Summer Start

by VonSchnauzer

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I just want to make a set of still-life photographs of leaves, with totally controlled lighting. I'd like to be as "scientific" as possible, but I don't know how to light my set. Frontal direct lights are not the best because they are too hard and if I try to put more lights in the sides I get shadows.

I am doing this with unprofessional Ikea lights.

Do you have any guidelines please?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

One way to eliminate the shadows is to use lights at an angle and keep the subject far from the background, so that any shadows fall outside the frame. Putting the lights at an angle will also reduce reflection of the light by the leaves (some leaves are shiny).

Use a dark grey or black background and sufficiently shallow depth of field for an even, dark background that makes the leaf pop.

You can hang each leaf by its stem if you plan to have the stem out of the frame, or support the leaf on a rod that's in line with the camera axis so that the leaf hides the rod. Another option is to use some thread that's the same color as the background to suspend a bit of cardboard to which you can affix each leaf.

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I did shots of Autumn leaves which I placed on the floor near a doorway and used side lighting. There were harsh shadows, but it brought out the texture of the leaves. Front lighting will lose all that texture.

If you find side lighting too harsh, then try a main light close and to one side, and the fill with another light further away, and either behind the camera, or to the other side from the main light, just as you might do with a portrait. As long as the fill isn't too strong, the main light from the side should provide some texture and light shadow.

If you want really soft light, ditch the lights, and place the leaves near a window and use a white reflector to bounce some light back into the shadows if you need to.

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You can also consider a light tent. This will help get a soft even light if that is what your are looking for. Since you brought up IKEA, IKEAHackers.net has info on cheap DIY light tents (There are a ton of these on the net, search for: DIY LightTent)

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