Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still Life Setup for a Photo Shoot

Over in the Scribbletalk online forum,, a fellow artist has been wondering about my setup since she heard about my little black box. This is for you Jan!

I have a small home and way too many hobbies, so rooms have to be multi-purpose...this is set up in the master bedroom.

Again, it's just a cardboard box painted black with craft paint. The purple fabric is a piece of cotton broadcloth that is from my quilting stash (wrinkled I might add, but sometimes that makes for nice shapes in a painting).

The pears are from the grocery store, and the dish is from the local Goodwill. You can find some great pieces at thrift shops. When I am actually making money being an artist, maybe I can afford to NOT shop for still life set-ups at the thrift stores.

The lighting is a 40w bulb from ACE hardware as is the metal spot lamp. It's like do-it-yourselfers might use in their woodworking shop.
Here is the setup with the lamp off so you can see the spot lamp better and you can also see what the lighting above adds to the set-up. It gives you nice shadow shapes and lovely midtones and highlights.

The above picture is right out of the camera (a little Kodak that's about 5 or 6 years old). I use the close up setting...the symbol on my camera is a little tulip.

Once I have the photo right out of the camera, I can then manipulate it by cropping (this is cropped using Photoshop Elements II), changing the colors, etc. I am not a PS II expert so these are just basics that I am using to create my photo to work from.

You still have to keep in mind all those principles of composition and design. You might visit Katherine Tyrell's, Making a Mark....see my sidebar link. As I recall she had some nice resources for comp and design.

If anyone has any tips they would like to share about how they photograph their still life set-ups, I would love to hear your comments.

I am actually painting from real life today using these lovely little pears, my black box, and my pastels on Ampersand Pastelbord.....Cheers!


hbedrosian said...


You are very creative in your still-life setups! Thank you for posting photos and text providing insight into your process. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Cindy, thank you so much for this! It made my day. :-)

I enjoyed reading about your setups, your creative acquisition of materials, and the way you use both. The pictures were particularly nice.

I admire people who take a 'hands on' approach to art, use things that catch their eye -- who cares if it's from a thrift store? -- and make lovely works of art from 'em. That is true creativity.

Once again, thank you. You can bet I'll be watching this blog!!! I love your work. :-)


Rhonda Bartoe Tucker said...

Thanks for the clever, thrifty and simply elegant tip! Quite useful. Can't wait to see what you do with the fantastic photo.

Fannie said...

Clever set up, Cindy! Thanks for sharing. Look forward to seeing this piece.

Beth said...

Cindy, thanks for sharing your process and ideas for how you photograph and sources for materials. I sometimes forget that the objects that we see on a daily basis can be good subject matter.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

What a nice explanation Cindy - one I'd like to share with my blog's readers next Sunday.

I've got a lightbox post on my blog where somebody explained how to create a box which I think is a progression from yours. I'll see if I can dig out the reference by Sunday.

I know an artist who swears by having the inside of her box painted a nice neutral coloured grey or taupe colour because it produces interesting results and gives the painting a lighter key.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I'm mortified - I totally forgot to say thanks for the reference to my blog

All the resources dug up during the the composition and design project have now been transferred to an information site - and this is the link. Otherwise just click on the category label for composition and that takes people to the project posts.

Jan Letoha said...

Re: painting the inside of the box a neutral or taupe color. That sounds like a good idea! Matter of fact, one could have several of these boxes, painted in different colors! :-)

Cindy, I'm looking forward to your next project!


Cindy said...

Thank you Holly! Sometimes it doesn't feel very creative....I've been known to take hundreds of shots until something strikes me as useable.

Hi Jan! I'm glad you like the post done in your honor. And my brain also started whirling when Katherine posted about the grey or taupe colored box. I will be raiding the empty boxes from the garage.

Hi Rhonda...thank you! Thank you too to Fannie...hi friend!

Hi Beth! I've been enthralled with the painting a day movement...when you paint everyday you are bound to have some pretty common items for subject matter. My head would explode if I had to come up with a barnburner subject every day.

Hi Katherine...I'd be happy to have you share my post. I'd also be interested in the light box post. And thanks for the link to your comp and design information.

Tania said...

Thanks, Cindy, for this post. For someone who's only done a couple still lifes this is valuable information(and only one of those was from my own references: I love the Goodwill tip, too, because none of my current table ware has any "personality". Thanks!

Cecelia (Artistic Chaos) said...

I am surprised you did not include a photo pf the final painting.
But thank you for showing us how you set it up.