Photo via Sincerely Kinsey
As you may know I run a blog over at A Subtle Revelry which is a mostly a lifestyle foodie & craft blog. This requires me to take a lot of photos of anything from pretty garland to homemade ice cream and beyond! Learning how to shoot still life has been a long journey, but today I want to share with you a few tips I have learned along the way. I am super thankful that I get to shoot things that I love and enjoy creating; and let’s be honest, they are a lot less wiggly than photographing your friends.
Tip #1 Examine your subject
It may seem obvious, but having what you’re going to be shooting in mind really drastically affects your entire process. Observe the colors, shapes, and symmetry of the subject. For example if you are photographing vegetables, make sure you put them in a bowl that will compliment those colors – not clash! Also it’s important to note that if you are photographing several subjects to place them in groups of 3 or 5. Although this may seem odd (okay, pun intended), having an odd numbers generally always balances out a photo. And don’t forget to try new things; be inspired by your subjects and be willing to take risks!
Tip #2 Lighting is the most important
This is something that has taken me awhile to grasp and some days I still struggle with, every photographer does. I tend to shoot in natural light with lots of whites and light colors to balance my photos. We often use a reflector in order to insure the light is just right on the photos. I have always believed that light from the side creates the most variation and dimension. If you don’t have a reflector, even a large piece of posterboard will work – or in a pinch a baking pan!
If you’re shooting flowers, they don’t benefit from direct light because they are so thin, they appear flimsy and weak. However creating side light will create the color contrast you are desiring and give it greater dimension. It’s good to note that my greatest shots have been shot near a window at my favorite a natural light source, and when traveling I often carry a piece of 8×11 computer paper with me for on the spot light reflecting.
Experiment with other kinds of light modifiers for your photography and don’t be afraid to modify and take control of your lighting!
Photo via Karen Wise
Tip #3 Make sure you have the right kind of lens
Camera lens can be tricky; it always seems there are so many out there to choose from I can get sort of lost in which is which. For still life, I always recommend a fixed lens my 50mm is perfect for crafts and food shots. I also use a 35mm and a close-focusing macro lens, tripod, and a reflector to open up the shadows and reveal intricute project details.
Photo via Floral Mountains
Tip #4 Choose your Backdrop carefully
You always want a backdrop that will enhance your subject, not muddle or wash it out. As a personal preference, I tend to always stick to a white backdrop. White generally enhances most colors unless you are wanting to give a bolder contrast in which a charchol gray can be considered. It’s always important to have a smooth and uncluttered back drop too (no wrinkles or ruffles) in order to make the subject stand out and to make the photo aesthetically pleasing as a whole.
Lately, our photos that have had more of a natural life background (ie. The livingroom) have out performer our studio shots on Pinterest and Instagram. It is part of a natural style shift and an important note as a blogger/photographer to stay on top of updates like these.
Tip #5 Arranging can be the hardest part
Play around with your shots and have fun! Arranging still life photos can be the most amusing and frustrating all at the same time. If you are anything like me, it has to be absolutely perfect, every time. So don’t be afraid to try lots of different shots. Sometimes centering the object is the best for the shot and sometimes putting the subjects diagonally, or to the right of the left of the center is okay.
Photo via Etsy
Tip #6 You can always ask for help
The world wide web can definitely at times be a photographer’s best friend. If you are having trouble with white balance? Google it. Can’t get your lighting quite right? Youtube it. Have no inspiration? Jump on pinterest and get creative! Can’t seem to make up your mind on a shot? Ask a fellow photographer or mentor. Always be open to learning and growing as there are tons of great resources out there.
Tip #7 Tweaking the photos as you edit is always an option
Sometimes the perfect shot is just not going to happen. Period. I have those days and it’s totally okay! Photoshop or whatever photo editing software you use can definitely help cover up flaws, so if it’s taking you half your day for one good photo, let Photoshop help you out. You can even try out filters and actions for a photo that will be absolutely breathtaking.
Tip #8 Practice, Practice, and did I mention Practice?
You are not going to be a professional right off the bat. It’s so important to practice your skills and keep learning. I know it can be super overwhelming learning how to work a new camera, work on focusing issues, and lighting disasters, but do not give up! If this is something you truly love, the experience is going to help. And get encouragement along the way. Reach out to local photographers you look up to and see if they can mentor you in any way. Sometimes its even best to ask them if you can just follow them around, pick up props and carry gear around and just observe. So take advantage of each and every opportunity!
Still life photography is seriously awesome and I hope today these tips can carry you on to your next still life photography session.
About the author: Victoria Hudgins is author to the popular food & craft blog asubtlerevelry.com. She is author to the soon coming book Materially Crafted and a lover of daily revelry.