ShadowLoungeProductions | Still Life

Still Life Photography

This is a study of an inanimate object, such as a vase of flowers or bowl of fruit. You’ll need:


  1. A source of light (window is good)
  2. A subject. I suggest a nicely arranged bowl of fruit.
still life photography


Camera Setup:

  • Mode: Aperture Priority (Often shown as Av on the mode wheel)
  • ISO: 100 or so (there will be lots of light)
  • White Balance: Custom
  • Aperture: Experiment!

Watch out for: Lighting the image. Make sure your light has some directionality, coming from the side. Otherwise it will be flat and boring.

White Balance Setup: Take a shot of your reference paper in front of the subject. Make sure it’s bright grey, and set custom WB.


The Pose: Arrange the subject so that it’s visually pleasing and there are no stickers on the fruit. You can try a bit of spray water for a fresh look. Arrange you and the subject so that some light falls on the item from a side angle. If the light is bright daylight (sun) or a lamp, the shadows will be sharp and harsh. If the light is overcast or through a diffuser (shades, a sheet, etc), the light will be very soft and spread out.


Framing the Image: You can shoot still life as a centered image, or not, this is your choice. Since a still life print is often used as a “peaceful” image, a centered composition will connote balance and harmony. Watch the background on this. If your f-stop is not too wide open, you’ll see elements of the background in focus. If it’s a bit busy, consider arranging a dark cloth or other plain background to limit distracting elements. And consider your camera angle – 20-30 degrees above horizontal may be the most appealing angle, but you can experiment.


Take the Image: Watch your shutter speed here, and stabilize your camera if it gets below 1/60 second.


Analyzing and Improving: Experiment with different light directions, camera angles, and light diffusion. Really look at the light and the shadows before you take the image. This is one of the benefits of this activity – you have the time and a patient subject, so use the opportunity to study the lighting, and the background and the subject.


photos of still life

"Caffeine Mono" captured by Czar Kristoff 


Advanced Tricks: In post production, you can play with the levels tool or brightness/contrast tool to tweak the brights and darks. You can use the saturation tool to increase the color of the image, but be careful to not overdo it! You can use the soften tools and any available painterly effects, such as watercolor or pastel, to turn your image into a painterly masterpiece!