Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tips for Photographing Still-Lifes

Still-life photos are beautiful taken outdoors in the summer
months.  Simply gather some of your favorite items
or poke around your house for interesting things to add to
your still-life.
My friend Carol was out for her daily walk and found this chair
in somebody's garbage.  She actually carried it for a full mile
to her house thinking I could use it as a photo prop!
I spray painted it pink and was excited to use it for a still-life photo.
My friend Rol lives on a few acres of land and much of it
is untouched nature.   I look along the edge of his driveway
for seasonal wildflowers or tall grasses.

I don't have to go too deep into the thick of things to find
beautiful settings for my still-lifes.
First I photographed with my still life facing the sun.
You can see in this next photo that the scene is flat and rather boring.
I see annoying shadows on the chair which always happen
when a person or still-life is facing the sun.
This is why I much prefer to backlight.  I want to play with the light!
 I turned my scene around so the sun is shining behind my
still-life set up. 
I shot this while standing and it's still boring.
At this height, I am not capturing the sun shining through
the greens.  It looks flat and lifeless.
So, I stoop down and now I am seeing the light
in the background which gives the photo depth
and interest.
I shot this in aperture priority mode at f/11.
The tiny aperture allows for a deeper depth of field
so more of the scene is in focus.
Next, I opened the aperture all the way on my
Canon 50mm 1.4 lens.
A large aperture creates a shallow depth of field so much
less of the scene will be in focus.
Here I focused on the pink watering can and just about
everything else has some blur.
It's also MUCH prettier!  See how the light in the
background created beautiful blur?
That's called bokeh  (Pronounced BO-kah) and it is
highly desirable in photo backgrounds!
I played with different angles, but
notice I am still crouching down with my aperture open to get
that magical light and beautiful bokeh.
Look at the dramatic bokeh in close-ups!
Here's another still-life I shot in my backyard against
a dark green tree line.  Boring with no bokeh!
So I moved my still-life to an area of the tree line where the
trees were lower, thus I was able to infuse light and
create dazzling bokeh.
Bokeh is created by light shining around something and trees are
perfect for creating bokeh!   If your lens doesn't open to 1.4...
place your still life far away from your background to get the bokeh.
Moving just a tad, I was able to capture some
natural sun haze which I think is pretty.
Close-ups, shot low with sun and trees in the
background will create the pretty bokeh.
Find all kinds of fun things to photograph in your home.
Use interesting tables, chairs, table linens, vases, and flowers!
Fake flowers photograph beautifully.
To see my still-lifes from this summer, CLICK HERE.
These tips should light up your outdoor summer still-life photos.


  1. Thanks for the great tips! It is amazing to see the difference camera angle and aperture makes. Wonderful tutorial! :)

  2. Jill, I love reading all of your tutorials and I always learn something new. These images are gorgeous and inspire me to go shoot my own still life images.