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How to Take 'Dutch Master' Still Life Photographs

How to Take 'Dutch Master' Still Life Photographs

A couple years ago, my photography mentor showed me a picture he took that looked like an oil painting in the Dutch Master vein. There was no fancy Photoshop manipulation. Just really beautiful, natural, evening light and great timing. Since seeing that picture, I've been a little obsessed with recreating the look. Some direction from my teacher and a lot of practice has me on the right track, according to said mentor.

I wish I could tell you it was very complicated, but it isn't. Here's the 411 on getting similar results:   

First, find a window and put your subject in front of it, placing it so you'll be able to direct your camera at the object but not so as you'll be blocking your own light.

Next, set up your tripod. (A bean bag will work too, but a tripod is really the best.) Set your camera to shutter speed priority and your aperture as low as she'll go. Start your ISO at 200. 

Then wait for sundown. My best shots start showing up about 15 minutes AFTER sundown, actually. During the time you're chasing the light, you'll be manipulating your shutter speed, anywhere from a half a second to up to 6+ or so, as it gets darker out. I generally would rather keep my ISO low, not above 400, and increase my shutter speed to prevent noise. BTW, I don't bother with a remote, but using your timer can help with camera shake. And speaking of camera shake, you should always turn that anti-shake function off when using a tripod...if you remember, that is, which I usually don't. 

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Here's one--straight out of the camera--I took last night at about 8:45, a half hour after sundown. My ISO was set at 400, my shutter speed at 6 seconds and my f-stop at 3.5.

created at: 07/27/2011

And here it is after I tweaked it a little in Lightroom. I upped the blacks and vignetted it. And FIY, this photograph was taken at the same spot using the same table as the first photo in this post. 

created at: 07/27/2011

No, I'm no Dutch Master, nor am I as accomplished as my mentor, but I'm getting there! Now go forth and shoot some still-lifes.

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