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More Than Just a Box

This is a handmade box made of interesting wood and fine joinery.

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

Photographing it offers an interesting experience as well. I used a huge modifier and placed it very close, lighting from the back and above as I normally do (or start with) for most of my still life images. This gets the light very soft and “wrappy,” so as to ease any shadow transitions. It also gives the wood something large to reflect so you don’t see its (the lights) edges in the reflection.

I filled from the front with a strip box large enough to give the same properties as the key, above.

I also had to be careful not to blow out the (very) white tassel while keeping detail in the woods.

Mind you I don’t figure all of this out ahead of time. I start with my key – 1 light – and decide what I don’t like and continue from there, adding or subtracting light. The choice of background also affects lighting – to light it or not, how and by how much.

Speaking of backgrounds, this choice evolves as well. I started with a grape red and black fabric, hoping to play off the wood tones, but finally chose a not-quite-white burlap cloth. I had set up a jungle of lights and reflectors for the former, but the latter made due with just my key and fill. 2 lights.

One challenge in shooting objects like this is that the lighting and the resolution of my camera/lens combination will reveal an amazing amount of detail that you don’t necessarily want to see in a finished image. Small tear-outs in the wood – something you just can’t see with the naked eye – will create edges that catch the light and create specular reflections that look almost like dust. Careful placement – and lots of time in post processing – are a must.

In the end, I wanted the image to reflect the beauty of the object. The beautiful combination of woods and fine workmanship used to create it.

The box also has special meaning to me. It was gift from my dad, who casually handed it to me this Christmas.

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