Everything about Still Life Photography

Learn everything there is to know about becoming a still life photographer.

Find Inspiration

The Best Still Life Photography Portfolio Examples of 2022

Whether you already have a still life photography website or are building one from scratch, it’s always worthwhile to look at other inspiring portfolios and get ideas for your own. As a best practice, we recommend reviewing your site at least 1-2 times each year to see what content or design might need to be refreshed. We’ve found a clean and bright still life photography portfolio example that you can click through for inspiration; you’re sure to find some fresh ideas for how you can design your own.

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The Best Still Life Photography Ideas for Your Next Photoshoot

Are you looking for an amazing range of still life photography ideas to fuel your creativity? Discover some of the best ideas for pros and novices here!

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Still life low key photography.

Low key photography is an exciting type of still life photography in which you craft the light to take on a dark, dramatic aesthetic to create a striking texture and contrast. Shooting in low light allows you to highlight specific elements of your subject and bring attention to them.

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Still life high key photography.

Unlike low-key photography, high-key photography thrives on bright even illumination of the scene to produce striking and compelling images. A still life high-key photograph exposes all surface areas of your subject to light, occasionally resulting in a light and bright look with an airy vibe

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Light painting still life photography.

Light painting involves painting areas of a scene with light, emphasizing one aspect of your subject while leaving other areas in shadows. This lighting technique breathes creativity into your still life work and enriches the image many times over.

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Still life window light photography.

Many of the great masters throughout history would light their still life scenes with natural window light because it creates a very flattering, soft, and directional light. Window light has clearly been an excellent source of natural lighting for still life art and that’s true of photography as well.  It’s a free light source, and window light can help capture high-quality photographs while making your subject appear flattering. You can also easily craft window light by blocking, or bouncing the light to control how much shadow and contrast is appearing in your images. 

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Still life shadow photography.

Shadow photography is a creative technique that uses hard lights to add mystery to your photos. The trick is positioning the light source behind your subject to create a dark and well-defined shadow.

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Still life reflection photography.

Shooting reflections is a creative way to showcase your subject with a reflective image of itself. This is a popular technique, especially with product photography as it creates a refined, polished look. To achieve the mirrored effect, you can place your subject on a black tile or shiny acrylic sheet (plexiglass), a mirror, or anything else with a reflective surface. There are also translucent acrylic tables that have a curved surface so you can have a seamless foreground and background, while also lighting your subject from behind or below. This setup gives you a lot of flexibility to get creative with the final outcome of your photos.

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Dark and low light still life photography.

Capturing still life in low light can be difficult, but it can result in eye-catching and fascinating photos when done correctly. In addition, experimenting with low light increases your chances of producing a sharp, high-quality shot.

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Monochrome still life photography.

Monochrome still life photography means capturing photos that utilize different tones of a specific color, whether it be black and white, sepia, gold tone, or another color that has been introduced to the image. For example, if you take a green monochrome photo, you will require that the highlights, shadows, and mid-tones have a green tint.

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Take macro photographs.

Macro photography is an excellent technique for getting close-up photographs of small subjects while emphasizing features the human eye cannot see. As such, using a good macro lens will help you capture high-quality still life macro photographs.

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Keep it black and white. 

Photographing objects in black and white is a classic approach and one that you can keep at the forefront of your still life photography ideas. Black and white photography is timeless and creates a different vibe than photographing them in color.

Don’t be scared to keep it monochrome.

Website Templates for Still Life Photographers

Our easy-to-use templates can be personalized into thousands of different design iterations uniquely suited for your business.

Our new District template features bold fonts and a neutral palette designed to perfectly complement your photos. This template provides an ideal background for any photographer.

A unique carousel with character to showcase your work in minimalist frames that perfectly present your session types and specialized genres.

A striking gallery designed for universal, modern, well-arranged photography images.

After you perfectly capture life in the camera, show its many angles in this grid view design.

Let your images make a big statement in the space of a gorgeous single page site design.

Romantically tell the story of engagements, weddings, and maternity.

A striking template to capture powerful still life photography.

A soft color palette and elegant script font are the perfect way to display romantic engagement and wedding photos.

Southwest

The black canvas background sets the stage for high contrast photos while evoking a moody style.

Check Out Website Templates for Still Life Photographers

Make A Living

Professional Still Life Photography

Getting started in professional still photography may overwhelm you, but you have to start somewhere! By reading our guide and gaining an understanding of all things still life photography, including how to make money doing it, you’ll be off to a great start.

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Learn It All

Still Life Photography Tips

A great aspect of shooting still life photos is you don’t need a model, expensive gear, or special props, to get started in still life photography. This type of photography is user-friendly, and there are ample resources available to help you master the craft faster without dropping much sweat. 

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Still life subjects.

Subjects used in still life photography are often items you find in everyday life. They can be as simple as tools, food, plates, stationary, bottles, vases, cups, and anything available to you.

If you are struggling to find still life photography inspiration, try searching “still life paintings” on the Internet to get a good idea of how to arrange your photo. There is an endless array of inspirations, and you can find a painting that utilizes subject matters with sizes similar to the ones you have.

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Still life photography lighting.

The light sources in still life photography can be either natural and studio lighting. Lighting is crucial in still life photography and its positioning will either make or break your photos.  

Natural light is an excellent lighting source to create a soft diffusion when it’s filtered through a window or modified with a sheer curtain. Hard sunlight can create beautiful reflections and shadows on the images and enhance the composition if you frame it just right. 

Unlike natural sunlight, studio lighting is more reliable and can be easily manipulated to your liking for still life photography. Studio lighting is often the choice of lighting to use for a dark and moody theme in product images. You could modify the lighting by adding honeycomb grids to your softbox if you want it to be directional and contrasting. 

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Still life composition.

Strong composition will make your still life photographs look interesting and more pleasing to the eye. Composition refers to how you place (compose) the subjects together and arrange them across the scene.  

A simple concept of composition in still life photography is to keep the viewer in the picture by guiding their eye around the frame. The key to successful still life photography with great compositions is to deliver information, invoke emotion, and hold the viewer’s attention so they’ll want to pause and study the image.

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Use a hero object.

You can use a hero object in still life photos by leading your viewer’s eyes toward it. A hero object might stand out in an image by its bright colors when placed in relatively dull-colored surroundings, or by using the shapes of the objects to create lines that guide the viewer to the hero object. It’s a composition technique that helps the viewers quickly find the focal subject when viewing the photo.

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Rule of thirds still life photography.

In still life photography, the rule of thirds means you’ll divide your image (frame) into nine equal rectangles by drawing two imaginary horizontal and vertical lines. You will then place your subject on those lines or at the intersection of those two lines.

Avoid leaving too much space on one side of the image when using the rule of thirds, because it will look imbalanced as a whole. When in doubt, go with what your gut tells you

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Leading lines in still life photography.

Leading lines in still life photography are visual pathways to the subjects by leading your viewer’s eyes through the frame. Leading lines are elements in the environment and exist in building walls, roads, bridges, tree lines, and anything in the surroundings. With still life photography you can use the objects in the scene to create this same effect.

Leading lines direct the attention to the subject and make it the focal point. Leading lines also don’t need to be straight ones and can be combined with the rule of thirds or other composition techniques.

Professional Still Life Photography Guide

Before diving into still life photography, you must learn everything you can about it. From its definition to the types and styles, we cover it all here.

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Still Life Photography FAQ’s

What is considered still life photography?

Still life photography is a type of photography that captures inanimate objects arranged in a particular configuration or composition for an artistic or commercial purpose. Still life images can be taken of anything, from fruit to furniture, and often have a message or story to tell.

What is the focus of still life photography?

One of the most critical aspects of still life photography is composition. This is because the photographer has complete control over the arrangement of elements in the frame and can therefore create a highly stylized and visually appealing image.

Why is still life photography important?

Still life photography is important for several reasons. It can capture beautiful images that can be enjoyed for years to come. It can serve as a way to document and preserve history. Still life photography can be used to create art and has been a popular art subject for centuries. Finally, still life photography can also be a vehicle for sharing ideas about different cultures.

When did still life photography begin?

Still life photography began in the early days of photography, around the 1840s. Early photographers used still life subjects to test their cameras and techniques. 

By the late 1800s, still life photography was being used by artists to create beautiful and atmospheric images. Today, still life photography is enjoyed by amateur and professional photographers alike

What are the 2 types of still life photography?

There are two types of still life photography: found and created

Found still life photography is when the photographer finds an interesting scene or object and decides to take a picture of it. This can be anything from a gripping arrangement of objects to a unique natural scene. 

Created still life photography is when the photographer sets up a scene or object and takes a picture. This is often done in a studio setting but can also be done in other locations.

What is special about still life photography?

Still life photography is a unique and challenging genre that can produce some truly stunning results. The key to success lies in finding the right subject matter and arranging it in an aesthetically pleasing way. Still life photography is unique in how broad it is. It can run the gamut from anything from a quaint tabletop scene as an art piece, to photos for a global advertising campaign.

What kind of money can you make as a still life photographer?

The amount of money you can earn as a still life photographer depends widely on the type of still life photography you specialize in, as well as what kinds of clients you have, your location and a number of other factors.  

That being said, demographic data from the State of the Photography Industry Report that Zenfolio conducted earlier in 2022 shows that only 20% of still life photographers surveyed made less than $30,000 per year. In addition, 31.1% earn between $30,000 and $60,000 and 40% are above $60,000.

What equipment do you need for still life photography?

  • Camera: This is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to taking photos. You don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest camera on the market, but consider factors such as resolution, dynamic range, and color science. Things like autofocus are important, but typically a still life scene is a static setting that you’ve come across or set up so you’ll have time to focus accurately. The dynamic range is important because it dictates how much of a range of tones your camera can capture from darkest shadows to brightest highlights. More dynamic range means more flexibility and more engaging images. A camera with a high resolution will mean you can print larger photos. Digital photos are beautiful, but there is something special about a printed photograph that really makes it come alive, and this is another way for you to make money from your photography. 
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential for any photographer, but it’s especially important for still life photographers because many of their shots require a very steady platform so that they can take multiple shots without moving around too much or having their subject move away from them during the time between shots.
  • Lenses: Think about what kind of compositions you’ll set up for your still life photography and how much space you have to work with in your studio before you invest in a specific lens. If you want flexibility we recommend a zoom lens like a 24-70mm. This will give you a range of wide angle to telephoto so you can capture a range of still life scenes with one all purpose lens. Prime lenses are typically sharper and faster (wider aperture) but have the limitation of having a fixed focal length. Consider the fact that a wide angle lens will make objects feel more round and three-dimensional while a telephoto lens will flatten your composition. Both aesthetics have useful applications but make sure you take that into consideration.
  • Props: You’ll also want a bunch of props handy for when you’re doing your photography session. One could argue that still life photography is almost strictly made up of props in some capacity so in this case, the props are, in fact, your subject.

How do still life photographers make money?

There are a few ways that still life photographers can make money from their work. 

  • Selling prints: or other merchandise through their websites, Etsy shop, or other eCommerce platforms. With Zenfolio, photographers can easily list their prints and other products for sale directly on their portfolio website, control the pricing and fulfill orders with our trusted print lab partners.
  • Stock photography: If you’re looking for a way to make some passive income from your still life photography skills and you don’t want to take on private commissions, you may want to consider selling your images as stock photography.  There are many sites online where photographers can post their photos for sale for someone to purchase them. The amount of money you make from this type of work will vary depending on how well-known or in-demand you are, as well as how much work you produce. Think about the kinds of photos that potential clients will want to buy and download and recreate those scenes.
  • Commissioned photos for companies looking for promotional material or advertising materials. Still life photographers who choose to take on commissions have a variety of options when it comes to pricing their services. This kind of arrangement will typically be a working relationship with a brand or advertising agency and you’ll be producing work based on the brief they provide you.

How to light still life photography?

A commonly used lighting scenario requires one dominant light source to be up above the object and to the side at a 45-degree angle so that it illuminates ¾ of the form. Adjust the lighting so that you will have contrast between the light and the shadow edge. Avoid using too many sources of light as a beginner, but don’t be afraid to experiment!

How to create hard shadows in still life photography?

Lighting sources such as direct sunlight or artificial lighting can be used to create hard shadows. You can achieve it by shining the lighting source directly at and close to the subject of your choice. Hard shadows have definitive and pronounced darkness to them, and it has tasteful aesthetic uses for still life photography.

How to use the rule of thirds in photography still life?

When using the rule of thirds, imagine horizontal and vertical lines on the frame of an image to create 9 equally sized rectangle blocks. Placing your subject on one of these four intersecting points creates dynamic communication and the connection between the viewer and the subject you want to emphasize.

How to set up still life photography?

You can create a 3-sided and foldable dark paperboard. Use it as a backdrop by putting it behind the subject; consider adding a piece of fabric to create texture. Place the largest subject in the scene first followed by smaller ones. Position the lighting at the angles that will best suit your needs depending on what you want to highlight in the scene.

What is the key to effective visual communication when using still life photography?

The key to effective visual communication in still life photography is to keep the viewers engaged in the images by making the objects visually interesting to look at. Follow the three composition tips to make your still life photos visually appealing and tell a story that your viewers won’t want to miss.

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