Tutorial: Still Life Photography

Experiment with lighting

Window light is good if you are able to shoot during the day. In the evening you need to find other types of illumination.

Electronic flash can be effective, but only if it is positioned away from your EOS. It is not best to use the camera’s built-in flash – it can give flat lighting with still life and remove some of the atmosphere of your image.

There is an accessory called the Off Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3. This is a coiled extension cable that allows you to position a Speedlite flashgun up to about 80cms from the camera. Alternatively you can use the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 or ST-E3-RT. These are wireless units that slip onto the camera hotshoe and controls one or more remote Speedlites. The Speedlites can then be used with softboxes and reflectors to give total control of the lighting.

Carefully balanced flash lighting improves still life photos

White balance
The colour of light changes according to its source, such as daylight. But even that varies; it is warmer (more red) at sunrise and sunset than in the middle of the day when it is cooler (more blue). The light on a cloudy day, or in the shade on a sunny day, is cooler still. These different colours are referred to as the colour temperature of the light source.

Similarly, artificial light sources have their own colour temperatures. Light from tungsten bulbs is orange whilst fluorescent tubes create a green light.

Your eyes automatically adjust for these differences in colour temperature and the ‘AWB’ (Auto White Balance) on your EOS normally mimics them successfully. If you are shooting raw files, setting the correct white balance is not critical – you can adjust this when viewing the image with Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software on your computer. If you are shooting JPEG files, you do need to get it right. Shoot several images with different white balance settings and study the images on the back of the camera to see which gives the best result.

However when you are close to a colourful subject, Custom White Balance will give the most accurate images. Setting this varies a little between camera models, but essentially you move in to fill the frame with a sheet of white card or paper and take a shot. The camera uses this neutral image to set a custom white balance. You can also use this feature to deliberately control the colour balance of your photos, for example adding orange/ brown for a vintage feel to images.

Check your User Guide for step-by-step details.

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