What is still life photography?
What is still life photography? A distinctive subgenre of photography is still life. The fact that the topics are frequently uninteresting is one aspect that contributes to its uniqueness. They are only commonplace items that you ordinarily wouldn’t give much thought to.
Therefore, to succeed at still life photography, you must find how to add interest to your images. This also means it’s a fantastic photographic approach for picking new techniques.
Photographers of still life can give their subjects life by playing with various arrangements, lighting, and compositions.
You’ve come to the perfect place if you want to give it a shot for yourself. Everything you need to know to get started is covered in this still life photography guide.
What Is Still Life Photography?
The paintings showing a bowl of fruit or flowers in a vase are still life in art. Those are typical still-life examples. Even if you are familiar with the idea, you might not be aware of all the characteristics that define a still life.
To put it simply, a still life is a piece of art that concentrates on inanimate objects. Typically, the subjects are everyday items. That can include both artificial and natural objects, such as vases, clothing, and consumer goods (like plants, rocks, food, and shells).
The ability to organize the objects wherever you like is still life’s main benefit. The same principles apply to still life photography. The way the objects are arranged, the lighting, and the framing are all given a lot of attention. Because of this, it’s a fantastic genre for experimentation and can improve your photography.
Why Still Life and Tabletop Photography Are Worth Trying
Photography of still life has a lot to teach you. You can see, for instance, how the various types of light will impact the scene. A low light source’s sidelight is excellent for revealing textures. Did you know that?
You have complete creative control over each and every element of your shot when you use still life and tabletop photography. Everything is up to you, from setting up the scenario to pressing the shutter.
Despite tabletop photography being “commercial,” you are not required to shoot still life in a professional manner. An appealing visual that tells a story is always possible.
Various Still Life Photography Styles
There are many different subcategories of still life photography. Just a few of them are as follows:
The most popular still life photography style is tabletop photography. When most people hear the term “still life photography,” they picture this. Shooting items tiny enough to fit on a table is the focus of this category. Anything the photographer chooses as long as it’s inanimate can be used as an object.
Product photography is another example. It can be categorized as a still life because it involves photographing inanimate objects. The key difference between the two categories, though, is that the primary objective of product photography is to showcase a product.
These images typically concentrate on giving a clean, uncluttered view of the goods. Still life photographs, on the other hand, are typically more artistically inclined and provide more options for creativity.
Another still life subgenre that is connected to product photography is food photography. The primary objective is frequently to show food in an appealing manner. However, in contrast to product photography, establishing the environment by arranging additional food items and serving pieces around the subject is a common part of food photography.
Found Object Photography
Even though found object art frequently entails transforming an object or presenting it in an unexpected setting, it can still be considered a subset of still life photography.
What Will Your Still Life Project Require?
A professional could need an appropriate setup and pricey equipment. However, you may still capture stunning images in a corner of your living room with simple equipment. Utilize your creativity to make inexpensive DIY accessories and solutions to acquire the desired shot. Below, I’ve included the supplies and tools you’ll need to start shooting still life and tabletop photography.
- Any camera type. Although a digital camera is easier to use and provides instant feedback, there is nothing stopping you from continuing to use your film camera.
- Design the floor and background for your scenario using various materials.
- Light-reflecting little silver and white reflectors return light to the scene. These are simple to construct with cardboard and tinfoil.
- Props: To improve the scenario, search around your home or go to a flea market for amusing, affordable props.
- A minimum of one flashgun. Ideally, it has a manual mode and power adjustments. I use a digital Metz 44 AF-2. You will need wireless triggers or a long E-TTL line to enable flash off-camera. Your flashgun needs a softbox, and I use a Neewer Translucent Softbox, which is small, fantastic, and reasonably priced.
- A tripod If you want to attach your flashgun rather than use it handheld, you may need a second one.
- A quick standard lens and a telephoto lens. Although a macro lens is ideal, a pair of close-up lenses will work just fine. I normally use a +2 or +3 close-up lens because I don’t have a macro lens. It shortens my lenses’ minimum focus distance. Old manual lenses are excellent and typically affordable.
In terms of full-frame cameras, the lenses are equivalent to 100mm, 60mm, and 120mm lenses, respectively. In general, you are better off remaining in the 50–120mm focal range for still life and product photography.
How to Take Still Life Pictures
- Ensure simplicity. Avoid going overboard when attempting to create sceneries with numerous different items (or meals) and materials. Use a minimalist strategy so that it is simple to identify the key topic. Make the most of the scene by working it.
- Remember that the hardest surfaces to work with are those that are reflecting, glassy, and shiny. Start by attempting to avoid them.
- Keep it tidy. Everything should be scrutinized because still life is all about perfection (even unkempt sets should be meticulously prepared). Make sure to remove all dust, smudges, and fingerprints from your props and all surfaces that are visible.
- Be considerate. Throwing things into the situation won’t produce very good results. Consider your composition, the interaction of the components, leading lines, and angles of view. Play around with the light. Consider the details you want to emphasize in the scene, the emotions you want to communicate, and the textures you want to show.
- Keep a logbook to record the camera settings that were applied to each shot. If you are utilizing manual lenses that can’t interact with the camera body, this is really helpful. It is an excellent approach to recording your set-up and lighting procedures for future use.
Tips for Still Life Photography
When you’re organizing your first still life photo shoot, keep in mind these suggestions to help you avoid the most typical errors!
- Prepare for your shot. Still life photography allows us a lot of creative freedom, but it may be simple to get off track without a plan. Therefore, it’s beneficial to take some time to outline the type of image you’re striving for and come up with some still life photography ideas. Consider the furnishings you’ll use, possible arrangements, the lighting you employ, and the vibe you want to create.
- If you intend to shoot near a window, pick one that isn’t directly in the path of the sun. The light would be too intense otherwise.
- You’ll get the nicest natural light on cloudy days because it will be uniformly soft. However, if you’re trying to photograph on a bright day and the light is too strong, you can use a sheer white curtain as a temporary diffuser by hanging it in front of the window.
- Make use of a tripod. If you have free hands, it will be simpler to reposition the subjects and lighting between photographs. Additionally, it will be useful for images that require slower shutter rates.
- Make an effort to select items for a shot that visually complement one another. If one of the pieces is an antique, stick with that theme by only including other antiques. Moreover, think about utilizing products with complementing hues or those that are anyway connected (such as a book and reading glasses).
- Instead of lighting the subject directly, it is usually more fascinating to light the subject from the side. It will aid in highlighting your subject’s textures. A bright focus point can be created on one side of the image by using side lighting, which also aids in guiding the viewer’s eye through your composition.
You now better understand what still life photography is and some successful strategies. Don’t forget to add your best still life photographs to your internet portfolio after you start taking them.
FAQs on What is Still Life Photography
What are the characteristics of still life?
A piece of art is referred to as “still life” if it depicts inanimate items from the natural or artificial world, such as produce, flowers, dead animals, and/or containers like baskets or bowls. Another way to look at it is that still life paintings show objects that are “still” and do not move. The genre of still life spans all of art history.
What are the two main types of still life photography?
Photographs of still life can be either generated or found. The objects in found still life photographs are positioned randomly and without the aid of any outside force, so you wouldn’t move them to get the exact composition you want. Examples of this include a yellow leaf against brown dirt, items displayed in a market outside, or even trash that has been piled up next to a dumpster.
On the other hand, created still life images are pictures of things you’ve arranged in a certain way to look. Photographs of created still life can have a theme, such as objects or colors. Maybe you enjoy the way a row of blue cups looks on a table or the way silver cutlery stands out against a brown table. It qualifies as a produced still life if you rearrange or reposition the objects to achieve the intended effect.
What is the subject of a still life?
A still life is a piece of art that primarily features inanimate subjects, usually everyday items that are either man-made or natural (such as food, flowers, dead animals, plants, pebbles, or shells) (coins, drinking glasses, pipes, books, vases, jewelry, etc.).