still life photography

How to do still life photography? Tips and Tricks

Scrolling through Instagram, have you ever wanted to click those awesome pictures your friends and influencers post of their meals, books, coffee, and other countless objects?

That’s all still life photography.

Or,

Have you wondered why your still life photography is not as good as that of others? 

Then, you might find the answers you’ve been looking for here.

We’ll be exploring a few tips and tricks that will accelerate your journey to clicking successful still life photographs:

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Now, we can get back to business.

Master Lighting

Lighting is one of the key factors in good photography. 

Why is lighting so important?

Lighting can impact the mood and evoke certain emotions. Just observe how light and dark colors can affect your mood. For instance, warm light sends an inviting feeling, whereas dark light sets a gloomy and dark mood.

Lighting, further, helps in setting contrast and balance. It adds character and depth to your still-life photographs and makes them more interesting.

still life photography

However, it takes time to master lighting. Once you do, you can control the viewer’s emotions and moods.

While shooting, you can use both natural light and studio light. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.

Though sunlight is the most economical means, you can use lamps, torches, and even the backlight of your smartphone for lighting.

ALSO READ: Learn How To Shoot In Low Light With These Photography Tips

Try these easy-to-do tips:

  • Backlighting

Experiment with backlighting. Illuminate your objects from the back to give a glowy effect.

If sunlight is the source of lighting, stand in front of the sun such that it illuminates the subject from the back.

  • For Certain Effects

Use fairy lights to give a poetic touch.

Try UV paint for cool effects and shoot more dynamic pictures. 

Use objects to expand light like glass from your kitchen. 

Use objects with patterns and holes to create different lighting and shadow effects.

Use natural lights for natural subjects like flowers and plants.

  • For over-exposure

Find a position such that the light passes partially through another object to avoid shooting overexposed photographs. 

Use masking tape to diffuse light on the camera.

  • When shooting indoors, avoid overhead lights. They can affect the color temperature and you might end up with bland photographs.
ALSO READ: 10 Best Indoor Photography Ideas That Will Help You Take Great Photos At Home
  • Shadows

Shoot using a shiny black or blue velvet as a backdrop. It absorbs the light and adds a dramatic touch.

You can also use a plain whiteboard to diffuse shadows.

  • Reflectors 

If you can invest in some, great. Otherwise, make your own reflectors. 

Use mirrors, glass crockery, objects with holes. Rummage through your storage, and you will find a treasure.

Use Tripod

If you’re shooting with the camera in your hand, there are chances of missing the perfect angle while rearranging the composition. A tripod will preserve that perfect angle, and you can make countless adjustments without worrying about readjusting objects.

still life photography

This offers you more flexibility to work with the subject. But do not forget to work with your angles just because it is set in a tripod.

ALSO READ: Portrait Photography Tips That Every Photographer Should Know

Camera Angle & Camera Shake

It becomes easy to get used to a few camera angles and static compositions in still life photography. Over time, all your pictures would look the same. So, keep experimenting and trying new perspectives.

A trick is to shoot both ways — with the camera in your hand and with a tripod. Sometimes, you may find a better angle than you initially thought of.

How to avoid camera shake?

A light motion while clicking can create a blurry image.

So, use a tripod instead.

If you want to click manually, increase the shutter speed.

Background

Be careful while selecting your background. It should complement the subject matter rather than distract the viewer’s eye. 

A simple plain white or black background is better than a background with intricate patterns and textures running around in multiple directions.

still life photography

So, simplify your background. Keep it nice, neat, and clean.

While it’s your creative expression, sometimes too many objects might be the problem.

Try to declutter.

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Compositions

Compositions lie at the core of still life photography. For professionals, still life photography is the medium to explore new ideas and exercise their compositions.

Plan your compositions before you shoot. This will give your process more structure.

Start with a standard set of rules

Follow the standard set of composition rules like the Rule of thirds. Why? Because these are tried and tested rules that have worked for everyone. 

So, use them to create balanced compositions.

Click pictures from different perspectives. For example, from an ant’s view, from a bee’s eyes, or from a worm’s on the leaf. You will be surprised to see how interesting your compositions can be.

Use pen and paper to plan

While you may have some idea about what you want to create, a pen and paper are the best way to make your ideas concrete.  

Don’t worry. You don’t have to be an expert at sketching. Just draw the basic shapes and place the elements.

You get a better understanding of what you want to accomplish when you sketch your compositions out.

This will, further, help you reassess your props, visualize what you wanted in a better manner, and reexamine your angles.

Sometimes, when the idea is put on paper, it might not look as cool as you thought.

Get inspiration from the masters

If holding a pen and paper is too overwhelming for you, take inspiration from others. Study and observe the works of the best still-life photographers, or just scroll through Instagram and Pinterest. You might find inspiration from there.

If layouts are not your expertise, try to replicate other’s and soon you’ll be creating your own.

Here are some cool ideas to try.

Add Visual Interest

Still life photography is more artistic and conceptual. Try these tips to create more dynamic and interesting visuals:

  • Add levels. Placing all the objects at the same height makes the photographs flat. This is why you should add varying heights.
  • Capture motion. Slightly move an object and capture it in motion.
  • Rearrange objects.
  • Add objects or take some away. You might have cluttered the composition.
  • Use props that match your theme. A strong composition has all the elements in unity.

Coming to props…

Use props the right way

You don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to get props. Use all the resources at your disposal. Find objects with cool colors, strange textures, and interesting patterns. Be creative and resourceful.

Have a structured post-production process

The editing process should not be too long. Have preset adjustment settings so that you don’t have to start from scratch every time you have a new photograph. With minor tweaks, you’ll manage stunning pictures.

Found Still Life Photography 

Over time, the range of still life photography has expanded. 

Today, we have Found Still Life Photography and Created still life photography.

still life photography

When you don’t move any object and just get it in your frame, that’s called found still life photography. Whereas when you arrange things to look a certain way, it is created. You have control of all the variables.

Art director and photographer Alex Str says, “There’s a lot of really interesting still life that’s just found out in neighborhoods or out in the wild…a lot of time, the things that are most interesting are the things that you don’t see every day.”

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Bonus Still Life Photography Tip: Build Awareness

The best way to improve found photography is you need to be aware of your environment. You just find it and then capture it through your lens.

If you are just starting out, don’t worry too much. Practice. Start with what you love. It could be the equipment you are using or your favorite watch.

Shoot objects you find interesting. Not everyone has to start with fruits and flowers.

If you can capture a spoon or a fork in an interesting way, go for it!

The best part about still life photography is that it requires minimal equipment.

A smartphone, a few inanimate objects, and a creative brain — that’s all you need to start your journey.

If you have a professional camera, that’s even better.

And lastly, keep experimenting!