7 Steps in Making a Beautiful Still Life Photography

7 Steps in Making a Beautiful Still Life Photography

In photography, the subject is known as still life. It is one of the most challenging aspects of photography. 

A photographer has to make sure that the background is well-lit and has no distracting objects surrounding it. 

Every aspect of a still-life image needs to be considered before it is taken, and this can be challenging for any beginning photographer to master. 

In this article, I will show you the basic approaches to taking successful still-life photos.

What is Still life Photography?

Identifying What is Still Life Photography

Stills of objects, or still life photography, is a genre of photography with a long history. 

One of the pioneers of photography, Robert Cornelius (inventor of the single-lens reflex camera), created many still lifes at his Philadelphia studio in 1839. Thus, the genre became popular.

Still-life photography is a form of photography that uses inanimate objects as its subject. It’s a great way for photographers to test their skills and learn new techniques without worrying about people getting in their way or messing up their shots. 

The main goal of this type of photography is to capture beautiful images of everyday objects.

In most cases, still-life photographers use a combination of natural light and artificial light to create amazing images. 

Light is one of the most important factors in still-life photography. You need to understand how light affects your subject to create stunning images.

Still-life photography can be considered a type of art that involves photographing objects to create an aesthetic effect rather than recording actual events. 

Still-life photographers use props and backgrounds to create interesting compositions that tell stories and evoke emotions in the viewer. 

The subjects are carefully arranged on a flat surface, with lighting used to enhance their form and texture.

The purpose of a still-life photograph is not to show movement or action but to capture its essence and beauty by creating design elements within an image (or series). 

A still-life photograph should have a sense of balance, order, and symmetry.

7 Steps in Making a Beautiful Still Life Composition

The 7 Steps to Use  in Making a Beautiful Still Life Composition

Step 1: Select a Subject

The first step in creating a still-life photo is to select your subject. 

The most important thing to remember is that still-life photography differs from portrait photography, so don’t try to force a portrait into your still life. 

Instead, choose something that has a lot of character and that you can use to tell a story.

The best subjects are those that have meaning or personal significance for you. This could be a favorite object or something that reminds you of a special time or place in your life. 

You may even want to try photographing your own possessions, like family photos and keepsakes. 

Less abstract subjects are typically easier to photograph than complex objects, so if you’re new at this, start with something simple like fruit or flowers from your garden. 

These subjects are easy to light, and there are endless possibilities for arrangements. Once you have mastered these subjects, you can move on to more complex objects like glassware and porcelain.

Step 2: Identify the Story You Want to Tell

Identifying the Story You Want to Tell in a Still Life Composition

Once you’ve chosen your subject, it’s time to think about what story you want to tell with your photo. 

Look for ways it can tell a story about yourself or someone else. For example, if you’re photographing an old watch that belonged to your grandfather, how does this piece of jewelry reflect his personality? 

If you’re working with flowers from your garden, what does their arrangement say about the person who arranged them? 

Is there anything about their color or shape that reflects the emotions of the person who arranged them? 

What about the background — does it help us understand why this particular arrangement was chosen?

Step 3: Compose Your Frame

The basic rule is to arrange your elements to be balanced and symmetrical. For example, if you put the fruit on the left side of your frame and the glassware on the right, then you need to make sure that there are equal amounts of empty space between them.

Another rule is to avoid placing objects directly in the center of your frame — it’s better to leave a little room at either end (or both ends) than to have everything right in front of your lens.

The rule of thirds is a popular composition technique that helps you create more dynamic compositions. 

It simply means dividing the frame into thirds vertically and horizontally, then positioning elements so that they fall along these lines or at the intersection points between them. 

This makes for a more pleasing composition because it draws your eye around the frame instead of always centering subjects right in the middle (creating a boring shot).

Step 4: Prepare Your Space

Preparing Your Space For a Still Life Composition

Now that you know how to compose your frame, prepare for shooting by setting up an area where you can take photos without being disturbed or interrupted. 

This could be anywhere from a simple tabletop arrangement or tabletop setup all the way up through an elaborate studio setup with lighting, reflectors, and backdrops. 

Some photographers prefer using white backdrops for maximum contrast. They also make for easier editing later on.

Step 5: Choose Your Lighting Source

The key to great still-life photography is choosing the right light source. You want to choose a light source that will illuminate your subject flatteringly. 

This means avoiding harsh shadows and hard highlights. Harsh shadows can make your subject look flat and uninteresting. 

Hard highlights can make them look shiny as if they were made of plastic or glass.

Instead, you want to use soft lighting that will create an even, attractive glow on your subject without making it look too different from how it looks in real life. 

If you have access to natural light, this is often the best option because it can be very soft and flattering — but even artificial light sources can be made softer with diffusers or other modifiers.

Step 6: Opt For Soft Lighting

Still Life Composition Must Opt For Soft Lighting

Soft light is the most flattering light for portraits and still-life photography. It wraps around your subject and creates a beautiful, even glow. 

The easiest way to achieve soft light is by shooting outside during the golden hours (early morning and late afternoon). 

If you can’t do that, use diffusers or reflectors to soften the harsh light indoors.

Step 7: Shoot Away

When you’re shooting still-life subjects, your goal is to capture a moment in time. 

You don’t have to worry about perfecting everything — just shoot away! As long as you’re getting some good shots in between the bad ones, you’ll be fine.


In the end, there are many options for making a still-life image. But if you’re looking to capture an image that will resonate, one with a sense of life and a story to tell, these seven steps will help you hone your craft. 

Keep in mind that not every image will work for every photographer. It’s hard to know until after you’ve captured the image —but if you follow these steps and develop the appropriate skills, the chances are greater that the final product will stand apart from other still-life images and images captured in other genres.

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