I usually shoot outdoor when plenty of natural light is available, so I don't really care about flash, reflectors, etc (mostly street photography, sometimes landscape).

After seeing Edward Weston's famous photograph Pepper No. 30, I think still life photography is really interesting, too.

enter image description here

I wonder what setup he used. Did he used a flash or a continuous light? And any reflectors, perhaps?

  • I think there are two elephants in this room. One is '8x10': he was using a huge camera, which means that, geometrically, he was almost certainly doing what for a 35mm-format sensor would be macrophotography. The other is the lens: he was using lenses which are not very like any lens you can get for a modern camera. And if course printing &c.
    – user82065
    Apr 8, 2019 at 9:24

3 Answers 3


I've re-thunk this since first posting ;)

Best guess is he just used natural light, not through his kitchen window, as I initially had assumed, because he states he didn't take it to the kitchen.

However, in the 1920s I would assume an artist would have an artist's loft*, with high, broad natural light... & a photographer would use one too, for similar reasons; that, combined with the reflected light inside the tin funnel the pepper was placed in & a 6-minute exposure, appear to have given him all he needed.

From Wikipedia - Pepper No 30

He first tried with plain muslin or a piece of white cardboard as the backdrop, but for these images he thought the contrast between the backdrop and the pepper was too stark. On August 3 he found a large tin funnel, and, placing it on its side, he set a pepper just inside the large open end. He wrote:

"It was a bright idea, a perfect relief for the pepper and adding reflecting light to important contours. I still had the pepper which caused me a week's work, I had decided I could go no further with it, yet something kept me from taking it to the kitchen, the end of all good peppers. I placed it in the funnel, focused with the Zeiss, and knowing just the viewpoint, recognizing a perfect light, made an exposure of six minutes, with but a few moments' preliminary work, the real preliminary was on in hours passed. I have a great negative, ‒ by far the best!"

By placing the pepper in the opening of the funnel, Weston was able to light it in a way that portrays the pepper in three dimensions, rather than as a flat image. It is this light that gives the image much of its extraordinary quality.

One thing about still life, which I do a lot of myself, is it never gets bored.
It leaves you to do all the thinking. It doesn't shuffle its feet or want a cup of tea, & blur your image if it has to hang a round a while. A flower stalk wilting slightly over a focus stack taking 5 minutes is about the worst you'll have to deal with.

*There is an entire row of these houses near where I used to work in London, all designed North-facing but with huge windows to admit lots of broad, indirect light. It's known colloquially as Artist's Row, in Chiswick, West London..

Pic, Credit:© Philip Ide Photography

enter image description here

I also found a newspaper article in the Daily Mail with pictures of the interior of one of them - can I have one please??


I believe that focusing on the lighting alone is not enough to understand the greatness of this photo.

The position, and quality of the light and the composition are important but more so in my opinion is the knowledge and skill in relation to film, development and darkroom printing techniques.

I believe he had a comprehensive understanding of the film so he knew how much to over-under expose it in relation to its ASA and the development times he was going to use. The point being that he must have known how to get the best possible negative (or the negative with the dynamic range he wanted) through exposure and development.

Next he had much knowledge and skill in the darkroom printing process. How to properly expose the paper, what paper grade, sheen and weight to use, what chemistry to use, times and agitation, what toners if any.

Yes you can probably come close to matching the lighting but that does not mean you can create a photo that will look like Weston's, (or Adams or other masters) with out knowing all of the other things one needs to know about film, development and printing.

So to answer the question "How to re-create Edward Weston's Pepper No. 30?"

You need to spend copious amounts of time reading, learning, experimenting with films, chemistry, printing papers and techniques. You must input as much information as you can to your brain so that you understand how light behaves, How film "sees" it differently then the brain, how film captures it.

You must spend much time putting that knowledge into practice.* This photo was probably part of the process of putting his knowledge into practice in order to experiment and learn, (that is a supposition on my part) and is what you should do as well.

How dev time and chemistry types effect film, (many types of films).

How to expose different types of paper, how to develop different types of papers.

How to achieve different affects on papers based on enlarger and lens and printing times, dodging and burning.

How toning effects the mood of a black and white print.

You must also know what you want to say with your photos by using light, development, and printing to affect the viewer of your photos.

  • 1
    The asker is probably shooting digital, so I'm not sure this really helps. Apr 7, 2019 at 19:03
  • @DavidRicherby - That IS the point, understanding all of that informs and enriches the digital photographer. Understanding that it is more than the lighting that makes it a great photo is absolutely essential.
    – Alaska Man
    Apr 7, 2019 at 19:15
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby The OP asked how to recreate the photo, an analog photo. I pointed out that it is more than just the light set up that is needed to recreate such a photo.
    – Alaska Man
    Apr 7, 2019 at 19:28

It would seem it took him 29 peppers and countless of photos to get to that one.

It is usually better than talking about how to take a photo, start taking them, developing and studying the results, annotating what variables you changed to get each results and your thoughts... you will have any amount of peppers to get to the one you love... and afterwards you will have learned a lot about peppers, your lighting technique, lenses, and everything in between.

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