100 Steps to IYP – Lesson 6 – Still Life

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Still life and table top photography is one category that tests a photographer’s creativity as well as technical skill. It is also one that gives you an immense amount of control over your subject, from lighting to composition. You don’t necessarily need to have a studio and professional lighting equipment to practice still life photography. You can do it right in the comfort of your own home, with these tips to aid you:

TIP 1: Experiment with lighting
The key component in still life photography is lighting. The source of light as well as the direction makes a world of difference to the picture. You have the option of using daylight streaming through a window, or using artificial lighting from various sources. Varying white balance settings with the same source of light also provides interesting variations. Depending on what you want to achieve, you may want to avoid colour casts. As for the direction of light, side lighting s generally used to lend a 3D appearance to the image, front lighting for a rather flat one, and backlighting for a dramatic effect. Of course, you can try different settings and see what suits you best.

TIP 2: Use the right background
Getting the background wrong can often destroy an otherwise wonderful image. Still lifes are generally shot with plain backgrounds (mostly black or white). You can use plain sheets, velvet, or colour cards to begin with. It is advisable to use an aperture setting that gets the subject sharp and blurs the background lest it should interfere with the subject. If you’re comfortable and used to still life, you can also try textured backgrounds (like wooden table tops). 

TIP 3: Keep it clean

Don’t be tempted to add more and more objects to your composition at once. Start small, and gradually, step by step, add objects, placing them carefully so that their shadows don’t interfere with anything. And even then, don’t crowd the frame. Pictures of a single subject (like an apple or a pear say) can be surprisingly high impact. 


TIP 4: Play with colours and composition
Experiment with different coloured objects and contrasting colours. Or you can also try a single colour tone or shoot monochromatic images. Selective colouring is a great tool that really makes the subject stand out and enhances the picture greatly. Vibrant colours usually create a high energy image while dull colours are more on the softer, calmer side. Also, play with your subjects and their arrangement.  The rule of the thirds works pretty well here.


TIP 5: Get Creative…
Think, imagine, let your creativity flow. Try different compositions, try different combinations, try different settings, make an effort! As I stated above, still life tests a photographers creativity, and the best part is, there’s no limits! From the choice of subject, to the way it is presented, it is entirely up to you. 



I myself haven’t experimented too much with still life, but writing this post inspired me to get back to still life again. I hope it helps you too. I would love to know, so keep your comments coming :)

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