The Complete Guide to Still Life Photography

The Complete Guide to Still Life Photography

Still life photography is a great option for expanding your portfolio. It’s also an excellent way to work on new skills, because you can practice posing and framing objects that are less interesting than people or animals.

I recommend starting out with fruit, vegetables, decorative items from around the house, pottery pieces in varying shapes and sizes- anything goes!

Still life photography can breathe new life into any subject. The still photographer’s job is to make every detail count, from the arrangement of a vase on an old piano to arranging objects in front of ornate wallpaper patterns. By experimenting with different arrangements, lighting and compositions you’ll be able to take your subjects out for a breath of fresh air as well as bring them back home again when they need it most! So if you’re interested in trying this yourself there are some tips that will help get started right here.

What is Still Life Photography?

A still life is a work of art that focuses on inanimate subjects. Usually, the subjects are commonplace objects- and can include both manmade items like vases or clothing as well as natural elements such as plants, food products and shells.

Improve Your Skills with Still Life Photography

still life photography

Still life photography is a great way to explore the art of lighting and composition without being subject to other people’s schedules or changes in location. You can use your environment as an inspiration for still lifes, combining found objects with natural light to create scenes that are beautiful on their own but also serve as ideas for different compositions you might want try later.

Still life photography is a great way to show off your skills in the field of art. When you take common objects and turn them into interesting works of art, it shows potential clients what’s possible when they hire you for their own projects.

Different Types of Still Life Photography

still life photography

The still life photography genre is expansive and has many different subcategories. Some of the most popular are:

Tabletop Photography

Tabletop photography is a great way to get started in still life. Shooting small objects on a table can be an excellent creative outlet for photographers of any level, and it’s one of the most popular categories for those just starting out. The photographer has complete control over what they shoot as long as everything fits on their tabletop and isn’t living so you could make anything your muse!

Product Photography

Product photography is a type of still life, but with one major distinction. In product photography the main goal is to provide an image that displays a clear view of the object without distractions so as not to detract from it’s overall appearance and value. Still lifes are more artistically driven by focusing on unique angles or perspectives which allow for greater artistic expression while showcasing inanimate objects.

Types of Product Photography

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Food Photography

Food photography is a subset of still life that often centers on depictions of food in an attractive way. However, compared to product photography which only has the subject as focus, food photographers have more control over what other items are included around their subjects such as tableware and additional pieces like bread or cheese boards.

Found Object Photography

Found object art is one of the most intriguing forms that can be created. It could also considered a branch of still life, but it has to do more than just having an interesting subject matter.

Art is used to express many different emotions and thoughts. Found object art can be an interesting conversation starter, as it delves into topics that people might not normally think about at first glance.

Still Life Photography Equipment

Still life photography is a great way to get started in the world of art. One advantage that still life photos have over other types of photographs is they don’t take much time or equipment. If you’re just starting out, your studio can be as simple as having some things on a table by the window! But when it comes to taking professional-looking shots, there are certain pieces of gear needed for success–lighting being top among them

Still Life Photography Lighting

As an artist, you should always be thinking about lighting. It can change the mood of your ordinary object by either making it look professional or make a boring picture more exciting to view without changing any other parts of the photo.

Light Reflectors

A light reflector is the most affordable and easy way to take better photos. Using a simple light reflector, you can manipulate natural lighting without additional equipment. You may want to soften shadows or highlight textures with your artificial lights – it’s all possible when using just one tiny device!

This 5-in-1 collapsible light reflector is available for about $20 and includes white, silver, gold, translucent, and black surfaces. This versatile tool will make it easy to snap the perfect shot whether in a studio or outdoors with natural lighting – making your photography skills look even more professional! Alternatively you can easily create this useful item yourself by using tinfoil from the kitchen drawer and some old cardboard boxes.

Speedlights and Strobes

If you’re looking to create professional-looking photos, one way to do that is by using off-camera light. A speedlight or strobe will give your images a more polished look and let you use interesting techniques such as low key photography (learn all about it in the “Still Life Photography Ideas” section).

A speedlight (sometimes called a flashgun or hot shoe flash) is an affordable option for photographers looking to get started. They’re more than enough for most still life photography and offer some great features that strobes don’t have, like the ability to adjust light intensity by tweaking settings and built-in modeling lights which help you figure out where your lighting will be best suited in photos.


Have you ever taken a photo of someone and had to deal with ugly shadows? It can be really difficult to get the right lighting, but softboxes make it much easier. Softboxes are boxes that soften light coming from your camera’s flash or strobe so you don’t have those harsh shadows in your photos anymore!

Lenses for Still Life Photography

still life photography

Still life photography is a great field for the beginner photographer because it allows you to hone your skills and try different techniques without having too much pressure. In fact, in still life photographs all of the objects are stationary so there’s less chance that something will go wrong! You don’t need an assortment of expensive lenses either; just one or two quality ones should suffice. One thing to keep in mind when choosing which lens thicknesses best suit your needs: if nothing moves then wide angle shots aren’t necessary!

If you’re looking for more creative compositions when photographing still lifes, close up and macro lenses will do the trick. These types of lens offer a low minimum-focus distance which allows you to get as close to your subject as possible.

Telephoto lenses are a great choice for still life photography. For example, let’s say you’re shooting a classic still life of flowers in vase with telephoto lens and can choose the focal point flower to be out focus while other ones around it would have depth of field.

Cameras for Still Life Photography

still life photography

Still life photography is a low-stress type of shooting. You can set up the scene and have no worries about having to adjust your camera settings every time you move it, because most shots will be taken indoors with plenty of light manipulation options available. This means that even though there’s less technical work involved in still life shoots than other types, it doesn’t mean you need an expensive or high-end model for all those bells and whistles like weatherproofing or rapid continuous modes; any old DSLR would do just fine!

Cropped Sensor Cameras

still life photography

Still life photographers often need a good camera to take their photos, but it’s not always necessary. That is because the type of lens that they use can affect how wide or narrow things will come out in an image. Cropped sensor cameras are cheaper than full-frame sensors and offer some advantages for still life photography, even if there might be shortcomings with lenses used on these types of cameras.

Choosing backgrounds

still life photography

You don’t want the background of your still life to be too much because it can take away from what you’re trying to showcase. For a natural look, go with white and use cardboard or tablecloth as backdrop. If you are looking for something more creative there’s plenty of options like using canvas that has some color and texture on it which will add flair but make sure not to distract viewers by choosing backgrounds that have their own design elements in them such as patterns or light colors.

If you’re not sure what colors to use in your portrait painting, keep it neutral. Colors that are too bright will be off-putting and the subject of your artwork might look washed out or blend into a background color.

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Still Life Photography Ideas

still life photography

As a professional in this field, I know that inspiration is key. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

  • When photographing still lifes, try to get creative with the objects you use. You don’t have to stick with traditional subjects like fruit in a bowl; there are plenty of great examples online that feature leaves, tools or moldy food- just name a few.
  • Once you’re finished with the latest celebrity gossip and your favorite social media apps, take a break from technology. Dig into some old objects that have been collecting dust in your house to see what other interesting things are waiting for discovery beneath their raggedy surface.
  • Flat lay photography is a great way to simplify your composition. This style involves arranging objects on table or other surface and shooting directly from above, which requires no need for worry about gravity!
  • You can do low key photography for moody shots. This involves shooting dark scenes that focus on light, and keeps the background black so your subjects are highlighted.

Do you always want your images to look like they were taken in a professional studio?  First, adjust it to use very fast shutter speed – so no ambient light leaks into the image, low ISO settings-so there is not much noise in your final photos and narrow aperture-to focus on where you want that person/object within each frame (ex: if they are at an angle). Next time when shooting flat lay compositions against black backgrounds make sure you shoot them from different angles to showcase more than just one side.

If you are interested in honing your still life photography skills, this complete guide is a great place to start. We hope that these pointers help provide an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to take their photos from good to great! What do you think? Do any points strike a chord or resonate with what you’ve experienced as a photographer?


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