Table-top photography works with soft light.
When you are doing still life shots you want soft, gentle light. Exposures can be longer so you can create lovely gentle shadow graduations. Your mobile phone provides an excellent light source for this. Here is how it is done.
White source image
The basic technique is to put a bright white image onto your mobile screen. When you display it on the mobile screen the illumination produces a white light. This is a wonderful, quite localised soft light for your shot. The steps in detail are…
- Open your favourite image editor
- Create a new image (approx size 800 pixels by 600 pixels)
- Paint it brilliant (pure) white
- If you are on your computer save the image then upload it to your phone
- If you are on your mobile phone save the image to a known folder
- When you want to use the light, display the image on screen
The white image on screen produces enough illumination to create the light you want for your table top image.
Other ways to use your mobile as a light source
Of course many mobiles are also capable cameras in their own right. So here are two other ways to use them:
Photographic light: Lots of mobiles have a “flashlight” app. This will allow you to use the camera flash as a photographic light onto your still life scene. Many on-camera (pop-up flash) flash units are very strong and have a harsh light. The flash on a mobile is often much softer and sometimes is coloured to be a similar colour to daylight (approx 5500 Kelvin). This ‘daylight balance’ is a great light and worth using if you have it. Prop your phone up with the flashlight app activated and start shooting.
Coloured light source: Traditionally coloured light is produced using colour gels. However, some apps on mobile phones can create both a white light or a range of other coloured lights. One such app for example is: Tiny flashlight + LED. This is an app. for Android phones, but there are other apps. for different operating systems. If you cannot find a suitable app. you can produce a colour image like the white one above. Store that on your phone and open the image when you want that colour light.
While the light from the screen of your phone might not be very strong, for a long exposure that is not too important. The light is wonderful and soft. As it comes from a wide source it creates lovely wrap-around shadows. These are just great for still life. Other features of phones can help with the lighting for your photography too. So, have a look at your mobile in a new light – see what you think.