Great Still Life Photos in 8 steps.

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What do you normally take photographs of?

Is it landscapes, portraits, sports, there are not many types of photography were you can have 100% control over the shot. Still life photography is one of them.

What I like about still life photography is that you have that control, and you can take your time. Quite often you will have an idea for a still life and when you are finished and have the shot in the bag, it is very different than the idea you started with. You can let the creative process take over and just follow it to finally produce a great still life image.

Great Still Life Photos in 8 steps

Choose your subject.

Choosing a subject can sometimes be quite hard. What I tend to do is pick
a single object that I know will be in the shot and then look around for items
that would compliment it. Sometimes I go for the minimalist effect and have
only one item in the shot. The choice is yours, but what you are looking for is
harmony between everything in the image. Everything should work together to
produce a good image that portrays you idea.


The background you choose has to be seen as part of the image it has to
lend its self to the overall theme of the image. Pick a background that
compliments the main subject of the image. It is around this point in the
process of building the image that I usually decide if the final image will be
in colour or Black and white.


Surprisingly, Lighting for still life photography does not need to be
difficult. You can use ambient light (the light that is available) or maybe you
want to use a window for back or side lighting or you could have a full
lighting system to get the shot, again this will depend on what the image is
that you are looking to build. I say build because that is what you are doing
here, you are constructing an image. My advice is build up your skills and keep
things simple and use more complicated lighting set ups as your skills improve.


No matter what you are going to photograph or what your lighting set up
is likely to be. You will need to have reflectors. The reason for reflectors is
so you can manipulate the light to get the overall feeling you are looking for.
Reflectors will allow you to do this. Generally you will need one large
reflector a couple of medium reflectors and even some small reflectors. That
should cover all you needs when doing still life photography. You will also
have to think about what colour they should be, but again that depends on the
look you are after. You can learn more about reflectors here.


Composition is important in general photography but in still life photography you have no
excuse if your image suffers from bad composition. Remember this is one area of
photography were you have 100% control, use it.

By now you should have a good idea what your image should look like. You
have your props, you have your background and you have your lighting set up.
Now what you want to do is move things around see how the work together.
Don’t only look at the props look at the shadows they cast. SEE how
things work together. There should be harmony it should fit together, it should
look natural and not staged.


is a must for still life photography. USE A TRIPOD! If you want to get good
still life images you can do that by hand holding your camera, if on the other
hand you want to get GREAT still life images that are pin sharp you need to use
a tripod. A tripod with ball head is very handy for this but a 3 way pan and
tilt head will also work very well. You should also be using a cable release to
trip the shutter, this will help prevent camera shake. You can also use the
cameras self timer to do this.
Make sure your tripod can hold the camera steady and if necessary
weight it down with a camera bag or something similar to hold it steady.


Now you have your shot set up your lighting is in place and you have
composed the shot all you have to do now is focus the shot so you get what
needs to be in focus is actually in focus. Decide what aperture you will be
using. Small aperture gives greater depth of field and large aperture gives
less depth of field. You will typically using an aperture of around F11-F16 to
get everything in focus. If you have your camera in aperture priority mode the
camera will set the shutter speed automatically.


you need to do now is take the shot. After you have taken the shot look at each
element within the shot see how well they work together. Look at the brightest
spot in the image. Make sure you can still see some detail do the same with the
shadow areas.

If necessary make some adjustments with the lighting and the reflectors
until you get it right and then take the shot again. Don’t forget to check
around the edge of the frame for stray objects or light, look for unwanted
reflections. When you are sure you are happy and everything is okay, you can
pack it all up and start again.

I would normally plan to do several still life shots on the same day.
This allows me to maximize my time when you do get your mind into creative mode
you will be surprised what other ideas you come up with using the same props.
We all tend to be more creative when we are actually in the process of creating
something, that’s when you get so many new ideas. One thing I would recommend
is that you write your ideas down because you will get a good idea for a
photograph and an hour later the idea is gone, lost forever.

Check out my YouTube channel Here. You may also find my post on The rule of thirds interesting.

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