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DPChallenge Forums >> Challenge Announcements >> Still Lifes : a Mentor Challenge with Grahamgator
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11/05/2021 12:03:07 AM · #1
Week 1 - "Still Lifes: a Mentor Challenge with ' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Grahamgator" Launches. A forum thread of the same title is opened. Photographers may begin work on their entries and post them to the thread as they do so in order to get feedback from Mary Ann (and anyone else that cares to pipe in). People can ask questions, seek processing and lighting advice, experiment with techniques/composition and post their results for comments/critiques, etc.

Week 2 - The mentorship thread will be locked. People will still be able to see the thread and absorb the information, but may no longer ask for advice/critiques, including via PM or email. The mentor will not answer any questions after week 1 is over. Photographers will finish up their photos and enter them into the challenge. It is expected that many will enter photos that have been discussed in the thread.

Week 3 - The two-week entry period has ended and voting begins. We may have seen some of the photos in the mentor thread, and there will probably be photos that haven't been discussed. People should vote on all images, even though they may have seen some of them beforehand. Learning how to objectively view and critique images you have already seen is a part of this learning process, and a big part of the challenge.
11/05/2021 12:08:24 AM · #2
Welcome to the still life mentor thread. As I understand it, my role is to answer questions, give suggestions, critique and help you create a blue ribbon still life image. Hopefully, I can meet MY challenge. I will be available mostly in the evening between 7:00-11:00 p.m. EST and most mornings around 7:00 am for a couple of hours.

First, let me say there are many good still life photographers on DPC. Some that come to mind are mefnj, DCrest01, hajeka; take a look at their portfolios for some inspiration. I am art driven rather than photography driven, and, I say, my photography skills are just meh. I use Photoshop, Nik, and Topaz, almost exclusively, for processing my images. Hopefully, I have something of interest to share with you and I look forward to it.
11/05/2021 02:28:05 AM · #3
Thank you for taking this on, Mary Ann.

There is something I have wanted to ask you. How much distance do you have between yourself and your setup? I often find that my perspective is a bit off and I think I am probably too close for comfort to my subject. Finding a place with enough light and enough room is a bit of a problem for me.
11/05/2021 08:34:13 AM · #4
I'm so excited about this! Thanks so much for doing this!

I'd love to learn more about your photoshopping. Especially on the colors and tones. You recent extended editing artwork was so incredibly gorgeous. What type of setup do you use for your backgrounds, and what type of lighting do you use? I was guessing that it was window lighting. It's so diffuse but yet there's always a wonderful structure to things. That's one of the difficulties that I have.

Thanks!
11/05/2021 08:41:26 AM · #5
That is a good question Marion, I encounter the same issue at times. Generally I stand 4-6 ft away, depending on width and height of the display. Most of the time I use a 24-70 mm lens and can zoom in and out or a 50mm and move with it. The angle can also be a problem depending on the height of the display and how high your background is. You want to be close enough to frame it properly and get the dof you need. Space wise, you can do still life anywhere you have a background you like, decent light and some shade. Hang bed sheets on a wall, kitchen countertops, the floor with wall background. I often used my garage with the door open and a mobile background. Hope this helps.
11/05/2021 09:14:25 AM · #6
Originally posted by vawendy:

I'm so excited about this! Thanks so much for doing this!

I'd love to learn more about your photoshopping. Especially on the colors and tones. You recent extended editing artwork was so incredibly gorgeous. What type of setup do you use for your backgrounds, and what type of lighting do you use? I was guessing that it was window lighting. It's so diffuse but yet there's always a wonderful structure to things. That's one of the difficulties that I have.

Thanks!


Thanks Wendy. I use natural light 99% of the time, and mostly work in a room (11x20) with a window on one side and a door at an angle on the other. I use a large diffuser for the window to soften the light and can move around to get the right angle. With door open, it gives some good backlighting if I need it. Lighting is the most important element for me and I like some shadowing. Generally I shoot a little dark and bring up the shadows in Adobe raw, this helps not to over expose the highlights. You name it and I use it for backgrounds, lol. I have several portable portrait backgrounds that are double sided that I use a lot. I can’t remember off hand the brand but will find it and post it later. Bed sheets also make good backgrounds. The walls in that room are textured and, depending on how far away I am and position of the light at the time, it makes a good textured background. The lighting temperature is different depending on the time of day. I tend to use muted tones in my still life set-up and as much natural items as possible. A lot of my tones in post processing are done using Nik filters at a low opacity. I especially like the analog series and play around with the sliders to get the look I want. I have found I can duplicate some of those using Photoshop, but the filters make it a lot easier. In Photoshop, I dodge and burn using the curves and levels adjustments and to adjust other lighting uses I might have. I use curves and levels a lot on my images. The sliders in levels is very helpful in muting and toning. Color Balance effectively changes the tones too.. Try moving those sliders around, especially on the highlights and mid tones. I use “soft light” or “overlay” blending modes on a lot of my layers as well as Selective Color on blacks, neutrals and whites. Topaz also has a few filters that I use a lot, especially the Impression series, and especially when doing extended editing.

I feel like I am rambling, so will stop for now. I am sure other questions will come that will provide more.
11/05/2021 09:36:04 AM · #7
Originally posted by grahamgator:

Originally posted by vawendy:

I'm so excited about this! Thanks so much for doing this!

I'd love to learn more about your photoshopping. Especially on the colors and tones. You recent extended editing artwork was so incredibly gorgeous. What type of setup do you use for your backgrounds, and what type of lighting do you use? I was guessing that it was window lighting. It's so diffuse but yet there's always a wonderful structure to things. That's one of the difficulties that I have.

Thanks!


Thanks Wendy. I use natural light 99% of the time, and mostly work in a room (11x20) with a window on one side and a door at an angle on the other. I use a large diffuser for the window to soften the light and can move around to get the right angle. With door open, it gives some good backlighting if I need it. Lighting is the most important element for me and I like some shadowing. Generally I shoot a little dark and bring up the shadows in Adobe raw, this helps not to over expose the highlights. You name it and I use it for backgrounds, lol. I have several portable portrait backgrounds that are double sided that I use a lot. I can’t remember off hand the brand but will find it and post it later. Bed sheets also make good backgrounds. The walls in that room are textured and, depending on how far away I am and position of the light at the time, it makes a good textured background. The lighting temperature is different depending on the time of day. I tend to use muted tones in my still life set-up and as much natural items as possible. A lot of my tones in post processing are done using Nik filters at a low opacity. I especially like the analog series and play around with the sliders to get the look I want. I have found I can duplicate some of those using Photoshop, but the filters make it a lot easier. In Photoshop, I dodge and burn using the curves and levels adjustments and to adjust other lighting uses I might have. I use curves and levels a lot on my images. The sliders in levels is very helpful in muting and toning. Color Balance effectively changes the tones too.. Try moving those sliders around, especially on the highlights and mid tones. I use “soft light” or “overlay” blending modes on a lot of my layers as well as Selective Color on blacks, neutrals and whites. Topaz also has a few filters that I use a lot, especially the Impression series, and especially when doing extended editing.

I feel like I am rambling, so will stop for now. I am sure other questions will come that will provide more.


No you’re definitely not rambling. I am intrigued because I barely use any of those. I’m intrigued with a color balance idea. I just started playing around with the color grading in camera Raw. I hadn’t thought of using it to change the tones of the shadows until very recently when I was watching a video. It would be very interesting To play around with that and still life’s.
11/05/2021 10:13:39 AM · #8
This is really interesting. I have never used Camera Raw - maybe I should? My current workflow, dependent on image, is open in LR, global adjustments (although the new masking feature is awesome), export to PS, noise reduction with Topaz (if required), Nik colour or silver effex (if required). Does Camera Raw replace LR, or in addition to?
11/05/2021 10:28:32 AM · #9
Sara, I don;t use Lightroom so am not familiar enough for an opinion, but they are probably interchangeable. Adobe camera raw is awesome and I get great results. For sharpening, I use Photoshop High Pass Sharpen using soft light or overlay blending mode.
11/05/2021 10:35:16 AM · #10
Originally posted by SaraR:

This is really interesting. I have never used Camera Raw - maybe I should? My current workflow, dependent on image, is open in LR, global adjustments (although the new masking feature is awesome), export to PS, noise reduction with Topaz (if required), Nik colour or silver effex (if required). Does Camera Raw replace LR, or in addition to?


Lightroom use camera raw. But it’s in photoshop, as well. So if you make changes in Nik efex, yo9u don’t have to go back into LR if you want to go back to LR’s basic editing. Just go to the filter menu in photoshop and select “camera raw’

And yes, if people haven’t already checked out the new mask and features In light room photo shop and camera raw, they’re amazing.

Although I’m having problems getting photoshop’s auto select to work. The subject selection tool is supposed to select every object in the photo, and then show a blue outline as you move over each outline.. This would be very handy in still life’s, but it doesn’t seem to be working for me. I have the latest update, and I have the correct options clicked. :(
11/05/2021 10:36:30 AM · #11
Mary Ann, Do use the sheet over the window because you have direct light coming in and you need to soften it? Or is it already in direct and your softening it even more?
11/05/2021 10:44:10 AM · #12
Originally posted by vawendy:

Mary Ann, Do use the sheet over the window because you have direct light coming in and you need to soften it? Or is it already in direct and your softening it even more?


It is indirect light but at times stronger than other times and I like the softness. I have a 48” collapsible round diffuser I put in front of window. I think a sheet blocks too much of the light.
11/05/2021 10:56:51 AM · #13
Originally posted by grahamgator:

Sara, I don;t use Lightroom so am not familiar enough for an opinion, but they are probably interchangeable. Adobe camera raw is awesome and I get great results. For sharpening, I use Photoshop High Pass Sharpen using soft light or overlay blending mode.

I understand that Camera RAW is the same as Lightroom Develop module.
11/05/2021 11:03:20 AM · #14
I have been looking through your portfolio and came across this image:
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1821/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1086555.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1821/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1086555.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
Do you still use the background that you used in it?

Your more recent images are softer with more blurred background, did this occur gradually to you? How did you learn to do it?

11/05/2021 11:04:29 AM · #15
Another question, this time on props, do you have multiple wooden tables?
11/05/2021 11:08:34 AM · #16
Just a general comment, I wish this challenge was Extended. My favorites of your work are Still Life's (?) that include birds and butterflies, I assume these are impossible to do in Standard editing. I was also interested in learning and trying to follow your compositing work, Standard does not allow this, pity.

PS Sorry, Mary Ann, I hope I am not overloading you with questions and comments! :)

Message edited by author 2021-11-05 11:12:10.
11/05/2021 11:11:49 AM · #17
I'm definitely interested in what backgrounds you use. That's one of my biggest problems in still lifes -- backgrounds and table tops. I don't like the options I have
11/05/2021 01:12:25 PM · #18
Originally posted by MargaretNet:

I have been looking through your portfolio and came across this image:
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1821/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1086555.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1821/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1086555.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
Do you still use the background that you used in it?

Your more recent images are softer with more blurred background, did this occur gradually to you? How did you learn to do it?


Hi Margaret! That is one of my older images back when I used the narrow top of my dining room buffet for my still life images. The background is a poster board wrapped in burlap. I was never satisfied with that image and have not used that background since then.

As far as the softness/blur of the background, I have learned that the distance from the background along with f stop makes the difference. Of course, the background you use has to be large enough that you stay within the boundary of it (hope that makes sense). I also like to apply a texture over the entire image using soft light blend mode at low opacity.

I have one main, old oak table that I can around easily. I also use a wooden box my husband made that I can put on top of the table, it is a bit more rustic. Sometimes I use old boards that I place on the table for a different look. The backgrounds that I use most are collapsible portrait backgrounds that be moved around easily and are two sided for different looks. The walls in the room where I most often work are textured and painted light green. The lighting on the wall next to the window is very nice and adds some texture, depending on distance from it.

I really enjoy working in extended mode so I can be more creative. I do not have the compositing skills of gyaban or many others on DPC, but I learn something new every time I do one. I watch a lot of tutorials on photoshopping and compositing, but the most helpful has been “Phlearn”. I recently did one in standard editing with a cardinal in the scene. I set-up outside with birdseed to attract the birds and waited on my back porch for them to come to the spot. There was a lot of waiting and watching over three days to get a few good shots. ;)

Hope this was helpful
11/05/2021 01:25:34 PM · #19
Originally posted by vawendy:

I'm definitely interested in what backgrounds you use. That's one of my biggest problems in still lifes -- backgrounds and table tops. I don't like the options I have


I just addressed some of this in post to Margaret.

I agree, backgrounds are a problem, but you would be surprised at what works. Walls, tiles, furniture, and pieces of cloth work. I like using a light grey or dark blue sheet because of the size. The backdrops I use most came from https://www.katebackdrop.com.

A long time ago, I bought a rolling clothing rack that I use for backdrops. It is light weight and moves around easily.
11/05/2021 01:57:14 PM · #20
Originally posted by grahamgator:

A long time ago, I bought a rolling clothing rack that I use for backdrops. It is light weight and moves around easily.
I got one from Ikea recently, is this what you mean?
https://www.ikea.com/ch/en/p/rigga-clothes-rack-white-50231630/
I will have a look at how to attach cloths to it, I did not buy it for a photographic use :)
11/05/2021 02:06:20 PM · #21
Originally posted by MargaretNet:

Originally posted by grahamgator:

A long time ago, I bought a rolling clothing rack that I use for backdrops. It is light weight and moves around easily.
I got one from Ikea recently, is this what you mean?
https://www.ikea.com/ch/en/p/rigga-clothes-rack-white-50231630/
I will have a look at how to attach cloths to it, I did not buy it for a photographic use :)


Yes, that is what I have, but not as fancy, lol. . The pole on top extends on each end. I use clamps to hold the backdrops.
11/05/2021 05:14:00 PM · #22
Originally posted by grahamgator:

That is a good question Marion, I encounter the same issue at times. Generally I stand 4-6 ft away, depending on width and height of the display. Most of the time I use a 24-70 mm lens and can zoom in and out or a 50mm and move with it. The angle can also be a problem depending on the height of the display and how high your background is. You want to be close enough to frame it properly and get the dof you need. Space wise, you can do still life anywhere you have a background you like, decent light and some shade. Hang bed sheets on a wall, kitchen countertops, the floor with wall background. I often used my garage with the door open and a mobile background. Hope this helps.


Thank you, Mary Ann. This helps. It confirms that I'm trying to work in too tight a space. The garage sounds like a possibility if I can persuade my husband that I need the car and trailer out ;-)
11/05/2021 06:26:08 PM · #23
Very interesting idea esp since I like a lot still lifes and Mary Ann's work.
I agree with Marion (' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' jomari) on the importance of space. And surely the level of dedication and/or need to spend this time.
Posting now a still life after reading all this will be very hard!
Thank you Mary Ann.
11/05/2021 06:40:26 PM · #24
The other problem I have is arranging things. I absolutely suck at arranging more than one thing. That’s why the vast majority of my still lifes are just one thing.

I’d like to start shooting right away to get as much training as I can. Do you have recommendations as to how to start arranging items so they don’t look like they’re just plopped there?
11/05/2021 07:23:58 PM · #25
Hi Wendy. Placement of objects is one of the hardest to get right. You need something at eye level and then something a little higher and then again higher, t least that is how I approach it, making a triangle so to speak, working with rule of thirds as much as possible and using odd number of objects (a stack of books can be one object). I attempt to sketch the idea before doing it. Overlapping some of the items helps make it cohesive. I think the most important thing before starting is to have a picture in your mind of what you want to doDo some research on still life photography and painting. Pick out what you like and then come up with a plan.

I really like the old masters work, however they can be a bit too much, but they offer a vision and how to place objects. Their work had meaning associated with each element and told a story, although I have trouble figuring it out, lol. There is almost always a piece of cloth in all the old images that was significant. I arrange and rearrange many times before I am satisfied. It usually takes about three or four days before I get something I like. Take shots and then view them to check how it looks on screen. After selecting the image I want to use, I process it and wait until the next day to look at it again. I usually find things I don’t like and then redo it.
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