Tutorial: Still Life Photography

Still life

Still life is a fascinating area of photography. It can start with a simple shot of a treasured item, fruit or ornament and develop into a special interest with a full studio.

There are a number of straightforward tips that can make your still life photos stand out from the crowd. This tutorial will cover the following areas:

• Start simple
• Background
• Natural lighting
• Experimenting with light
• White balance
• Depth-of-field
• Subjects to shoot

Time has stopped, © Dario Sastre Martinez 2010, Canon EOS 450D

Start simple
Create an interesting composition with, for example, an assortment of colourful fruit, some ornaments or small everyday items and you are ready to start taking photographs. Another name for still life work is tabletop photography and a small table that you can move around easily is the best starter studio. Start by positioning the table close to a window. A north-facing window is ideal – it will provide a soft light.

You need a background. If you shoot from a high angle, the tabletop itself can be the background. Try alternatives by covering the table with suitable cloth or card. If you shoot from a lower angle, curve a large sheet of card up from the tabletop and support the upper end against a pile of books or a chair back. This type of photographic background is called an ‘infinity curve’, because there is no join and in the photo it appears to go on forever. You can buy large sheets of flexible card in a range of colours from most art shops.

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