Still Life Photography

More than any other subject (except perhaps portraits) still life is where the photographer comes closest to the traditional oil painter in terms of ethos and practice. Both photography and painting of still lives are about "painting with light"

The subject matter won't move, so you can change the composition at will, but the light is the thing that will define a photograph.

still life 01

The background is rarely considered part of a still life composition and is generally left mono coloured or plain. A black velvet cloth makes a great background as it will absorb unwanted light and reflections. All you need to focus on are composition and lighting.

It sounds simple enough but still life photography is actually a difficult discipline. The difference between an average unmemorable image and a good one enourmous.

When building a composition it is a good idea to start with one item alone. Spend time looking at the way the shadows fall and which textures on the surface are most appealing. Only now add a second item and repeat the process, thinking about both items individually and as a pair. Take your time and build the arrangement to build an image that is pleasing.

You may find adding extra light sources is required, but many photographers suggest that only natural daylight should be used for the best still lives and if you agree with that then adding reflecting surfaces can bounce natural light back onto the subject from different angles.