Still life photography has been around since the first camera was invented and as technology has developed, our interest in capturing still life images has continued to grow. Those who get to the top of their game can earn a considerable amount from still life photography, but getting to a professional standard takes a lot of practice.
If you’d like to improve your still life photography then take a look at the following top tips that will help you hone your skills.
1. Making a start
You don’t need a professional studio to make a start with still life photography. You can make your own studio at home with some lamps and a couple of backdrops. Unlike portrait or landscape photography, as a still life photographer you have complete control over the images you create so spend lots of time trying out different configurations of objects to find something that works for you.
2. The Subject
You can choose any object you like as your subject so look for things around the house that interest you. It could be a vase of flowers, a pair of shoes or even a loaf of bread.
You can try photographing items singly or grouping them together to make a more engaging image. Look for interesting objects when you’re out and about too and bring anything home that catches your eye.
When photographing still life indoors you can have complete control over the light you use. Block out light from windows and use standard lamps or spot lamps to place light and shadow where you want it.
You can experiment by placing lights closer or further away and directing spotlights at a particular spot to make the image you create more interesting.
4. Angles and Tripods
Depending on the light you have you may need to use a shutter release or a tripod. Doing so will allow you to observe your subject matter more closely and use longer shutter speeds to adjust the focus in your image.
Avoid taking the same photo over and over again by adjusting the height and angle of a static camera, for example by shooting a bird’s eye view.
When you start out it’s best to opt for plain backdrops that won’t detract from the subject matter you’re shooting. A large sheet of white or coloured paper or a plain wall is ideal. Once you’ve practiced with a plain background you can get more imaginative with what you choose. If you’re photographing smaller items you may not need a backdrop to place them in front of but will need a plain surface to place them on to.
When thinking about the composition of your shot always think about the rule of thirds and make sure that there are no other distractions in the frame that will detract from your subject.
Think about where the eye will be led in the image you create. Should you fill the frame or leave negative space? Are you defining the features of the subject? Ask yourself these questions and try out lots of different compositions and angles to create a still life photograph you’re happy with.
Peter Austin is a well-established photographer with a reputation in London for being able to capture creative commercial images for almost any publication. Alongside looking after his beloved cat Jess and researching photography techniques, he also runs Alternative Images, a UK-based corporate photography business that regularly takes on high-profile assignments in the capital and across the UK.
And that’s an excellent look at the art of still life photography. Not to be confused with stills photography (the art of taking still photographs, and not videos), still life photography is all about shooting inanimate, stationary, everyday objects. It’s one of the first things I started shooting way back when I got my first DSLR, for lack of better subjects, and although I didn’t get a lot of great results back then (it was my first week with a good camera!), it was a whole lot of fun. Have a read through these tips here by Peter and it surely shall be even more of a fun experience
The tips on lighting and background/composition are very important. Lighting is something that I wish I understood better during my earlier months (or years!) as a photographer. It took me a while to completely grasp how strongly light can affect a photograph – and if I had any idea how to light a subject better, back when I first started shooting still life stuff (or anything else, for that matter) my results would’ve been far better. Have a read through my post on lighting in photography for more on this topic; but yes, as Peter mentions here, lighting still life subjects can be very customizable, and the entire thing can be a lot more fun for this very reason. Use it to your benefit. Read up about it, experiment, and you’ll be amazed
Alright, I’m not going to drag on and on here. Thanks to Peter for a fantastic feature post here. See you all next week or so. Cheers!
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By Peter Austin All content is by Peter Austin, except the images, which are licensed under Creative Commons
- Top Photography Tips from Nikon School Instructors | Learn More About Nikon School from Nikon (nikonusa.com)
- Wilson Hennessy Still Life Photography (trendland.com)
- Capturing life’s beginnings (cowichannewsleader.com)