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Simple methods for creating better still lifes

The post Simple Methods for Creating Still Still Life Images first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Charlie Moss.

Many find photographing still images a real challenge when they are just starting out, because it can be difficult to know where to start. But taking the time to create a great still life can be a rewarding and somewhat meditative pastime for photographers.

Still life photography can help you sharpen your photographic skills at your own pace while still creating work that can be used in a portfolio or printed for your wall. But styling tabletop images does not come naturally for all photographers, so here are some simple things to think about when shooting still life next time.

Choose props for color and mood

This might be a good time to freshen up your color knowledge, because you'll really need it when it comes to taking still life photos! Everything, including the colors, in your still life scene will be there because you put it there. Nothing needs to come to your tabletop studio if you don't want to include it in your recording.

Colors can be a way to introduce harmony or contrast. For example, if you photographed something blue, and you used blue and green backgrounds, you would have a very harmonious and possibly calm image. On the other hand, if you add yellow or oranges to the scene, this would create tension and result in a more dynamic overall feel for the shot.

You can add colors to your still lifes in different ways. Backgrounds, fabrics, plates, bowls, vases – all of these items are props that you can collect to build a color library of props. Also don't forget natural objects such as flowers and leaves; they can often really bring a photo to life.

Select additional backgrounds

Your backgrounds will often be the most dominant colors in your scene, so choose wisely (it's also hard to change it once you've started arranging your props). Choose your backgrounds based on the feeling you want to create in your final image.

Backdrops can be anything that works with the scene you are creating. It can be a marble worktop, a beautiful old farmhouse table or a complementary piece of fabric. Which also helps to determine the atmosphere for your images.

In addition to the color of your background, also consider the texture. A worn, black-baked old baking sheet creates a completely different feeling for draped silk. Consider the way in which different backgrounds make you feel like you are selecting them for your scenes and determine if that is true for the kind of story you are trying to tell in your photo.

After a while you build up a library with different backgrounds to use in your recordings. You can then create a whole range of different image styles by turning off the background. Keep your eyes open when you are out and about for potential backgrounds to add to your library!

Think about texture

I love to include texture in my still life photos & it has now become part of my style. Washing shops in stores and artists for interesting textured table linen, bowls and backgrounds for my still life images are favorite activities.

Along with all the other elements of a still-life image, texture can really help set the mood. Do you photograph something rustic whose story can be helped by the introduction of a beautiful, coarse fabric? Or maybe you are shooting a more modern scene that would benefit from shiny backgrounds and smooth, shiny props?

It also adds interest and depth to your final image. If you look around the room you are in, you are sure that you will see a whole series of different textures. Maybe you have a soft leather chair with a velvet cushion on it, next to a wooden coffee table with weathered wood. Our lives are a riot of different textures, and these affect our senses both visually and by touch.

Because you cannot touch the objects in a photo, you have to tell the viewer what they look like. Texture is the most important way to visually convey how something would feel if you reached and touched the photo. Keep in mind what the textures in your photo tell your viewer.

Make a start, middle and end

Just like a good story, a photo needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Except that we usually refer to these things as foreground, center and background when it comes to visual stories. Creating a layered effect in your photos helps create depth in a two-dimensional object.

Try to create your still life scenes intentionally. For starters, place your main object approximately where you think it would be. It helps if you place your camera on a tripod for this, because you can keep the frame and focus consistent.

After you have placed your main object, you try to create some foreground interest. These can be some leaves when you are photographing flowers, or perhaps the curled corner of table linen when you are photographing food. Everything that involves the eye in the shot without distracting too much from the main focal point is good. You want something that contributes to the story.

Finally, place a background element in your scene. In the above photos ' s I have added a yellow napkin that both creates interests and adds a contrasting color, but you could be more subtle. Your background itself could also be your background element if it were sufficiently interesting! It should be like a "full stop" on your composition; end the viewer's attention in the same way that a point ends a sentence.

You may find it easier to play with composition colors and shapes for the foreground and background if you use a small depth of field. If you display these elements as out of focus in your scene, this helps to keep the viewer's attention on the main focus of your image.

Post-process an image in post-processing

There is no rule in creative still life photography that says that the colors must be lifelike. Using different colors – or even turning your digital files black and white – can result in a change of mood and story.

Processing still images in Adobe Lightroom allows you to create duplicates of images and try out different color treatments, while you can compare them side by side. It is also great for conversions in black and white. The best thing about Adobe Lightroom is that the editing is completely non-destructive for the original file. This means that you can try everything from wild colors to something more conservative and always go back to the original file.

In a previous article I have covered the color of your still life photos. It can evoke different moods and bring out different colors. It can also help to make items really jump off the page if you use color correction in a way that emphasizes your main subject.

Color correction of your recordings can also contribute to a more coherent style in your work. You do not always have to treat the colors in the same way in your images, but over time you may find that you seem to pick up a style, the more you photograph. This can help to make your work recognizable as you may find desirable.

Put everything together

Now that you know the simple ways in which you can improve your still life photos, it's time for you to try it. Get some inspiration, take some photos ' s and then come back and show them to us in the comments!

Don't be afraid to work slowly and try new things when photographing still lifes. The objects in your scene are not going anywhere, and they will not be without patience as a portrait subject that will! Also remember that you do not have to show the images to anyone if you are not completely satisfied with them.

The post Simple Methods for Creating Still Still Life Images first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Charlie Moss.

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