still life photographyLandscapes and portraits provide you a great opportunity to learn about elements of photography, but still life can also improve your compositional skills and sense of lighting. With still life photography, you make a picture rather than take it. It gives you more control in arranging elements within a composition.

Unlike landscapes, still life gives you more control over the lighting. Unlike portrait subjects, still life subjects will never get bored.


Since you’ll be working indoors most of the time, you’re going to need some good light. So it would be best to shoot near a window, one that lets plenty of sunlight in. Be careful when using a camera with a built-in flash.

Since the flash is close to the lens, there’s a big chance that the lighting will appear flat, with very little shadows. Use thin tissue paper to scatter the light to smoothen bright spots. When using window light, exposure times should be set in slower mode.

Start small

Beginners have the tendency to just grab still life subjects, put them together, and then snap away. It’s more beneficial if you put careful thought into your work. Try to start with one object and observe the effects of lighting on the modeling of your subject.

Then add another object and try to experiment with arrangements to achieve a great composition. Think about all sorts of contrasts – smooth and textured, light and dark, hard and soft – that produce different effects.


Many beginners commit one of the grave sins in still life photography: not thinking about the background. Basically, a background is your major item of contrast. A good background highlights the subject, whereas a wrong background hides it. You can use a black velvet background to absorb unwanted reflections and light.

You can also use a white background, but you have to ensure that it has no creases because any shadows will be visible in the final print. At times, however, such effect is necessary. For instance, a draped cloth can add nice effects on the subject.


Like other art forms, photography needs some inspiration. So where can you get inspirations for your subjects? There’s an inexhaustible ideas for still life. Think about illustrating movie, song, or book titles as well as proverbs, anecdotes, or sayings.

You can also get ideas from posters, postcards, or a funny experience. If you want to learn something about portraiture but don’t have available model, buy a doll or an artist’s mannequin. Then practice poses and lighting whenever you want to.