Still Life Photography

One of my favourite subjects - Me, camera and stuff to shoot!

Still Life Photography

I love the studio environment and still life photography

If you are not under pressure and have no time constraints, there is nothing better than having a play with your studio lighting set up to experiment with new and fresh ideas like still life photography! You don’t need to rent or own a huge studio, just 2 or 3 lights, a decent sized room and a selection of backdrops will do just fine.

My first "studio" was simply one bounced speedlight flash on the camera, one fill in slave unit and a white sheet or piece of white card placed on the sofa. As long as the lighting is uniform, evenly spread and complimentary, it doesn’t matter what you use, to a degree.

Still life

This is a chance to really make your work shine whether for commercial use, personal use or stock photography. Each object that you photograph will benefit from a different r specific lighting and composition set up.

For example, when shooting flowers, try and isolate the subject with a background colour that compliments the shades of the petals. Black or white are usually quite acceptable but don’t be afraid to experiment. Or simply go macro and fill the frame with the flower.

Still Life Photography

Shiny objects such as bottles, glasses, jewellery, or reflective fruit are really enhanced if placed on a reflective surface again, with the colour complimenting the object.

Make sure that you use the right aperture, one that has enough depth of field for the object but still creates the right amount of "Bokeh" or background blur. This is dependent on the distance between your subject and the camera, and the subject and background although entirely unnecessary if you are using just one colour or backdrop.

Use a fixed focal length lens of between 50mm and 200mm depending on the subject. Any wider and you start to get distortion on your lines, and longer and you will need a warehouse! 135mm is great if you have it.

As mentioned before, a fixed lens will normally produce crisper sharper images and better colour rendition too.


Lighting an object correctly takes practice. You need to position everything just right, set the power output on the units correctly and adjust your camera settings accordingly.

If you have the funds, get yourself a hand held light meter from a company like Sekonic and learn how to use it, although with digital cameras, you are able to shoot, look, adjust and shoot again in the same time it would take to use a meter, much like using a Polaroid camera!

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Flowers again, could benefit from being backlit. The petals are so fine with minute detail; a head-on flash could blow them out. By firing the light "through" the flower, the fine details including the veins of the leaf are much more prominent.

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Still Life Photography

Learn to study your subject, think which lighting would enhance it better and practice. Keep shadows to a minimum unless they are part of the final result you are after, keep them sharp, well exposed and well lit.

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