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| p.1 #18 · How to improve - Still life arrangement on flat surface |
Recognizing objects is a process of pattern matching in the brain from the shape clues which in a 2D photo come from contrast patterns. Here you have strong color conrtrasts which help the viewer identify the objects as flowers and stem, and color contrast within the objects which reveal their detail. Even the flat stone has interesting patterns of color contrast.
The lighting, which in most situations provides most of the clues via the shadows and highlight positions, isn't doing much in the way of providing clues here. But in this case are those clues really needed? I'm inclinded to say no, because the color contrast clues are so strong. Also consider that the strongest lighting clues which are seen, the modeling and shadow on the stem, work as distractions to the main focal points, the flowers which don't need it.
So all things considered I think an "overcast day" strategy for the lighting would woirk quite well here. Just bounce the light up off the ceiling and make it downward and only directional to the extent the spot on the ceiling is slightly off center.
In terms of shadow direction I always ask how they would look in natural lighting. Natural light always comes from above, but the angle it appears to hit things depends on your POV relative to the object. With regards to creating the illusion of 3D shape in a 2D photo light behind objects, with the camera shooting into the shaded side creates a stonger illusion of shape with the light than frontal / flat lighting. So I'd suggest bouncing the light off the ceiling behind and to the left and the net effect willl wind up looking like an overcast day at 2PM when looking south in the US when the sun is hidden behind the clouds in the SW quadrant of the sky.
The flatter lighting will not change the apearance of the flowers much, but it should make the stems less distracting because they will not have strong modeling or be casting distinct shadows.
A PP trick I use to add "snap" to soft objects like flowers and fur is to use a "soft light" adjustment layer and selective oversharpening with masks, applying it by eye to re-create the micro-specular highlights the AA filter of camera turns to mush.
Another perceptual trick that can work well in a shot like this is to simulate the look of an older lens by duplicating the image, blurring the top copy with the lens blur filter, then blending in the softer copy on the edgess and on less important detiails like the stems and marble to take the "sharp" eye catching edges off of them. That's just another way of altering relative contrast which works perceptually like making the shadows the stems are casting fuzzier by bouncing and diffusing the light more.
What changed my process of lighting things and my overall approach to solving problems like this was realizing that the brain of the viewer was reacting to all forms of contrast in images — tone, color, relative sharpness, relative size, difference in pattern, etc. Consider here why tan velvet would be less distracting that the marble: the brain of the viewer is attracted to and their brain will process th4e pattern in the marble, but wouldn't on the plain background. If you put the flowers on glass several inches about the marble, or masked and blurred it with lens blur, the viewer would still see the color contrast which defines the overalll shape of the flowers, and discern enough detail to see they are over a marble counter, but not so much detail in the counter they pay conscious attention to it.
Thinking in terms of what is most important, how to make it contrast strongly, and then considering everything else a potential distraction how I came up with the idea to bounce the light and the PP tips. The bounced light will not enhance the 3D shape with highlight and shadow, it will just help make the stem less of a distraction. To make the background less distracting you'd need to change it or find a way via the glass or PP to blur it so the flowers contrast more strongly in sharpness. The brain of the viewer will naturally seek out what contasts the most, and here the color cointrast is all you really neeed to do that — just eliminate all the other forms of contrast.
Here's an "quick and dirty" illustration of the points above created by duplicating and blending in blurred and sharpened versions of your original with masks...
I used select color range to create the mask for sharpening then manually knocked out the center of the flowers on the mask which left the edges of the flowers less sharp.
The bottom layer is totally blurred with lens blur.
In the middle is your original with a mask to restore the original over the blurred.
Together they create a "seen from the top" layer cake with sharp frosting on the top of the flowers over a softer less distracting background.
The flowers are a bit lighter in the final edit vs. the screen shot because after doing the screen shot I decided to change the mode on the top sharpened layer to "screen" which has a lightening effect, then scaled back opacity on that layer to taste — your tastes will vary of course, but by using that technique and playing around with how the masks are opened and the opacity of the layers you fine tune the appearance to suit your tastes from original to abstract interpretation.
The net result I tried to create in the edit was a simulation of what the SOOC results would look like if you had shot with shallow DOF with the flower suspended on a tilted piece of glass over the marble with more diffuse downward lighting.