I’ve wanted to play around with shooting still life again. However, I’ve had a couple of problems. First, I needed a place to shoot. Setting up and tearing down a make shift studio in the living room gets old. My second problem was trying to see the small image on my camera in order to best determine what adjustments I needed to make.


setup 1

setup 1

I corrected the first problem by clearing a space downstairs where I can now have a more permanent space to shoot. I pulled out my old drafting table that I use in college over a quarter of a century ago as the bases for my little studio. Then I covered the top of my table with a black carpet mat from Wal-Mart. I use a couple pieces of poster board that I had for backgrounds or to block or reflect light. To hold these in place I purchased clamps at Home Depot for a dollar each.


setup 2

setup 2


I found an old work light stand that worked great to mount my lights on. For this secession I used a couple of clamp on lights. One I had purchased for another project. The second was actually a re-purposed heat lamp for a turtle that we use to have.


Lightroom 3

Lightroom 3


The space is located next my computer which almost solved my second problem.  By tethering my camera to Lightroom 3, I can see the image almost immediately after taking the shot. In fact if I hadn’t had to drop the strawberries into the glass, I could’ve taken the picture right from my desktop.





However, I now had a third problem. My USB cable (C) wasn’t long enough. I have a D5000 which takes a special USB connector. This connector must be unique to Nikon because I couldn’t find one anywhere. Then I found a (B) 10′ USB 2.0 A to A Male to Female Extension Cable for $6.88 at Wal-Mart. For another 97 cents they shipped right to my home. I used my (A) Nikon MC-DC2 remote shutter release to operate my camera while dropping the strawberry.


strawberry 1

strawberry 1


I filled a glass about half way with Diet 7Up.  The carbonated water is suppose to add more fizz, and the diet doesn’t have sugar.  No sugar, no sticky mess! Then I began dropping a strawberry into the glass. It took a little “getting-used-to” to get the timing down. However, being able to view the image almost immediately after taking it is amazing.


strawberry 2

strawberry 2


I thought that the low shutter speed gave these images and interesting appearance. However, if I’m going to continue to shoot strawberries dropping into a glass, which I guess aren’t really “still” life, then I going to need to use some little brighter lights in order to stop the action.


strawberry 3

strawberry 3





  1. A Creative Adventure September 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Awesome! Thanks for the how to- I’m gonna have to try this. I did do water collisions once and used an automatic drop w/ cable release. It was fun.

    • Phillip September 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

      Thanks Denise. That sounds cool. I’ll have to try that.

  2. Victoria - Foto September 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Wow, cool picture! 🙂
    /Victoria (Sweden)

    • Phillip September 5, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      I appreciate it Victoria!

  3. Edith Levy September 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Phillip this is just an amazing post. First the pictures are great and I especially love the first one with the strawberry in the glass and the 7 up splashing upwards. Second thank you so much for sharing your setup. You’ve made this a little less intimidating for me to try. Just super.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Thank you so much Edith. Remember, you’ll have to drop a lot of strawberries until you get the timing down LOL. I really needed brighter bulbs. These were only 60 watts. They were fine with other things that were still. However, that quarter pound strawberry that I used in the picture had a lot of gravity behind it. I really got some crazy blurred shots. It was a lot of fun.
      I’m glad that you said that this tutorial helped you feel less intimidated about trying this for yourself. I’ve searched for tutorials myself and while there are some out there like Bryan Peterson who had inexpensive ideas. It seemed like others were either trying to either sell you an expensive setup or trying to justify the obscene amount of money that they just spent on theirs.

  4. Len Saltiel September 6, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    Great post Phillip. I’ve not tried this after seeing your setup, will try it in the next couple of months.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      Thank you Len. I’ve only played with still life a few times myself. However, it seems to be something fun to do on a rainy day. I look forward to seeing your results.

  5. Rob September 6, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    Excellent tutorial, thank you! Picture perfect results. I may have to try this type of photography this up coming long winter. I’ll see what I can do about setting up my basement makeshift studio, another fun project.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      Thanks Rob. What little I’ve done has been fun. However, sometimes it’s hard to find an inexpensive way to do it. I guess at times I find myself channeling Larry Becker or maybe I’m just cheap at heart. As I’ve said before, this is a hobby to me. I’m looking to spend as little money as possible. If I were a professional I could justify investing money into quality equipment, but at this time I can’t. Hopefully in the future I’ll find myself at a more serious position, but until then I’m just playing. Maybe in the process I’ll make a good picture or two.

    • Rob September 8, 2011 at 1:07 am #

      Photography is an expensive hobby. But I guess not so much more than golf. I to like it on the cheap. Have you heard about strobist? They promote inexpensive gear. If you have read this site, nevermind. If not, they have a very useful series, well two, called Lighting 101 and Lighting 102. http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

      • Phillip September 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

        Thank goodness Rob, I don’t have to worry about golf. I took my son to the driving range years ago to learn more about the sport, and discovered that you were expected to hit the ball. I have never been so frustrated and embarrassed in all of my life. LOL
        I have heard of David’s website. He has a lot of great information. However, inexpensive gear is relative term. As I was telling Caryn, I just wanted to play around with it to see if I liked this type of photography. I may discover that I’ll need to put a flash or two on my bucket list. It was the same with golf. It wouldn’t have been very smart of me to go down to the sporting goods store and purchase a nice set of clubs just to see if I liked the sport.

  6. Rob September 6, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    LOL, repurposed turtle lamp.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      You liked that? It’s amazing what you will find going through our basement.

  7. Jan Winther September 6, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    Phillip, this is a really cool write up. Your setup looks excellent. You just need a couple of small flashes now.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

      Thank you Jan for the kind words. I would love to have a couple of flashes, but have you seen the prices they want for flashes? For that price I could get me that nice wide angle lens that I’ve been wanting. LOL
      I don’t mean to speak out of turn here, but seriously, that’s really the point of this project. How can I as an amateur photographer enjoy dabbling in the area of still life photography without having to give up my retirement savings in the process?

  8. Kris Koeller September 6, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Cool tutorial. I took a class on portrait and studio lighting earlier this year, and I loved how precise and controlled everything is. These are cool shots.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      I appreciate it Kris!

  9. A.Barlow September 6, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Really cool. Just reminded me of a little photo project I have been meaning to try. Thanks! Loved how you posted your process. Sure to help a few folks.

    • Phillip September 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Thanks Aaron for the great comment and encouragement!

  10. Jimi Jones September 7, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    Awesome tutorial, Phillip.
    This makes for a nice project. I must try this.
    Your end result is an awesome photo.

    Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    • Phillip September 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

      Thank you so much Jimi. It was a lot of fun. It will also give me a place to shoot still life when I don’t feel like getting out.

  11. Marc September 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Great job with your project Phillip and well explained. What a superb result!

    • Phillip September 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      Thank you Marc for the kind comment and the encouragement.

  12. Scott Wood September 8, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    Great little write up. I have a similar little setup next to my computer for doing some macro / product photography, but have never tried shooting tethered though LR. I will have to give that a try.

    • Phillip September 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      Thanks Scott! The inexpensive set up was only part of the real story. I actually had already taken a couple of different shots with a similar setup. However i had to keep setting it up and tearing it back down. I had also had played around with tethering so I knew that it would work. My problem was that I wanted to move my camera further than 4 feet from my computer. I think that Nikon is afraid to include a cable long enough to actually be useful. Maybe they are afraid that someone might hang themselves. So I’ve searched and searched for a cable with that special connector. I also tried to find what other people were using. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who wanted to do this without buying a wireless remote. (There’s always an expensive answer to the question.) That when I found this 10 foot extension cable for seven bucks. It worked great. Let me know how your project comes out Scott.

  13. Caryn Caldwell September 8, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    That was so cool!!! Thanks for sharing your step-by-step, and the photos to go with it. I’ve always thought about doing something like this, but have been a little intimidated by the setup. Now you have me wondering again. 🙂

    • Phillip September 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Thanks Caryn, I think that we might be in the same boat. I thought that this would work but was hesitant to try it because I didn’t see anyone else doing it. It seemed like everyone expected me to spend several hundred dollars on a flash. Of course if I wanted to really do it right I might want to pick up a second one. Here I was not even sure that I would even like this type of photography. Who knows I may end up buying a couple of flashes some day, but right now I have to many other people wanting that money. LOL Let me know how it turns out!

  14. DaniLew September 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    I love still-life and Phillip you really did this one well. Thank you for explaining your setup. Now I’ve just got to find an empty space with no carpeting – urgh – LOL!

    • Phillip September 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

      I appreciate it Danielle!

One Trackback

  1. By Bringing Autumn Inside on October 12, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    […] arranged the scene in my little studio pictured below that I wrote about recently in my post titled Tethered, and shot away. It was really […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *