Still life photography

The still life is an artistic pictorial genre that was born long before photography was invented.


The first composition considered a still life was a work by the painter Caravaggio in 1596. This painting gives a glimpse of the importance that the still life genre will have in Baroque painting throughout Europe.


Today, painting has been joined by photography. In essence, the idea of capturing the image of something inert but retaining its beauty intact is still appealing and appetizing.

The techniques used to photograph still lifes follow very similar premises to pictorial techniques in terms of the distribution of the foods that make up the composition, the lighting and the background.


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Tips and ideas to keep in mind for still life photography


It is already clear that a still life is, in painting as in photography, a composition of various inert objects, among which are often represented fruits and vegetables placed in baskets, fruit bowls or vases. But other objects are also part of a still life, such as books, kitchen utensils or household items made by human hands, which are added to the others that we associate with the idea of something more natural, giving the whole a certain sense.


Let’s put ourselves in the picture. When photographing a still life, the first thing we must be clear about is what type of objects we are going to include.


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For the final result to be optimal, you must also decide and choose carefully which objects, food or non-food, will be the most appropriate and attractive.


In this sense, we can look for inspiration in the most famous still lifes in the world of painting and from there, create our own combination.

Each still life photograph tells a story and therefore, we must think very carefully about what we want to convey.




Beyond the objects we choose for the composition of the still life in our photograph, deciding on the light and chromaticism is essential and something over which we must have complete control, especially if the light chosen is natural and can change from one second to the next. Artificial light is easier to work with because it is stable and provides an essential value for a good final result: time.


As for natural light, depending on the time we choose to photograph the still life, if it is bright, we will have to soften it with a curtain or other neutral-colored fabric to filter the light and soften the shadows.

The angle of illumination is also critical. A frontal light, which forms flat images, is not the same as a backlight, a semi-lateral light or a contrapicado. On each occasion the final result will vary substantially, so you must take this into account.


Image composition


Every image that is created has an intentionality and awakens feelings close to the heart. For that reason, the layout of what we are going to photograph is very important, but so are the elements that give it meaning.

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In any case, whatever the objects that will make up the still life we photograph, it is essential that we take into account that the whole must be in balance and take care of the visual weight of each object, the power of attraction they have and if any of them predominates over the others. This is influenced by the subjective perception of the viewer.


Highly illuminated images in which light and bright tones predominate are associated with positivity, joy, clarity and sunshine. On the contrary, the more somber and dark environments in still life photography bring feelings of seclusion and even mystery the dimmer the light.


The object or objects to be represented


They are the protagonists of the work and the reason for carrying it out.


Beyond the concrete objects, the arrangement of the compositions is of utmost importance. Also everything immaterial that accompanies them, such as the combination of colors and the focus of the viewer’s vision.

As for still life photography, any natural or artificial element will serve to create an attractive composition. The combination of objects with different shades, textures and materials is usually very enriching and provides surprising final results.


The background


It is the element that rounds out the idea of photography. According to the objects that make up your still life and what we want to convey, we can use a matching background, either a fabric that combines well, a dark background, a white wall, any structure that highlights the composition and does not detract from the whole.


Keep in mind that part of the lighting will be taken by the background and it will be the background that will bounce the light providing the feeling or idea you want the viewer to experience.

Still life photography is a grateful discipline since it can be approached calmly and allows you to work without haste, experimenting and learning in equal parts.


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