Colour Still Life

For those who follow my work will know me as someone who mainly works with shades of grey and the reason for that is that I am colour blind and sometimes have a really hard time in distinguishing certain colour hues.

For years, the colour blindness has always bothered me when it comes to photography and I have always felt that it has restricted me especially when it comes to making what I call “Fine Art“.

Still Life

I enjoy making photographs of still life, I enjoy the lighting challenge as well as creating an image which is close to how I saw it in my head during the exposure.

Dark or Light

Some people gravitate towards light and airy images but I seem to go the other way by concentrating on the darker tones and try to emphasise the lighting more. 


Many times I hear people say that for still life, you need very little space to work in. Whilst this maybe true, I do find that within the small space I have, I struggle most of the time.

One thing I have learnt which is something I don’t have, and that is the option to setup a still life and be able to walk all around which gives you more opportunity to place the lighting in different positions.

I setup everything in my computer room on a work surface which doesn’t give me with a great deal of room either side or in-front of the setup.

Still Life Setup

How Much Gear

As with anything photography related, we can sometimes get bogged down with thinking that we need this camera or this lens but in reality, any camera and any lens can produce nice images if they are controlled properly.

For my digital work, I use a Nikon D3s which is 11 years old now and an SB-900 flash which again must be around 10 years old.

The lens I mainly use is either a 50mm prime or sometime I use my 24mm Tilt/Shift but 24mm is a little wide to be fair.

The only limitation I have with the camera is the 12 mega-pixel sensor which is reduced even further when you crop square or 5:4 and this can have a dramatic impact on the size in which I can print.

In the future, I would probably want to think about a second hand Nikon D800 or even D850 as prices will no doubt fall as more new models are introduced.

How Much Lighting

When I first started to make still life photographs, I would read books on the lighting and after seeing pictures of behind the scenes where photographers would use 3 or four lights, fill cards and flags to photograph an egg.

I would glance over at my small space and quickly became disheartened and on many occasions have dropped the still life idea altogether.

Over the years, I have tried studio strobes, large soft-boxes, umbrellas and multiple speed lights and got very poor results mainly dues to the frustration of the small working space I have.

My Lighting Now

Rather than all this fancy lighting, I have taken a step backwards and now use small simple lights and I am trying to lean more towards learning how to control what light I have at my disposal.

I use an LED torch, a small LED Panel and sometimes my Nikon Speed Light to bounce light off the ceiling for fill in.

The one thing I have learnt over the years is that if you want soft light then you need to get the light as close to the subject as you can. I always add some form of diffusion in-front of what ever light I am using which is usually an old shower curtain, grease-proof paper or opaque perspex.

Post Processing Adobe Lightroom

I expose in RAW format and then import everything into Adobe Lightroom as DNG files. I use Lightroom for organising all my images and have done since the first day it was released.

Lightroom is also a RAW converter so I use this engine to perform any alterations to the RAW file before handing it over to Photoshop.

Post Processing Adobe Photoshop

After the RAW conversion takes place in Adobe Lightroom, all edits are done in Photoshop in the Pro-Photo Color Space. I don’t use any third part plugins, I mainly work with all the adjustment layers available inside Photoshop.

If I am using Luminosity masks, then I do use my Luminosity Masking Panel I made which does speed up the workflow rather than having to keep manually creating them.


Like most photographers, not all my work gets printed but I do try to print often because to me, the print represents the final journey for that photograph.

I use an Epson R3880 printer and I like to print on Epson Fine Art paper for matte printing and Canson Photographique for lustre printing.

Latest Still Life

These are my latest four pieces of still life work I have made at the time of writing this article ( December 2020 )


Color Still Life Ian Barber

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