Constructing a still life

Still life is the stylized photography of objects, often composed and lit in a way that is either evocative of certain scenes….or aims to convey the beauty and qualities of the materials from which the objects are made”  Nigel Hicks – The Photographers Guide to Light 2005.

The best still life shots in my mind are those that are simple in construction and composition, well lit and conveying more about the object than expected.  I have only dabbled with still life photography previously and my first attempts were a lesson in composition and lighting, but the hardest part is deciding what object to use as the subject matter.

The following example is very simple in construction.  I noticed the grapes in the fruitbowl and looking for something to do I set up a basic “studio” consisting of a white bedsheet and a table lamp (shade removed), and the desk light from my study.  The only other equipment I used was a tripod so I could keep the camera fixed and move the light around to get differing images.

red grapes

I set the bedsheet on the dining room table and draped it over the chair backs to give some height.  Next I set up the lights, one either side of the grapes at slightly differing angles, moving them around to see the differing effects.  The camera was left on auto mode (!) and focused on the centre of the bunch of grapes.  The result was as seen above.  I could (should) have tried different apertures and focussing modes but the result above was sufficient at the time.  (Camera – Nikon D200, Lens Nikkor 60mm f/2.8, ISO 200)

Looking at the image I like the way it shows the range of colour of the grapes and the contrast in tones.  The green of the shoots and deep reds and blacks against the plain but varied background make this an image with depth and weight to the object.

So nothing overly complex about the construction of this still life.  Whilst writing this post it’s raining heavily in the UK so an ideal reason to construct a still life rather than go outside.

Tomorrow I will post an example of a “found” still life.

There is still time to enter our competition and bag yourself some recognition from your peers and a chance to win some great prizes from Topaz.

We’re looking forward to seeing your entries.

Adrian Pym


Filed under Tips & Tricks

8 responses to “Constructing a still life

  1. Thanks for providing your “how to”. Maybe I will give still life a try.

  2. I agree that you do not need fancy equipment to get results.

  3. Margie

    The ‘naked’ stem at the top almost looks like it is inside the grape behind it. My initial thought was, ‘Why is that one grape translucent?’ I like the three grapes on the far left too. They are telling a story, don’t you think?

  4. Pingback: Still Life – The Concepts Series, Part V | Disperser Tracks

  5. Pingback: Still Life – The Concepts Series, Part V – Disperser Tracks

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