs and writes about things he enjoys, and still finds time to lecture on professional photography, create and produce tutorial videos, conduct workshops on wedding, portrait, and still life photography, while still finding time to work on his model railroad.

His newest book, Digital Still Life Photography: Art, Business, and Style, was released in January 2013.