The Ultimate Guide to Still Life Photography

About Still Life Photography

Still life photography is a photography genre that breathes life into inanimate objects. The best part is that it allows you to be as creative as you can. Besides creativity, it allows you to learn practically through experimenting with lighting, compositions and the numerous aspects of this genre of photography.

Before you focus on creating interesting still life images, you ought to fully understand what still life photography is. In addition to understanding what it entails, this guide will expose you to all the aspects of this genre of photography. Let’s begin with defining still life photography.

Photo of cut tangerine by a window

What is Still Life Photography?

Still life is a photography art whose major focus is on inanimate objects, and it allows you the free will to arrange your subjects as you please. The objects in question can be natural or artificial, including plants, rocks, vases, and everything else you can think of.

The lighting, frames, and arrangement create the emphasis making usual and ordinary objects unique and interesting at the same time. This guide covers all you need to become the best still life photographer.

How to Make a Still Life Photo

The process of creating a still life photo is quite simple. Begin by choosing your subject. The second is to find or adjust the lighting to what you want. After that, choose a background for created photography, arrange the elements and take the shot.

Classic still life photo of a cut apple

Types of Still Life Photography

There are two main types (found and created) of still life photography, as outlined below.

Found Still Life Photography

As the name suggests, they are still life images taken without having to arrange the elements of the composition to what you want. A good example is a flower or leaf lying in the garden and other interesting elements around it.

Created Still Life Photography

For Created still life photography, you arrange the elements in the composition to what you want them to look like. Some of them include food items, art, consumer products, among others. With this type of photography, you have complete control of lighting, elements and their arrangements.

Moody photo of desk with typewriter and camera

Equipment for Still Life Photography


You don’t need high-end cameras if your main focus is still life photography. This is because you can control the lighting of your scenes, most of which will be indoors. Therefore, a cropped sensor camera will do you good for this great genre of photography.

Lighting Equipment

Lighting equipment for still life photography may be expensive, but before you go down that road, you can use light reflectors, which are affordable. Most of them are effective in manipulating natural light in your still life image scenes.

Strobes or Speedlights

Their main function is to light the still life photography scenes. Therefore, eliminating the need for natural light.


They are light-controlling equipment used in still life photography to avoid the undesired effects of shadows. Besides, they direct light to your focus subject and prevent light spill.


For still life photography, you don’t need expensive high-resolution and wide focus lenses. You most probably will need three main types of lenses for the creative and focal point aspects.

For the creative aspect, you need Macro and close-up lenses. These two allow you to be as close to your subject as possible, enabling you to get detailed and interesting still life shots.

On the other hand, telephoto lenses enable you to focus on your main object, leaving other close objects out. This is because of the narrow view angles that the lenses offer.

Cat Statue on solid blue background

Important Tips for Still Life Photography

The below still life photography tips can help you to sharpen your photography skills. In addition to developing your photography skills, it makes the whole activity easy, fun and interesting.

Develop the Concept of your Life Photos

Still life photography depends on having a concept and developing it. The main point in this is that you need to find inspiration and know how you are going to put it out there to capture your viewer’s attention.

Plan the Elements of your Life Image

Planning is important in still life photography. A plan enables many photographers to visualize their idea or inspiration. Moreover, it allows you to device mechanisms to counteract any challenges that may arise before you start shooting.

You can make basic sketches to ascertain the specific positioning of different elements in your still life images. A plan also helps you to determine whether you will use studio lights or direct sunlight in your photo shoot.

Macro shot of flowering plants

Create a Focal Point for your Viewers

Capturing and maintaining the viewer’s attention is among the crucial aspects of still photography. Therefore, each element in your composition contributes to grabbing the attention and doesn’t solely rely on the basic rule as some photographers may assume.

Be Creative with Lighting

With this unique genre of photography, lighting is one of the simplest ways to be creative. You can decide to use natural light, direct sunlight, or studio lights to come up with different still life images from a single composition.

You can evoke different emotions and create various moods with your still life images just by tweaking the lighting during your shots.

In conclusion, still life photography is a unique general with unlimited possibilities. You can experiment as you learn the fine art, which at the same time can help you build a unique photography portfolio.

Ideas for Still Life Photography

The Simplicity and versatility of still life photography are among the main aspects all still life photographers should bear in mind. Below is a number of still life photography ideas to enable you create stunning still life photos

Try Using Different Patterns

The idea of using patterns in still life photography gives both everyday objects as well as natural objects in still photos a unique and interesting look to your life photos.

Begin by choosing the elements and theme you will use in your life photographs. In your arrangement, begin with the larger objects at the center and the smaller ones on the outside. While at it, you can experiment with different colors to break the monotony of using a single color in your still life shots.

Use Words

Still life photos, just like any other life painting and other photography techniques that literally say something. In this case, dimensional photography is important in creating beautiful texts from the different elements you may want to use in your still life shots.

Some of the elements you can use include flowers, chocolate, toys, sweets, among others. You can choose your central element, let’s say a cup of coffee, and have it surrounded by different words, either by flower stems or shaped cookies created by different letters.

Experiment With Shapes

Shape is a good idea, especially for minimalistic still life photography. The trick with shapes is using the minor resemblance in dissimilar subjects to create beautiful images.

For instance, you can use oranges, balloons and strings with similar colors in your still life compositions.

Tell Stories

You can use the elements of still life compositions in life photography to tell different stories. This can be either a professional life story or just a hobby.

For instance, you can use the elements of a still life photographer like the camera lenses and other different equipment to create life images. The workstation of a painter, including their paintbrushes, drawing and canvas is another good example of such.

Classic food still life photo

Use Coffee

The idea of using coffee in its different forms in still life photography can give you many still life images with the least struggle and too much fun.

You can have different coffee textures in cups arranged in any way you please to come up with different stunning still life images.

Chalk Drawing is a Good Idea in Still Photographs

A combination of chalk drawings and other elements can generate stunning still life photography ideas. The chalk drawings could include galaxy drawings, regular shapes, mathematical patterns, and anything you can think of.

With the chalk drawing you want to use in your still life photo, you can fit in fine art, natural objects, and everything else to draw the attention of your viewer’s eye.

Use Flowers

Most still life photographers work with flowers emerge with a final image that is bright, which is exactly what every still life photographer wants. You can never go in still life photography if you use flowers.

You can do different flower arrangements or have the arrangements around other objects like a camera or laptop. Flowers are also effective in still life images whose main objective is to tell a story.

Retro Vibes

The recreation of sense from retro vibes is among the still life photography ideas that create fascinating life images. You can use some scenes like Pack-Man and pixel resembling objects to create amazing still life photos.

You just need part of the scenes in your still life photography ideas and not all scenes. A good example is pixels, or rather objects falling into a glass and splashing the liquid therein.

Try Building Your Own Minute World

If you have run short of ideas in still life photography, you can try creating your own minute world. The elements in your still life photos could include a globe, a virtual galaxy, and everything else you can imagine.

While at it, play with the lighting to include dark colors or themes.

pouring syrup on pancakes

Use Recipes and Food

Food photography is another still life photography with numerous options you can settle for. With food photography, you use either food, recipes, or both.

You can choose to arrange your food elements with different backgrounds and lighting and take different life shots from various angles until you are satisfied with your final image.