Still life photography has many uses. Perhaps you want to take a picture of a beautiful shell or perhaps take a picture of a product that you're selling on eBay. Learning still life photography can also give you opportunities for selling your photograph downloads on microstock sites or to food magazines. No matter what your reason, still life photography is a great skill to learn and can give you some nice pictures to display in your favorite picture frames.
Unless you have a specific product you're photographing for a commercial shoot, the subjects for still life photos are limitless. Fine art still lifes aren't limited to just apples and grapes. Even something like artfully arranged spools of thread can be interesting and visually appealing. These types of pictures can look beautiful displayed in decorative wood picture frames or unique ornate picture frames. Microstock sites like Shutterstock and iStock that cater to commercial users have a high demand for all sorts of still life, often of very simple objects, like a cup of coffee or a key.
In one way, still life photography is a lot easier than other forms of photography like landscape, sports or pet photography. With still life pictures, you can arrange the objects exactly how you want them and have full control over the photo's composition.
And sometimes, good quality still life pictures can be even more challenging to photograph. Because still lifes are taken up close, it's easy to see imperfections on your subject that you would normally never see.
Despite its challenge, by using some basic photography skills and applying these tips, you can create stunning still life pictures with just a little practice.
Still Life Photography Lighting
With most professional photographers, they use a light box or soft box to take their still life photos. Although soft boxes can help out a lot, they still aren't absolutely necessary to get good results as you'll see shortly. But if you do want one you can either buy a soft box online or make one yourself using online instructions. The purpose of these tools is to provide good, even light.
You can also get a good quality of light by setting up your photo shoot outside. A high overcast or bright sky can create a natural soft box effect without having any of the harsh shadows.
Composing Still Life Pictures
When composing your photograph, you need to arrange the objects in a pleasing composition. You should consider using classical composition techniques like the “Rule of Thirds,” “Leading Lines” or “Frame within a Frame” for ideas of how to best compose your pictures. Artfully arrange the objects, and use your imagination. For example, if you're taking a picture of an apple try taking a bite out of it to give it some added interest.
Fill the Frame with Your Still Life Subject
When taking still life pictures, always remember that your subject should be the only thing that you see in your viewfinder or LCD screen. You need to remove any distractions or clutter from the background so you can have a clean and up close image. If you have a backdrop or background you don't like don't worry about it because it can be easily solved. The soft box or light box solves this issue, but if you are shooting outside, here's something you can do: place a piece of white foam board or piece of material behind your subject, and voila – no more distracting background. Be sure to use Macro mode so that you get a sharp image.
Look for a Good Angle – and Shoot!
Rather than taking a picture from your head level, try holding the camera so that it's at the same height as your subject. Then take some shots from varying angles.
Hopefully you can start applying these still life photography tips immediately so you can start seeing a difference in the quality of your still life images.