Light box studio photograph of an orange

Light Box: The Perfect Orange

We could not make it outside to photograph today, with drab, wet weather. Normally, we’d probably just not get the camera out. But with our One Picture a Day project on the line, we got out the camera anyway. We headed into the studio. By studio, I mean a light box on the kitchen table. We set up our Merax One Shot Photo Studio, which we recently purchased and discussed earlier this month.

A challenge I have for myself as part of our One Picture a Day project is to learn how to create those perfect studio photographs you see on stock photography sites and professional photographer portfolios. Today’s subject was an orange. Not just any orange–the perfect orange. Well, it wasn’t necessarily the perfect orange, but we wanted it to look like the perfect orange when we were finished. This exercise is the photographer’s equivalent of the artist who draws and paints solids.

It’s not as easy as it looks. Light box photography is all about light placement. You have control–almost overwhelming control for someone used to the found light of nature photography.  Too much light will flatten the image. The shadows have to be in the right places. I also struggled with highlight points on the shiny surface, which tend to blow out with white. I have two lights on stands. Much of the time in the studio was playing with the lights to get the look I wanted. My goal was to a rich orange color with a good sense of dimension, floating in black space. I wanted the sensation that the orange was suspended; that one could reach into the photograph to seize it. Not only that, I wanted it to look tasty, like you wanted to reach for it.

One step I found necessary was to stop down. The camera meter was being fooled by the overall darkness of the scene, and overexposing the photograph leading to a flat, washed out orange. I stopped down a full 3 stops in camera to get the look I wanted. The camera was handheld, so ISO is a little high, giving grain in the shadows; but that was only visible when the image was enlarged. Someday I’ll get out the tripod to give me more latitude in reducing ISO. In post-processing, I let Aperture auto-enhance; I added back 1 stop exposure. The original photograph was ISO 1600 f/11 1/60 sec -3 EV on a Micro-Nikor 60mm f/2.8 AF with a Nikon D90.

The next step is to add a second orange, then we’d have a still life! We will save that for another day.