What You Should Know About Still Life Photography

Most subjects for photography are scenery and people - a beautiful landscape of nature, a busy street, a woman in her wedding dress, a man in his everyday work, or a kid who is happily playing with his friends. As a photographer, you capture movements to give life to their images. These are the common themes that you can find in photos. However, inanimate objects have their way to show their existence in the world. Unlike living subjects, it is harder to tell a story of lifeless things. Yet with proper planning, it can be achieved through still life photography.


What is Still Life?


Still life painting is a type of art that was known during the Renaissance Period. However, some of the still life art can be seen back in the 15th century BCE by the Egyptians. They arrange flowers, food, and other everyday items interestingly and use their brushes to transfer it on their canvas. In the digital age, they use cameras to take still photos of these subjects. Basically, still life photography is the digital counterpart of it aside from digital painting.


There are different ways to capture and enhance your photographs. Some of them may include names, colours and themes, or it can be a combination. For example, green items that can be found in the kitchen. Images can also have different interpretations, just like paintings. That is why you need to have detailed planning regarding the composition and layout.


Why Should You Try Still Life Photography?


The best thing that you can get from this type of photography is freedom. Since you are working with subjects that cannot move, they can behave the way you wanted. There is no limit on how you can arrange them. It is not something that is fixed like landscapes or can have restrictions like people.


Also, it can help you practice how to set up lighting equipment. It is essential to have the best lighting to highlight the subjects. It can help create a mood in your photo. Aside from that, you can learn a thing or two with art direction. You need to deliver a message beautifully that is understandable to your audience.


When it comes to your photography career, it is advantageous to have photos on your portfolio that are shot with this approach. It can give an impression of the diversity in your skills. It may look uncomplicated, but the process of getting high-quality outputs is not easy. It requires a lot of work compared to photo sessions you do outdoors. The scale of your subjects doesn't define the effort you put into it.


Types of Still Life Photography 


Still life photography has several types including the following:


  • Tabletop Photography - Most of the still life photos are taken on top of a table. Some show the tables while others try to hide it and use other elements to cover or modify it. You can also have alternatives to traditional tables like apple boxes or crates. 


  • Product Photography - The primary purpose of these photos is for catalogues and online shops. It is used to market products. Usually, products are shot in a white background, but nowadays, they include other elements that can make the product stand out.


  • Food Photography - It is commonly used for restaurant menus and food magazines. The objective is to make the food appetizing for the consumers. Food styling is another skill that you have to learn to make any food look mouthwatering. 




One of the things that will significantly impact your photo is the lighting. It is fascinating how a single stroke of light can make or break the scene. There is a lot of lighting equipment to choose from, but you might want to work on the sun as your primary lighting source. Natural light is best when you are photographing everyday items. It is like having them in their habitat. When you are working with this type of lighting, reflectors and diffuser will be of fair use. Reflectors can be in different colours that can enhance the colour and tones of your photo. Meanwhile, a light diffuser can show a smoother background for the subject by reducing the shadow.


While others prefer natural light, some can maximize their photo's potential by directing the lights from scratch. It can allow flexibility on how you want your subject to be illuminated. Remember that whenever you do your lighting, shadows and highlights are something to consider. It is part of the overall look and feel of the image.




Unlike the other types of photography, still life photography will not require you to purchase several expensive lenses. You will only need one or two of the basic ones. Most of your photos will be taken in a short distance, so it will not be necessary to have a wide-angle lens. Plus, wide-angle lenses may have distortion on the actual photo. Consider having those between the 50 and 125mm. 


The older models will also be the right choice since some do not have the auto-focus feature. Having it in manual mode is good training for you to learn how to focus and deliver crisp images. You can use other lenses and experiment to determine which one will be the best one for you to use.


There are several things that still life photography can teach you that will help your future projects. Aside from lighting and camera angling, a good composition will always be your edge. Having things in order but intriguingly, is not an easy task to execute. These days, anyone can be a still life photographer. From food bloggers to influencers, they only use their phones to curate their feeds. And what keeps their followers to like their photos? It is how their subjects are nicely framed.