An Easy Set Up For Still Life: with Virginia Smith


I needed a quick and easy set up for the small jobs I so here and there. Branding samples, food photography, accessories for the styling that I do on the side. I love window light, shadows and color so this is my easy set up for my style. The elements are:

* a diffused window (inexpensive white sheers from any big box store will do)
* an assortment of colored art papers available at any art supply store
* odd pieces of wood or a piece of paneling
* squares of vinyl flooring that looks like slate or stone, even wood
* wide painters tape


All these elements are about 24×24 inches square. They are taped in place along with whatever props I may need in the background to set a mood (dresses, branches, fabric…). Sometimes I place my surface right against the background, sometimes I place my surface away from the background. I have latitude next to the window to use the light and shadows that fall as well as time of day. The shadows are stronger late in the day as in these test shots. I can use a reflector to soften the shadows but I tend to prefer them strong.


If I find the backgrounds too smooth, I will add textures that I have created from old paintings, walls, rocks, dirt and whatever else looks interesting.

arroyo branding

Fast, easy and fits my Modern Vintage style.

The items needed for the setup.


Virginia Smith (Modern Vintage Photography)


The “Test Shot” with Stephen Collins


Shoot rare military memorabilia (medals, daggers, insignias, etc.) for inclusion in to an auction catalog and online viewing portal. Images must be large (3000-4000px, .tiff), with no specular reflection, especially the dagger blades (ornate etchings), yet show depth and texture of every item. Some edge specular was acceptable and desired.

I was invited to a test shoot; Determine my ability to produce the image quality required. Of course, the people inviting me in, are not photographers and did not completely communicate the details of how, what or where I’d be shooting. So I loaded up the car with a little bit of everything and off I went.

During the test shoot it became obvious I needed to “MacGyver” a better solution than bouncing a soft box off tabletop white seamless. I needed an indirect, side lit solution, height adjustable with the camera directly overhead.

Using what I had around the house, I needed only two extra pieces of foam board. The three black boards are taped together, creating a trifold. The two holes cut for the storbs hold the trifold in place nicely and are not affected by heat from the modeling lamps.

I was originally thinking black board for zero reflection on the knife blades. While that did work, adding a white board clamped to the center board, is much better for a uniform, non-specular reflection. And, now I have both options should the image call for a change up. I also included two white boards on each end to provide more uniform lighting.

Final Shot:


Light stand (one side) consists of: Standard light stand with optional sand bag
Swivel umbrella adaptor with double stud adaptor
> Paul C Buff mini boom arm
> Pole clamp connected to large spring clamp holding 3×4’ white foam board reflector

Stephen Collins


<a href=””><img src=”” alt=”SUMMER-SCHOOL” width=”200″ height=”158″ class=”alignright size-full wp-image-8897″ /></a>MANY OF THE TUTORIALS DURING “SUMMER SCHOOL” ARE BY <a href=”” target=”_blank”>PROJECT 52 PRO</a> MEMBERS EITHER CURRENTLY ENROLLED OR ALUMNI.


“Work The Scene” with Rasmus Hald

Work the scene.

Rasmus Hald

One of the things that separate a good photo from a great photo is often planning, patience and how we work the scene.

In July 2012 I was in Italy on vacation, driving around Tuscany in an RV and we went to Florence for a couple of days. I had read beforehand about a place to camp with a RV close to Piazzale Michelangelo that have a splendid view out over the old city center.

We spent the first day down in the city and after a good dinner we went back to the RV and as soon as we got there I trapped my tripod and camera and went to shoot the city from above…

image 1

I was not happy with this image, it was to late and the sky had gone dark, so it was clear that I had to get there earlier to get a better picture, this was shot 11.30 PM.

So the next evening I came back a lot earlier…

image 2

This image is shot 08.53 PM in the evening. I like this image, but it was not the image I came for.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 45mm f/1.8 ISO 200, f/11, 1/50s

So I waited and tried the lenses I had with me.

image 3

Samyang 7.5mm fisheye. 13s shutter time to allow car lights to make lines below…

image 4

2 image panorama shot wide (12mm), I have printed this image here at home in 36x16inch and it looks very nice. This was shot 09.45 PM and was one of the last images I shot before the sky went dark.

I made a total of 50 images during this hour and ended up with the below image as my favorite:


Olympus OM-D E-M5 12-60 f/3.5-6.3 f/16, 20mm 20s ISO 200.

All images shot in raw and processed in Lightroom 4 + Nik Color efex pro with tonal contrast preset.

Rasmus Hald
Oslo, Norway