On the topic of propping items up in a still-life set, besides blocks, rubber, and wax, keep a small pile of heavy round washers handy. Because the washers are flat, they are stackable. The hole in the center is useful to help balance things on the washers. Washers slide easily into place and can be added, one by one, beneath a prop to raise it up. (See Figure 6.26)
I used to use quarters for shims, but that was becoming pretty expensive. Much less expensive than quarters, and like any good shim, these large washers raise things into place. Photographing a still-life is usually a very exacting process where a very small move in the set can make a huge difference in the final image. Often something only needs to be raised up a fraction of an inch. By stacking washers beneath a prop, you can refine the position of the object for your still-life composition. (See Figure 6.27.)
I like half-inch washers for a still-life set tool. The washers have a half-inch opening in the center, and have a 1%-inch outside diameter. They are thicker than a coin and have a good weight to them. These washers are also useful if you have something that needs to be weighed down in the set: not a lot of weight, just enough to balance something. A food photographer may need to balance a utensil over the side of a dish, for example.
By taping some washers to an end of the utensil, outside the framing of the photograph, the utensil can be placed with precision. A hemostat, for holding items for close-up photography, could also be weighed down with heavy washers.
Category: Still-Life Tools