Still life photos are a great way of telling creative visual stories. Whether you’re capturing your images for social media, business, fine art, or just for personal memories, styling plays a crucial role in the message communicated an image. In some cases, you may be in a crunch time to snap a pic of sometime, while in Other moments you have control over your images and props.Here are a few tips to help you get a pro-quality still life photo in different situations.
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1. Consider your storytelling
What are you shooting the photo for? It could one of the following reasons: Capture memories to reminisce on, show your day to day business activities, make people want a product, or become the background image of a Pinterest graphic. The answer to this question will help you find a starting point for your story
2. Develop Consistent aesthetic or theme
When shooting photos for your brand, its best to have a dear aesthetic or theme for your visuals. Is your brand theme modern, vintage, or minimal? Pick a theme and make sure your image styling matches it. If you like modern themes, check out my other post How to Create a Modern Aesthetic.
3. Gather Inspiration
Almost every masterpiece has been inspired from another. Don’t be ashamed of looking at someone else’s work to get ideas for your work. Just know the difference from being inspired versus copying. There are a variety of places to get photo inspiration, such as Instagram, Pinterest, and more. Also, consider looking for inspiration outside of just photography. Look at paintings, illustrations, 3D renders, or even sculptures. You’d be amazed how much you can be inspired from other mediums of art.
4. Plan out your image
You can plan your images by gathering inspiration, making test images, or even making sketches. Of course, this only works if you arrange a controlled photoshoot. If you’re capturing images on the fly, you may just want to keep a general not of the type of objects and settings you want to capture for your brand, so you can quickly respond when you stumble upon them.
5. Pay Attention the Background and Props
You may or may not have a lot of control over the image background and props. The key is to make everything has a nice visual flow and compliments each other. That means removing distractions and irrelevant props, and also considering colors and overall staging.This where your color theory and composition understanding come into play. If this is a styled shoot you have full control over, make sure you are carefully picking the right props and background for your theme. Check my other post How to Pick The Best Props for Your Instagram Theme. If you have limited control over the situation; try rearranging what you can, take advantage of different angles, make the best of available lighting, and consider making changes in post (editing phase).
6. Remember, less is more
Even if your theme Is not focused on minimalism, you don't have to crowd your image with props uses overly detailed backgrounds. Crowded images will only distract your viewers from your message. need help styling? Here are some great posts to help with composition and styling:
A Complete Guide to Styling Photos for Your Instagram & Blog by Chiatra a Pink Pot Studio
How To Style Flat Lays by Small Talk Social
Blogger Tips & Tricks for Styling & Shooting by A Thoughtful Place
7. Don't blow too much money on props
Unless the perfect you're shooting will earn enough to pay for them, watch your budget when buying props. Dollar Stores are my best friends when hunting for photo props. Also see what's already available on your own. Some people keep tags and receipts for prop purchases. I'm not a huge fan of this personally because I like to Consider the expense of restocking or repairing returned Items. But if this works for you, to each his own I'm no judge. Here is a great post on 10 Photo Props Under $10 by Think Creative Collective
8. Understand Color Theory
Color is a powerful way of evoke emotion into your viewers and making your brand stand out. To get a cohesive theme you'll need to have a general understanding of color works along with how it responds with different forms of light. These understandings are important from the beginning planning Stages of Shooting all the way to post / editing stage. Here are some great resources to help you understand color theory:
Color Theory for Designers by Smashing Magazine
Introduction to Graphic Design: Expressing Emotions with Color Theory Skillshare Course by Dominic Flask
Thinking in Color: Intro To Color Theory Skillshare Course by Kristen Jaworowski
9. Understand and play with lighting
Similar to a tip I mentioned in my other post, it’s crucial to get a general understanding of lighting to creating breathtaking images. From time to time you may capture beautiful lighting from a happy accident, but a deeper knowledge of how light works will allow you to have more control of your imagery. Once you get the basic knowledge down, start playing with light. Experiment with natural light, available light, and controlled lighting. Try using some forms of artificial light rather it is professional strobes, LEDs, or simple work lights from Home Depot. Then from there try mixing artificial and natural lighting and see what you get.
10. Fix problems in post
You’ll hear most photographers push to get the image correct in camera, and I am also one to strongly recommend that. Heck, I'm a retoucher and push getting things rent in camera. I love retouching but nothing's more annoying than focusing On small tissues that have been easily fixed before the shutter released. But sometimes you don't have the time or control to get certain images perfect in Camera. If it's not a controlled styled photoshoot you might have to capture the best you can get in a short moment and worry about the rest in post-1 editing. Those fixes may include small distraction removal to object rearrangement.
11. Play with composition
Learn the rules of composition, but don't be afraid to break them. One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t always have to keep your props and objects inside of the frame. Let some of them leak out past the frame. It can make your images more engaging and dynamic. Keep in mind what your purpose for this image is when deciding your composition.
Check out this FREE Skillshare course on Composition: Frame a Great Shot
12. Consider Different Lenses
As pricey as lenses can be, consider investing in one or two lenses that are great for still life photography. A common lens type that is recommended is prime lens, you can also consider macro, micro, or specialty lenses depending on your goals. Check out this post by SLR Lounge about lenses for still life photography.
*Bonus Tip* | Use presets and actions
While I strongly recommend learning the basics of editing and programs before turning to presets and actions. These are tools to help Keep your style consistent, dust doesn't use them as magical crutches. Make sure you are getting accurate exposures and lighting first. Then understand how to tweak presets and actions to give you desirable results for each unique photo.
Check out this product on Creative Market specifically designed for Editing Product Photography
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For creating a cohesive editing style, check out my Insta-Theme Lightroom Preset series. Each collection contains 10-20 Lightroom Presets to help you develop your editing style for your Instagram, business, or blog. Check out the most popular from the series here:
Got any extra tips of your own? Please share them in the comments below!