When we think of still life, the first image that comes to mind is a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers. We think of drawing still life and depicting the object that is right in front of us. With still life photography, the emphasis is placed on your creative freedom to create an image, as opposed to merely capturing an image. The simplicity and stillness of your subject allows you to truly zero in on elements such as arrangement, lighting and composition, and try out new techniques.
The hero of a still life image is the subject matter. Observe your surroundings and pay attention to different textures, colours and shapes. Choosing objects that work together visually and keeping a similar theme allows you to tell a cohesive story within a single image. When deciding on your subject, you don’t necessarily have to stick to the traditional flowers or fruits. Older, antique subjects could be interesting, as their wear and tear has a subtle, untold history about them, making you wonder what they’ve been through. Alternatively, create a more modern still life photo by using more contemporary stylish trends and colours.
Your subject matter can be visually pleasing, or it can be extra personal. What you want to achieve with still life photography is to create something new out of an ordinary object and challenge your viewer to think about the subject in a different way. Only then, will you be able to create truly impactful works of art that aren’t merely limited to what the object is.
Lighting is one of the best ways you can adjust the mood or inject an interesting element to your visuals. With natural lighting, simply place your subject by the window and angle it in different ways to test out how the light hits your object. Furthermore, being patient and snapping shots at different hours of the day — morning, afternoon, golden hour, blue hour — could yield vastly different effects that might surprise you!
As for artificial lighting, light reflectors can allow you to manipulate natural light in your scene. Other equipment can also be used to soften shadows, illuminate the subject and highlight different textures. The trick to making your picture seem like it has been taken in a professional studio is to set your camera to a very fast shutter speed, low ISO setting and a narrow aperture. Doing so will keep ambient light out of the image and give you more control over the light from your flash.
No matter what kind of lighting you decide to use, the fool proof way to master still life photography is through trial and error. Take your time with it — after all, your subject isn’t going anywhere!
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Still Life Photography: Bringing Still Life to Life
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