A Guide To Still Life Photography

still life photography
Still life photography for truly brand

Still life photography is a beautiful way to express yourself as a photographer. Can it be applied to product photography? Yes, still life photography is an important skill to have when you want to make your product photography service successful.

It can be applied to apparel photography. Most importantly, it becomes useful when photography exclusive items such as brand watches and high-quality skincare photography. You can use it to “set the scene” and create the right feeling. 

Carry on reading our guide to still life photography to find out more about this unique skill.

What Is Still Life Photography All About?

a woman thinking about a question
Young woman thinking - by mimagephotography

In many ways, it is about finding ways to make ordinary and everyday objects appear more interesting. In itself, that premium brand perfume bottle you are have just got an assignment for, probably does not look very interesting. 

However, when you put it into the context with other objects, you can add something extra to it, making it special. The skincare industry often uses the concept of still life photography to elevate the value of its product. They may add flowers or herbs to images to instantly tell a customer what ingredients the product contains. 

As a matter of fact, most product manufacturers use still life photography to enhance the value and meaning of their products. 

It is all about bringing meaning to products and telling a story. After all, we buy with our eyes, it is important to recognize that good quality product photography is not only about the product itself. Even though your photograph is not moving, there is no reason why it shouldn’t tell a story. 

Still Life Photography Demystified

If you are new to photography, you have probably not tried your hand at still life photography as yet. The best way to think of still life photography is as a painting. 

An artist always starts with a blank canvass and adds objects to the main theme of the painting to make it more interesting. As a matter of fact, the main subject is often something very ordinary. But, when you add other objects to the scene, it makes the complete picture more interesting. 

You see it in art all of the time. If you would really like to study still life photography, it is a good idea to study art. Here is a really good example of still life art. The main subject is the sailing boat but it is emphasized by the birds and the lantern. The birds and the lantern both bring a deeper meaning and make the sailing boat stand out at the same time. Many photographers get ideas and inspiration from art. 

The objects or photographic accessories used in still life art and photography are often very ordinary. It is a matter of finding the right objects to match the product. From the start, try to build up your own tool kit of accessories. For instance, you may be out shopping in a second store when you come across an object that you like the look of. 

If it catches your eye, it is likely to catch someone else’s eye as well. That means it could be a good accessory to ve in ryou collection. Vases are good objects and so are old eye glasses. You should also try to pick up antique books that look slightly worn. 

One of the major advantages of still life photography is that you can arrange the objects in such a way that they emphasize the message. Experiment and play around with themes. That is how you are going to become a better product photographer. 

Not only should you practise working with accessories, but light in product photography is also very important. 

Practise Makes Perfect

jewelry lay flat image still life photography
Jewelry lay flat image still life photography

One of the reasons many product photographers like to work with still life photography is that it reduces costs. For instance, you don’t have to work with live models. As most product photo photographers know, working live models adds extra costs very quickly.

 

Instead, you can search out interesting landscapes and setting that you can use. Many product photographers like to shoot on location and create high-quality still life photographs. It is all about experimenting with lighting setups and compositions. 

Put your still life photos to good use and build up a take the opportunity to build- up a photographer’s portfolio. Still life photographs are a fantastic way of putting your photography skills on show. Many prospective clients are going to be impressed by them. 

Different Kinds Of Still Life Photography

As a product photographer, there are many different ways in which you can incorporate still life photography into your work. As a matter of fact, you may already be doing so without thinking about it. We are going to run through some of the different techniques with you.

Tabletop Photography

Tabletop photography is a great way to use still life photography. The objects that you shoot need to be small enough to fit on a table. For instance, if you are shooting a bottle of body lotion made from coconut oil, you emphasize the product by placing half a coconut next to it. 

Association works really well when it comes to tabletop photography. Flatlay photography is another example of still life photography. It is another technique that you want to add to your skillset. 

Flatlay photography is a fantastic way of photographing clothes. Maybe a clothes manufacturer produces the same sweater in many different colors. Lay the sweaters flat so that the colors are clearly visible. That is a great way of using flat lay photography. 

What About Product Photography?

Yes, product photography in its own right is a kind of still life work. The main goal is to showcase a product – just like you do in still life photography.
It is important to make sure the image of the product is clear. You don’t want too many distractions from the main object.


When it comes to product photography, you need to stick to the brief as much as possible. Get as much information you can from the client and work within the guidelines. Product associations to objects and colors are common. Make sure that you have as much information as possible before you start snapping away.

Food Photography

top view of still life food photography
Top view of still life food photography

We don’t think of food photography, but in fact, that is exactly what high-quality food photography is all about unless you are shooting a video of someone pouring, drinking, or cooking food. The main goal is to portray the food in a certain way and let it tell a story. 

For instance, if you are photographing Italian food, you want to add what can only be called Italian food accessories. A good example would be adding a bulb of garlic, tomatoes, and Italian herbs such as basil. Food photography is an important part of product photography. You should do your best to become a good food photographer as it is a good source of revenue.

Food photography is very popular. When you are good at it, you will find that there are plenty of work out there for you. It is not only restaurants that like to have their food photographed. Many large food manufacturers produce recipe booklets and want their food products promoted as part of a recipe collection.

What Equipment Will I Need?

One of the other major advantages of still life photography is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. The most important factor is good quality photography lighting. When you want to make still life part of product photography, there are plenty of choices. You can even buy special lighting kits for photography products. 

Can you work with natural light? Yes, you can but it has to be said that working with natural light is more difficult. It is a matter of getting the level of light right. The best way to achieve that is with professional photography lighting kits. 

Best Way Of Working With Lights

Needless to say, there are some ways of working with lights that are more affordable than others. Before your rush out and buy a complete set of studio lights, consider your budget and what you already have available. Maybe you already have some of the equipment that you will need to create beautiful photographs.

Here’s an idea of what you will need as essential light modifiers are concerned:

  •  Light reflectors
  •  Speedlights
  •  Strobes
  •  Softboxes

Light Reflectors

One of the most cost-effective ways of manipulating light is light reflectors. They are surprisingly inexpensive to buy. You can use a light reflector to manipulate both natural and studio lights.

Light reflectors are used to soften shadows, emphasize textures and illuminate the object. If you feel brave enough, you can even try making your own. Many photographers do and achieve fantastic results.

Strobes And Speedlights

A Speedlight, or a strobe as it is often called, is a way of using a flashing light without using the flash on your camera. In many ways, they are a much better way of controlling flashing lights.

Unlike the flash on your camera, you can use speedlights and strobes from many directions. Play around with the lights to learn how to achieve the best results from this way of photographing objects.

Strobes and speedlights will give your photos a professional look. That is very important when you want to build a career as a product photographer. Yes, they are more expensive to invest in, but doing so will pay off.

Softboxes is the right photographer’s tool to use when you want to create soft light. You can find them in any good photography store or online.
Softboxes are popular in product photography. If you look closely at products for sale online, you will notice that you often see that the light is strictly controlled. That is one of the advantages of softboxes.

What Camera Should I Use?

You don’t need to worry about investing in top-range cameras to get started with still life photography. If you already have a good quality camera, there is no reason why you should not use that. 

Most product photographers have at least one good camera already. As you progress, you can always upgrade your camera and lenses. There are good value camera lenses that offer excellent value for money without you having to spend a small fortune. 

Still Life Photography Tips For Both Experienced and Newbie Photographers

helpful photography tips
Helpful photography tips

Getting it right from the start matters a great deal. It makes it less frustrating and you will enjoy your new skill more.

1. Planning ahead. Never lose sight of the fact that planning ahead matters. Many still-life photographers like their creativity to flow. However, as a product photographer, you have a business to run. Get a detailed brief from your clients and make sure that you know what they are looking for. Have a little brainstorming session with yourself and see what creative ideas you can come up with.
2. Getting the light right. Let’s talk about light again. Getting the light almost perfect from the start will save you a lot of time in post-production. Yes, you can manipulate your photographs in post-production, but it takes time. Work out how you would like your photographs lit and you are on your way to success.
3. Use a tripod. The last problem you want is a camera shake. It means taking your photographs again. That only adds extra time to your shooting schedule.
4. Pick the objects that work visually together. Don’t just through in random objects. While still following your client’s brief, pick the objects that you think increase the value of the product that you are shooting. It is important that your objects work together visually. Think about colors as well. Are you aiming for colors that blend in or would contrasting colors look better?
5. Side lighting is better than lighting an object from the front or the back. It makes the light much more interesting. In turn, you can use the light to draw attention to aspects of the product that are interesting.

Does The Background Matter?

The background should not at any time overpower the subject. White background photography is popular when it comes to product photography for online sites such as Amazon and Etsy. 

When you are shooting for adverts or magazines, a neutral background does the trick. If you want to get more creative in a natural setting, you can, but you should at no time let the background overpower the subject.

 Good examples of neutral colors greys, black, and shades of brown work well. If your client asks for a certain color, you should use that. Many brands have their own colors that emphasize their products. You can make products stand out with the right background.

Simple Ideas You Can Try

Looking for inspiration? In that case, we have a few ideas that you can try.

● Antique or older objects often add interest. They have a certain charm about them and many of them are also transitional. If you are photographing a book that is just about to be published, you may want to place a pair of antique glasses on the top. 

● You are not likely to be photographing fresh food unless you are going to be doing food and beverage photography. But, if you are going to be photographing wine or cocktails, you want to make sure you add objects that work well together with the objects. High quality wine glasses and perhaps a place setting when photographing wine. 

● Try different compòsitions. It is important to play around with the objects you are photographing. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. There is nothing to say that your take on still life photography needs to be traditional. Often, it is the more avant-garde product photographs that sell more products. Remember that this is a very crowded market place. When you can make your photographs stand out, you are much more likely to get more work and make a name for yourself.

● Don’t rush it. Many new product photographers rush their photographs. Instead of rushing, take your time and make sure you come up with high-quality photographs. That way, you are likely to get good reviews and clients will recommend you. 

● Study camera settings. The way you set your camera up does matter. The best camera setting for still life photography are fast shutter speed, low ISO, and narrow aperture.

● Add your own personality to the photographs. A client will have come to you for a reason. Costs may play a role, but at the end of the day, it is the photographs you take that really matter. They sell you as photographer. 

In Conclusion

It is now time to get started. Only your creativity can hold you back. As a product photographer, you do need to focus on the job. At the same time, you should play.

That is how you learn more about photography and make a name for yourself. Most product photographers are hired for the way they “create” photographs. Remember that every picture should tell a story and have something special to say about the object that you are photographing.

if you’re looking to increase your online conversion but still feel you are not sure where to start – check out these resources below:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Phone
Email
New Order
Scroll to Top

Can’t get enough?

We are pretty sure our newsletter is worth your attention.