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Basic Still Life Photography Tips

Here are five tips to help you get started in still life photography.

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Keep it simple! Plain, crease free backgrounds are a good place to start then you can always add a few extra bits of fabric or scarves, draping them over the background or table if necessary. White or coloured card / paper make good backgrounds or you could even use a plain wall. 


Don't rush setting the scene, take your time to make sure it looks right, moving objects around until you can get the best composition you can. Think about it in terms of triangle that are higher at one end and taper off. Use items that differ in size, colour and add different textures to your shot. Try moving your camera around too as just moving it a few inches to either side might make all the difference to the shot. Don't forget the photographic basics such as the rule of thirds, using negative space and  guding  the eye.

You may find it easier to start out photographing just one object and avoid shiny items such as glass and metal to start as these can be trickier to capture. After a while, try introducing more items and as mentioned above, play around with different textures, colours and items to see what interesting set-ups you can create. Don't be afraid to experiment; just because plenty of other people photograph flowers etc. doesn't necessarily mean you have to.  


A tripod is good – especially if you're using slower shutter speeds, however it's not always an essential piece of kit. Having said that, putting a camera on a tripod does keep your hands free to adjust your set-up and to also control the light with a reflector. If you do use a tripod, don't forget to adjust its position from time-to-time. Lower it, raise it up and move it to one side just to see if you can capture a better shot. 



If you want to keep things simple, just use one light. A studio light is fine but a high-powered standard energy saving bulb in a lamp is great too as it produces a soft light.  Experiment with the position of your light as moving it just a little can add extra depth and interest to your shots. 

A tip that came from an ePHOTOzine member is to 'remove the lampshade, cut a hole in the side of a Pringles tube - imagine you're cutting doors in the tube – cut a T-shape and then fold back the 'doors' which help direct the light. Pop that over the top and you get nice directional light (cut a hole in the Pringles tube lid and attach that to the light fitting)'.

You can use a reflector (try making one out of foil if you don't own one) to bounce extra light into the shot if needs be.

If you don't want to use artificial light just set-up near a window and use a reflector to light the side of your subject the natural light doesn't reach. If you find the light's a little too strong you can use blinds as diffusers (so long as they're not coloured at this will create a colour cast) or simply pin a sheet up. 



Stopping down the lens will increase the depth of field in your shot to get everything in focus but this may resultin slower shutter speeds so have your tripod to hand. Take a few images with different focus points too. Invariably just one shot is fine but it's handy to have the others in case you want to combine the best bits from each. Ensure your images are sharp and as your subjects won't be moving or get bored, there's no real excuse for capturing blurry images. Take your time, check the set-up, check the frame and always check your shot on screen after you've captured it.    


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StrayCat 15 19.1k 3 Canada
23 Jan 2016 9:08PM
Excellent article with some great tips.

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