What is Still Life?
When it comes to the definition, still life is a painting or a photograph consisting of inanimate objects that do not have a life of their own. Fruits and bowls are some of the most common objects used for such a shoot.
What does Still Life mean in Photography?
Still Life is a photography genre that has been around for many years. And one can argue that it is also one of the most valuable aspects of photography. The trend of capturing still life started out with paintings and drawings. But soon as cameras came around, photographers creatively used still life photography as a way to exhibit the perspective through which they saw the world.
Still Life is one of the genres where you have complete control over your subjects, which means that the composition, lighting, background and the whole studio setup is in your command. And not to mention, the composition of one of the major aspects of this shoot. And we will shed some more light on this and also on how you can find the perfect composition for Still Life Photography, later in the blog.
Another reason why this genre is an important component of photography is that Still Life helps the photographer's master some of the most basic yet essential skills that are required in photography. As you have complete control over this style, it gives you the artistic freedom to express yourself and try out new things again and again until you achieve what you hoped for.
Types of Still Life Photography
There are two types of Still Life Photography, and here is what you need to know about them.
1. Found Object Photography
As the name suggests, it is considered to be still life when you already found the objects/subjects the same way as it is depicted in the photos.
2. Food Photography
This is one of the most commonly known still life photography types. Out of all other still life photography types, food photography is the one that you can witness everywhere. Food Photography is not only done for fun, but it is also done for commercial purposes.
3. Tabletop Photography
This is another great still life photography type. This is what comes to most people's mind when they hear the words Still Life Photography. This focuses on inanimate objects that can be placed on a table.
4. Product Photography
This is one of the most popular commercial photography genres. Every photo that a business uses for its marketing and branding purposes showing a product counts as Product Photography.
How To Get Started With Still Life Photography?
As the saying goes, "The first step is the hardest", with Still Life Photography, most people find it difficult to come across a starting point. Hence we at Spyne have brought you this step by step guide that can help you not only start with still life photography but also master it.
A Step-by-Step Guide For Still Life Photography
1. Seek Out Objects That Intrigue You
The first and foremost step of still life photography is to look for things that speak out to you. You have to carefully choose the objects as, needless to say, the whole shoot will revolve around them.
2. Set Up A Perfect Lighting Arrangement
As you might already know, photography is all about the light that enters through the lens and reaches the camera sensor. Hence you need a proper lighting setup for this shoot. Since there is no hard and fast definition of perfect lighting in photography, you have to construct a lighting setup that is ideal for your vision of the photos.
3. Figure Out Your Camera Placement
Once you are done setting up the lights, now you have to place your camera in accordance with the lights for the most efficiency. But that is not all that you have to consider while placing your camera. You also have to keep in mind the different camera angles that you plan on executing.
4. Select A Great Background
The background is going to take up most of the empty space in the frame, so you have to be creative while preparing a backdrop for your Still Life Photos.
5. Find The Right Composition
As we have already discussed, the composition is the key to great still life photography. And if you are someone who is not familiar with the concept of composition, then you should wait for the later part of the blog where we talk about composition in detail.
6. Try Multiple Layouts
Still Life Photography is about taking several shots with various arrangements until you get the photo that you wanted.
7. Look For Inspiration
A great way to start something is by having a look at what the masters are doing. And there is no lack of inspiration for Still Life Photography on the internet. For the very least, this gives you ideas to start.
8. Don't Forget To Post Process
If you are someone who has been following our blogs for some time, you must already know the importance of Editing and Retouching also known as Post Production. But if you haven't, you should definitely go and give those blogs a read for a better understanding of post-production and also its significance.
What All Equipment Do You Need For Still Life Photography?
Just like for any other genre of photography, you will at least need some basic photography equipment like:
Needless to say, this is one of the most important elements of a photoshoot. You can also shoot with your phone considering that phone cameras have drastically improved over the past couple of years. But still, it would be way better if you use a DSLR or a Mirrorless for the shoot.
Without lenses, the camera body alone is of no use. Hence, you definitely need lenses. You can try using different lenses to achieve the shot that you want.
It is uncommon for you to use natural light for still life photography. And this is due to the fact that most still life setups are indoors and you have to have proper lighting equipment for that. And if you are not well versed with studio lighting, then you should go and take a look at 3 Point Lighting system.
It is essential for you to pack a tripod so that you can easily rest the camera there while rearranging the objects.
You have to build your studio setup while keeping in mind the elements that you want in your frame. In this setup, you have to take care of a lot of things like the backdrop, the platform on which you are going to place the objects etc.
Which Is The Best Lens For Still Life Photography?
Well, there is no perfect lens for Still Life Photography as what kind of a lens is best for you in a particular situation completely depends upon the shooting situation. It depends on the size of the subject and more importantly how far are you from the subject.
But keeping all other variables in mind, you should mostly opt for a prime lens for still life photography. A Prime lens gives you much more flexibility with aperture and depths of fields. Due to their wide apertures, prime lenses enable you to either shoot with faster shutter speeds or with a lower ISO.
How To Find The Perfect Composition For Still Life Photography?
Still Life Photography is very different in terms of framing the composition when compared to other genres of photography. Hence many people find it difficult to find the correct composition for their photo. But not to worry, we here at Spyne are here to tell you about the 2 main aspects of still life photography that will eventually help you find the right composition.
Props are popular among still life photographers. Props can be used to make the image photos look more interesting. And that is not all, you can also use the props to help you with the message that you intended to convey. One can also argue that props add meaning and depth to the image. Flowers are one of the most common choices for props and they have been for some time now.
For the image to look good, you have to stop thinking about small aspects that are there in the frame, but you have to look at the bigger picture. Or rather how all the different elements of the shoot are coming together to form a single image.
You have to make sure that your composition is meaningful and have a story to tell. You have to work towards making something significant rather than adding random props anywhere in the photo.
Even if you are shooting with shallow depth of field, the background still plays an important role in making the photo look the way it does. Hence for background, you can work with wallpapers, drop cloths, and even pieces of wood. Whenever you are selecting a background, make sure that it is of the right colour and doesn't contradict the colour of the rest of the elements in the frame.
Tips for Still Life Photography
In still life photography, there is a lot to consider. Hence we at Spyne have brought together a bunch of tips that will help you from falling into the pitfalls that beginners are unaware of.
1. Try Gathering Things That Are Visually Appealing
When you are selecting the objects for your shoot, you have to keep in mind that the objects have to be appealing. Or appealing together, if there are too many of them.
2. Don't Be Spontaneous
With Still Life Photography you have to pre-plan everything. And this is due to that fact that this genre gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility which can result in the shoot clearly going off track.
3. Make Sure That The Light Is Just Right
What we mean by that is, you have to be certain that the lighting is neither too hard nor too soft. If your lighting is too hard, it can leave some unwanted shadows and also overexpose the whites in the photo. And if your lighting is too soft, it may make the whole image look underexposed.
4. Prefer Natural Light
We have already talked much about artificial lighting setups, but what you need to remember is that natural light always looks better. And to incorporate natural light you can set up your studio near a window.
5. Use Tripod For Long Exposure Shots
As you are capturing inanimate objects, you can use slower shutter speeds to compensate for the lighting, but you have to have a tripod for this. This is the only way you can take long exposure shots with any motion blur.
6. Favour Lights On The Side
Most photographers know, while conducting a shoot like this, the lights should always come from the sides. This really helps in bringing out the texture of the objects.
Some Creative Ideas for Still Life Photography
If you are looking forward to breaking the monotony and trying out something new, then here are some Still Life Photography ideas for you to try in 2020
Tell A Story
Capture Some Mouth-Watering Food
Use Shallow Depth Field
Pick Vibrant Colours
Freeze Motion In Time
One of the most important things to know about still life photography is that you can take all the time you want to capture the exact shot that you want.