LOW KEY PHOTOGRAPHY – Black And White Photography With Sugar And Cup

low-key black-and-white photography is the name of the game today hi I'm ray Scott and welcome to another episode in the visual arts photography tutorial series now today this project you have to be a little bit patient I have to be honest with you this took me about an hour and a half to get the final result that I wanted but it was well worth it and you know something that's what photography is all about experimenting trying new things and sometimes things can be serendipitous and you actually may find things along the way that you weren't expecting anyway I'm gonna take you through all of the steps it took me to get to the final result stop time photography black and white low-key it's all there it's going to be a lot of fun and I think it's a project that you may want to try we're going to need a few things for a project today hey little cappuccino anyone yeah so you need a a cup of some sort doesn't have to be exactly like this but it's up to you you're going to need some sugar okay you're gonna need some of that and also you probably not necessarily but you probably will need some type of a remote release now I needed that because I'm doing this project alone now you may have a friend or some type of an assistant that can help you out with this you kind of need you know three or four hands on this project so it helps me and I'll take you through if you're doing it alone you'll see how you can do it very easily by yourself all right first there are a couple of setups that I'm using the first setup looked like this so here's that basic setup with a light off to the right it's low it's at an angle to create shadows also you'll notice the corner there of the black background that I want and I even put black velvet on the table I just wanted everything to be really dark now of course I'm going to be under exposing this grossly but for a low key effect sometimes between minus three and two minus five under exposure value and some of the images that came from that look like this so as you just saw there I wasn't getting exactly what I was looking for it may be something that maybe appeals to you but it wasn't what I wanted I wanted those sugar crystals to be stopped in time and really the best way to do it for me was to use flash so let's take a look at the flash setup and this is where you maybe need an extra set of hands or maybe a tripod here take a look first off I want to point out that I'm going to be shooting all images at between minus 3 and -6 exposure value because I really want it to be dark and plus I have all of that black background and black tabletop and my camera is going to want to overexpose so I'm compensating for that as well but I really do want the image to be dark all right now I've placed some lens cleaner in the middle of that coffee cup it could be anything just any kind of an object that I'm autofocusing on because I want to set my focus now once I've set my focus to the middle of the cup like that I take my camera off of autofocus so that my focus is locked okay so once my focus is locked to the middle of the cup because that's where I'm going to be pouring the sugar I want to grab my remote release I'm doing that right now and then I'll go to the sugar and I'm going to pour that into the cup and as I'm pouring it into the cup I'm gonna fire the remote release and we're going to have some flash it's gonna hit it and stop motion now the only thing is is that for that first shot my flash was on camera I'm using a macro ring flash it could be any kind of flash doesn't have to be that but the reason why I like the macro ring flash is that I can take it off of the lens and put it on that tripod because it's like a doughnut so it just worked for me really well there because my regular flash that I have I don't have a stand for it so this worked for me you may have a stand for your flash or you may have an assistant who can hold the flash to the side I didn't have that at this time now I'm gonna take the shot all over again pour the sugar fire the flash and there you have it so let's take a look at some of the images I got using this system and of course I got my final image the image that I was really looking for using the flash so the first one here you've already seen – the clutter in the background as I've cropped in a little bit shot at one six hundred and fortieth of a second it wasn't what I was looking for and this one too wasn't what I was looking for shot at one one hundred and sixtieth of a second now maybe that's something you're looking for maybe you want to have the flow it's not what I wanted I wanted stop action and so I went for that and I got it now for me this is I wanted to see those grains of sugar individually and you can see that here yet for me there's still something missing this was all about low-key photography a darkness and of course shadows and where they're placed is so incredibly important with something like this and I actually felt like I was in a little bit too tight here it just didn't feel right to me and there wasn't really a lot of context for that sugar coming from the top I tried something else that backed off a little bit I changed the angle I got up a little bit higher and less sugar so it was almost like a fairy dust effect if you know what I mean and I kind of liked that but still the lighting the the straight on lighting from from the from the flash from the from the ring flash which was just pushing the light straight on it left me cold it's not what I was looking for I wanted something a little bit more dynamic something a little darker if you know what I mean so I brought the camera down lower again and I put the spoon in I included that in the shot for context so you could see what was going on and I kind of liked it but again I felt like it was in a little bit too tight and it just wasn't the feel I was getting close but it wasn't exactly what I wanted until I moved the flash as you saw off to the side I placed it on the tripod and I got exactly I got exact what I was looking for which was deep shadows on one side and you see the handle that's in shadow too and and even the the plate that the cup is sitting on has beautiful shadows and you can see the contours in it and you can even see into it and see the grains of sugar that are on that as well and you have the spoon the context you have all of the each individual grain just sparkling out at you that as the light hits the sugar it's what I was looking for it will be really interesting to see how it works for you now this last one it's the same thing just a little bit closer and you know something every time I I keep on going closer I just keep on wanting to go back a little further I I think it's just me wanting the photo to breathe a little bit more so using a dark background and with a low-key photography effect and using some flash you can stop those grains of sugar cold and that's the effect you get I'd really be interested if you gave this one a try I hope you enjoyed the tutorial was great bringing to you and until next time I'm ray Scott reminding you it's not what you see it's how you see it and I'll see you soon you

45 Replies to “LOW KEY PHOTOGRAPHY – Black And White Photography With Sugar And Cup”

  1. Hi ray,
    Thanks again for the email you sent me.
    I'm really looking forward to it my friend.
    And if it becomes as you always have it will certainly be a success.
    A heartfelt friendly greeting from the Netherlands,

  2. The good news is…I had almost everything I need to do this, but you have supplied the final item, the idea, thank you.

  3. Great project and love your style. For me, I think an extra light shining on the spoon would really make it pop, not too bright, just enough to say, back light the rim of the spoon. What do you think?

  4. Good video and I liked the way you patiently worked and stayed with it until you got the results that you were happy with. I'm going to try this.

  5. I enjoy your videos very much. Can you explain how you keep the light of the flash from spilling over and illuminating your background?

  6. I saw the thumbnail for the video and before I read anything I thought "That’s Ray's work." I mean that as a compliment, I think when a photographer has reached a point where his work is instantly recognisable he has achieved something we are all after.

    I remember doing something not dissimilar about five or six years ago when I was on a course. It was a droplet of water hitting a holly berry. It was a macro shot and if you’ve ever tried to catch the moment water hits something you know it requires patience and a small pipettes. I used HSS of about 1/2000 just to get the compressed pre-explosion look.

    An absolutely brilliant video and you final image definitely had the "Wow!" factor. Once again you have inspired me to give it a try. Thank you Ray.

  7. Thanks for the inspiration Ray, I loved this shot. I've added my own little twist to my version with the addition of a lipstick mark. Great work, and simple too.

  8. I like your commentary on the entire series, including the photos you discarded while looking for the one that represented your vision.

  9. That's some wonderful shots and a great idea! Now how many times did you bump the tripod and have to reset focus? I do that quite often when doing macro. 🤣

  10. Hi😊
    Please help me, I want to macrophotograph my abstract art. I have a Nikon d3400 with 105mm macro lens. And 2 daylight lamps. The paintings are wet when I take the photo, and therefore it glares. I set the camera as sharp as I can but the photos are still blurry, not vivid, and glares so much.  I set the ISO around 100 but always goes up to 12 000.
    Which settings are the best for this type of macrophotos? Aperture around F22? And the Shutter Speed around 1/60? I use tripod.  A camera flash with diffusor solve all these problems? Which flash would you recommend?
    P.S. Thank you for sharing your talent, it means a lot for us 🐵💙

  11. Love your new intro, Ray. It just goes to show that sometimes it takes a little effort to get the right image and, as always, you inspire me in all of your videos to do better and not be satisfied with mediocrity. I always remind myself "that it's not what you see, but how you see it." That always gives me more confidence to try new things and not worry about how my images will be perceived by others. A very good mantra to follow…

  12. I think you missed a trick there, you should of had the spoon in the shot but floating in mid air. Great vlog though.

  13. Thanks Ray. All you're video tutorials are worth watching.

    I've done a shot similar with sugar falling from a sieve into a bowl.

    It can certainly take more than a few attempts to obtain the desired result with this kind of photo.

    I found using a snoot on the flash worked well to direct the light where desired more. But, As you demonstrate… Not essential, just helped to avoid unwanted light spill onto the surface and background as well. 👍

  14. Great video Ray, love the wider image, tells more of the story imo. Will give this a go, might try different size grains to see the effect. Till next time.

  15. That's a pretty neat result Ray, but my one suggestion would be that once you had the shot you wanted, to do it again with the cup actually full of black coffee. As it is you kinda know the cup is empty and it seems a little illogical. Thanks for the video.

  16. Another great idea for an image Ray. I must try this and experiment to see the different results obtained.

  17. Great way to spend a wintery afternoon – have found investing in a light stand worthwhile – nothing too expensive not going to have heavy lights on it – also if portable can use it on macro outdoors while working around the subject re HSS, if the strength of the wind is not too strong. You got me trying stuff again… thanks so much, take care & good health:)

  18. "Maybe you can give this one a try?" Ray, I try most of yours! You always inspire me to try something diferent 🙂

  19. I think it would look better with the cup full of coffee. The final image looked nice, but left me wondering why there is sugar going into an empty mug

  20. What a great idea to create awesome shots. Very informative and inspiring as always…thank you.

  21. The final shot, the one you're happy with, is a really nice image..and I suppose, the kind of 'hidden' message of this particular video is, don't be afraid to cull photographs..images that just aren't quite hitting the mark, and persevere to capture shots you are happy with….it can sometimes seem counter-intuitive to get rid of images, but ones you know are average at best, or are just not what you were looking, or hoping for, are best got rid of and not cluttering up your hard-drive….Nice video and I like your calm and well measured delivery = very easy to watch..keep up the good work!

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