Still life photography can be used for many different purposes and offers lots of opportunity for creativity. Whether you're taking a beautiful bowl of fruit for an art piece or taking photos to sell on microstock sites, still life photography is a great skill to learn.
Unless you have a specific product you're photographing for a commercial shoot, the subjects for still life photos are limitless. Fine art still lifes aren't limited to just apples and grapes. Even something like artfully arranged spools of thread can be interesting and visually appealing. Microstock sites like Shutterstock and iStock that cater to commercial users have a high demand for all sorts of still life, often of very simple objects, like a cup of coffee or a key.
In one way, still life photography is a lot easier than other forms of photography like landscape, sports or pet photography. With still life photos, you can position objects just how you want them so you can have more control over the composition of your photo.
Often times, high quality still life photos can be challenging to capture. Because still lifes are taken up close, it's easy to see imperfections on your subject that you would normally never see.
Despite its challenge, using basic photography skills and the following tips, you can create quality still life pictures.
Lighting for Still Life Photography
With most professional photographers, they use a light box or soft box to take their still life photos. However this isn't absolutely necessary as you will see in a moment, but it can be a big help. However if you do want a soft box, you can buy one online or find instructions on how to make one. The purpose of these lighting tools is to provide even light on the subject.
Another way to get good lighting is to shoot outside using natural light. In fact, a high overcast (bright overcast) sky creates a soft box effect where you get good lighting without the harsh shadows.
Composing Still Life Pictures
Arrange your objects in a pleasing composition. You should consider using classical composition techniques like "leading lines," "frame within a frame" or the "rule of thirds" to ensure your picture is well composed. Use your creativity when placing items and make sure they're exactly where you want them. For example, if you're taking a picture of an apple try taking a bite out of it to give it some added interest.
Fill the Frame with Your Still Life Subject
Remember, the only thing that should be in your viewfinder or on your preview LCD screen is your composition. Get up close to your subject and remove any clutter in the background. What if there's a background you don't want? The soft box or light box solves this issue, but if you are shooting outside, here's something you can do: place a piece of white foam board or piece of material behind your subject, and voila - no more distracting background. Be sure to use Macro mode so that you get a sharp image.
Look for a Good Angle - and Shoot!
Instead of shooting from your height, hold the camera so that it is level with your subject. Then take some shots from varying angles.
Hopefully these tips have provided you some helpful information on taking still life photos that you can start putting to use immediately.