- Setting the Scene: Choosing Your Still Life Photography Subject
- Mastering Light and Shadows in Still Life Photography
- Composition Techniques for Still Life Photography
- Essential Equipment for Capturing Still Life Photography
- Post-Processing Magic: Enhancing Your Still Life Images
- Embrace the Journey of Still Life Photography
- Recommended Photography Gear
Photo by Muenz via iStock
It’s time to discuss still life photography, where simple, everyday objects turn into timeless pieces of art!
Whether you're a new photographer who wants to learn a few skills or an experienced photographer who wants to try something new, still life photography offers a fantastic way to develop your skills. Of course, it’s not just about the technicalities of creating a photo - you need to learn a thing or two about the creative aspects of photography as well.
So, let’s discuss both!
And, as a bonus, I’ll share one of my favorite tools to edit my photos - still life or otherwise. Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
Setting the Scene: Choosing Your Still Life Photography Subject
Photo by Black Lollipop via iStock
First things first…
The selection of your subject is the most essential component of still life photography. Everyday objects can become gorgeous, eye-catching subjects when you arrange them in a thoughtful way!
Get started by choosing objects that have visual interest of some kind - shapes, textures, and colors, for example. Experiment with a variety of subjects, too. You might try fruits and flowers to start, then explore using personal items, like family heirlooms. No matter the subject, the key is to find inspiration in everyday objects and highlight them in a way that makes them seem extraordinary.
Remember, though - still life photography isn’t just about choosing the right subject. You also have to consider how the subject is presented in the shot.
For example, rather than throwing random fruit in a bowl and taking a photo, take some time to arrange it to highlight the varying colors, shapes, and textures of the fruit. By carefully composing the shot, you’ll end up with an image that has much more visual appeal.
Mastering Light and Shadows in Still Life Photography
Photo by Jeja via iStock
Lighting is crucially important in still life photography (not that it isn’t important in other genres, but it’s even more important here).
To start, try experimenting with natural light. A good example of this is utilizing sunlight streaming through a window. Try pulling a curtain or shade to help filter the light (or hang a sheet over the window), as that softens the light for a more pleasing look.
You can also try the warm glow of the golden hour for a subtle touch with light that’s a much warmer color temperature. Alternatively, give artificial lighting a try to see how you can use it
for more dramatic effects, like harsh shadows or emphasizing the texture of your subject.
What helps move a typical snapshot to a work of art is this give-and-take of shadow and light. You can see how this plays out in the image above - it contains deep, black shadows in the background, crisp highlights in the foreground, and varying midtones throughout. Combined with the interesting colors and shapes of the flowers, the lighting helps give this image wonderful depth.
Composition Techniques for Still Life Photography
Photo by wichianduangsri via iStock
Composition is another important part of how a still life image is brought to life. As noted earlier, you need to take time and care to compose your image for the best results.
Compositional rules like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and using a frame within a frame are great places to start to help you compose more interesting still life scenes. Experiment with various angles and perspectives, too, to find the most compelling composition for your subject.
Don't be afraid to get close and capture intricate details, or step back to showcase the overall arrangement, either. The art of composition is a powerful tool in transforming everyday scenes into captivating narratives!
Essential Equipment for Capturing Still Life Photography
Photo by miss_j via iStock
You don't need a high-end camera to start your still life photography journey. A basic DSLR or mirrorless camera is great. Alternatively, you can use any modern smartphone and get stunning results.
Invest in a sturdy tripod to ensure stability no matter what camera you use, especially when you’re shooting in low-light conditions. Experiment with different lenses to discover the unique perspectives they offer as well. If you have a basic interchangeable lens camera setup with a kit lens (e.g., an 18-55mm zoom) try taking photos at different focal lengths to see how it changes the visual impact of the photos. Learn more about still life photography gear and other tips in the video below by Visual Education:
As you progress, you can explore additional equipment, such as reflectors and diffusers, to enhance your control over light and shadows. But, for now, a simple camera and tripod setup and using natural light will get you started!
Post-Processing Magic: Enhancing Your Still Life Images
Photo by scyther5 via iStock
Once you've captured your still life images, the post-processing stage allows you to add the finishing touches.
Experiment with photo editing software to fine-tune colors, contrast, and sharpness. Consider black and white conversions for a timeless and classic feel, too. Remember, post-processing is an art in itself, so don't hesitate to explore and find a style that resonates with your vision!
And don’t fret if post-processing seems like a laborious and confusing task…today’s photo editors like Luminar Neo make it easy to get breathtaking results.
Luminar Neo utilizes advanced AI technologies that enable you to make dozens of impactful changes to your images in seconds. For example, you can use tools like those shown above to quickly adjust exposure, contrast, highlights, and shadows by using a slider. The same goes for blacks and whites, sharpness, noise reduction, and much more.
The sample image shown in the editor panel is by alvarez via iStock
But Luminar Neo takes functionality up a notch with AI-powered tools that give you the ultimate flexibility for creating your photographic vision. Above, you can see the difference between the original image on the left and the editing version on the right, which used Luminar Neo’s RelightAI to adjust the brightness of the shot in the foreground and background, and adjusted the depth of brightness, too.
Of course, there are dozens of other tools in Luminar Neo that boost your ability to get creative. In the image above, you can see how I used the blur tool to add a tilt-shift vibe to this still life image. Doing so brings your attention to the center of the image at the stem of the most prominent pear.
These are just a few examples of the power of Luminar Neo, though. And with numerous extensions and consistent updates, your ability to use this program to create epic still life photography will only increase with time. I’ve been using Luminar Neo for about three months now, and it has proven to be the simplest and easiest editor I’ve ever used - and I think you’ll find the same!
Embrace the Journey of Still Life Photography
Photo by BethMyervia iStock
With that, you have a road map for improved success with your still life images. As you expand your photographic forays into this niche, remember that you aren’t just snapping photos and calling it good. Instead, really focus on building interest within the frame. Commit yourself to learning more about still life imagery, and embrace the process of making mistakes - so you can turn those mistakes into successes, later.
Need more instruction? No problem! Continue to explore the art of still life photography by checking out our collection of thousands of articles and tutorials. There, you’ll find more in-depth resources to further enhance your skills.
The world of still life photography is full of all kinds of possibilities—enjoy the photographic adventure that awaits. Happy shooting!