Still life.

Master the skitts needed for setting up a fantastic stitt life shot.

The best thing about still life photography is that you can really take your time to get it perfect. When shooting moving subjects, it can be tempting to stick your camera in Auto mode for fear of missing a shot, but if your subject is stationary then you can experiment until you get it right. That’s why it is a fantastic genre for practising with manual modes.

What’s more, there are subjects wherever you look. You don’t have to stick to a bowl of fruit or vase of flowers, although they do make for beautiful shots; just let your imagination run wild and get creative with whatever you can find. Still life photography is also a great way of showing off your kitchen or craft creations, as once you have taken your shot you can share it with the world online.

Once you have found your subject, you can experiment with ways of shooting it. Try making use of shadows or reflections and look for interesting angles. You can even give your shot an added wow factor with a bit of creative editing. Let us guide you through the process of capturing a still life masterpiece.


Find a subject and compose your shot.

The first step for creating a still life photo is to find a subject. If you need some guidance, look at our tips for what makes an excellent still life subject, then discover how to frame your shot. We will also guide you through the best settings to use, but be sure to make the most of having the time to experiment and find what works best for your particular shot.

Choose a subject Tips for finding the perfect objects to shoot.

Look for colour.

Bright, colourful objects will really stand out. Try to include no more than three colours in your shot to prevent it from looking too cluttered, and look for colours that complement each other. You can experiment with different backdrop shades.

Find some texture.

Subjects with interesting textures add another element to your photo. Place subjects with different surfaces together to show contrast. Remember, cutting open something like a piece of fruit can reveal a whole new texture.

Include patterns.

Attractive patterns are good to include in a still life setup, whether they are on your main subject or the backdrop of your shot. Make sure you don’t include too many different patterns though, as it could result in a busy final image.

Choose a theme.

Rather than just placing a few random objects together, try to include subjects that follow a particular theme. You could work around an item you have already found, or decide on a theme first and then find subjects that will fit it.

Create a mood.

Shooting certain objects can help you create a still life image with a specific mood: for example, happy or melancholic. The colours and backdrop can also give character to your photo, so think carefully about these as well as your subject.

Set the scene.

Remove distractions.

Make sure the background is clear of any clutter, otherwise it will distract attention from your subject. Find a clear surface or put up a piece of card to act as a plain backdrop.

Fill the frame.

Get up close or zoom in to make your subject fill the frame. This will make for a more dramatic shot. Make sure you don’t cut off an Important part of your subject though.

Try another angle.

Once you have taken a shot, move around and shoot the same subject from a different angle. You can also try rearranging your scene, or perhaps use another backdrop.

Add a prop.

Introducing a prop such as a fork or vase can add context to your image. Think about what will work with your existing subject and position it so it looks natural.


Use natural or artificial light for top results.

Having plenty of time to set up your still life shot also gives you the opportunity to experiment with different lighting techniques. Make use of natural light by setting up your shot by a window or outside, or use artificial light from a desk lamp to allow yourself more control. You could even try out both options to see what works best.

To add some depth to your shot, light your subject from the side to create strong shadows across the scene. This can look particularly striking if your subject has an interesting shape, so consider this when deciding what to shoot. Anything goes with still life photography, so get really creative and see what different effects you can create.


Studio lighting.

A desk-top lamp is a cheap alternative to studio lights and is a great option as you can bend the neck to position it just how you want it to be.

Infinity wall.

An infinity wall is a seamless backdrop where you can’t see any creases or folds. In studios they have expensive setups like coloramas but a large piece of paper works too!

Your subject.

Position your subject exactly where you want it to be. You don’t need to worry about the background, as it is all taken care of.

How to assemble your studio Get the most out of home alternatives.

Put up the backdrop.

Get a large sheet of plain paper or card. It will need to be A3 size or larger, depending on the size of your subject. Tape one end of it to the wall and the other end to the table so that the paper curves.

Set up a desk lamp.

Position your desk lamp to the side to produce some dramatic shadows or put it at the front to light your subject more evenly. Moving it closer or further away will also affect the strength of the light and shadows.

Add some tracing paper.

The light from your desk lamp can sometimes be a bit harsh, so tape some tracing paper in front of it to diffuse it. This will soften the light and make any shadows appear much more subtle.


Fix and alter your snaps.

Not only can you be really creative when shooting still life photos, but you can also experiment a great deal with editing. Applying various filters and effects can dramatically alter the look of your shot and produce some really striking results. You could even edit your captures to further portray a certain theme or mood, perhaps increasing the saturation for a fun and uplifting shot or boosting the blue tones for a more melancholic look. Many programs have preset effects that you can apply for quick and creative editing, so it is worth spending some time seeing what your software or app has to offer. Of course, editing programs are also on hand to fix common photo problems, letting you tweak the exposure, colours and composition of your shot until it is perfect and ready to share.

Fix problem shots. Make simple editing tweaks in Photoshop Elements.

Adjust the levels.

Go to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels. To automatically correct the exposure of your shot, use the black, grey or white dropper tool to click on an area that is supposed to be the corresponding colour. Alternatively, adjust the arrows underneath the histogram graph.

Correct the curves.

Now go to Enhance>Adjust Colour>Adjust Colour Curves. Select the Increase Midtones option from the Select a Style box and then boost the brightness and contrast sliders a little. Also, adjust the highlights and shadows until you are happy with the results.

Boost the saturation.

To bring out the colours in your still life shots, go to Enhance>Adjust Colour>Adjust Hue/Saturation. Boost the saturation slider just a little while making sure you don’t go too far. You can also experiment with adjusting the hue to correct your colours.

Get creative Use Photoshop Elements to transform your still Life shots

Create a vignette.

Add a new Adjustment layer in the Layers palette and select Gradient from the drop-down menu. Change the Style to Radial, the Angle to 180 degrees and tick the Reverse box, then change the colour to black and adjust the scale.

Add a creative colour cast.

Go to Filter>Adjustments>Photo Filter and either choose a preset filter such as Warming, Cooling or Sepia, or a specific colour to layer on to your shot. You can then adjust the density slider in order to strengthen or weaken the resulting effect.

Use artistic filters.

Experiment with a variety of different creative effects by going to Filter>Artistic and choosing from the menu. You can select a specific preset, such as Film Grain, and subsequently make adjustments using the sliders to get it looking just right.

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