You can use your tablet computer as a light source to create an interesting and colorful platform for small still life subjects.

At its core, creating a dramatic still life requires only two things: an interesting subject and good lighting. And while we can't choose your subject for you, we can show you how to use your tablet as an efective lightsource when photographing small objects.

We're using an iPad, and there's no shortage of useful apps for iOS. The Softbox Pro for iPad app ($2.99) lets you use the iPad's screen to emit light of different intensities, hues and shapes. It also turns your iPad into a light table with colored patterns and designs (like in the image above) that create interesting backgrounds on which to place your subjects.

Softbox Pro for iPad lets you choose among different light shapes, colors and patterns.
A circular gradient pattern provides a diffuse light wrap.
Tap the screen to hide the options panels and the iPad becomes a mini light source.
You can also create colored patterns to use as an illuminated backdrop.

Using your iPad like a traditional softbox means placing it outside the camera frame facing your subject, as I've done in the examples below.

Placing your light source perpendicular to the camera, known as side lighting, gives a dramatic flair to subjects on a black background.
This technique also works well with colored backgrounds as the portion of the subject furthest away from the light source will be in shadow.

There are a couple of things to be aware of that can make your initial attempts more successful. The iPad doesn't give off that much light, even at full brightness, so you'll need to turn off any room lights and move the iPad as close to your subject as possible without it entering the frame. Changing the angle of the iPad and even its orientation (portrait vs. landscape)  can make a big difference in how the light wraps around your subject.

So don't be afraid to experiment. Choose a diffuse or hard-edged light shape. Set your your iPad in different positions. Change the angle of your subject. Move things around until you get a blend of light and shadow that's worthy of a magazine spread.