How to take a nature-morte photo?


Working with inanimate objects allows you to spend time perfecting your lighting scheme and experimenting with composition. It's a very enjoyable way to photograph, and you don't need any unique  equipment. It's also a great way to learn lighting and composition, key elements of any style of photography.

Still-life photography was always one of the most popular due to the static nature of the subject. Even with the development of technology, the popularity and relevance of still life have not disappeared.

If we talk about professional still-life photography, this is also a very profitable business, since such photographs are used in all kinds of magazines, catalogs, and websites. There are many advantages to working with still life that are often neglected. Below you will find some basic rules for still life photography and you might be interested in this genre.

You don't need a studio or any place to start photographing still lifes. You can start by making a simple space at home, with window lights and a simple background to help you.

When photographing still life, you need to consider much less detail to create a frame than working with landscapes or shooting models. As you prepare to shoot and think about your future photography, you have much more control over the position of your subjects.

Ideas and compositions of nature-morte photos

compositions of nature-morte photos

It is essential to know the details and be prepared to take really professional photographs.

  1. You need to study the 10 works of the artists carefully before shooting. Take at least one day for this. It will not be superfluous to browse works by renowned painters and photographers. Pay attention to the lighting scheme, depth, and softness of shadows, texture, location, the number of objects, and color composition.
  2. Think about the story that your still life should tell.
  3. Make a sketch. Your skill as a draftsman doesn't matter. Some illustrations are needed to imagine the future. Consider a color scheme (warm, cool, dominant shades).
  4. Determine the "character" by picking up items.
  5. Use no more than 3-7 items. That's enough for a start. Gradually add objects to the frame, starting with the "main character". Remove, change position if you feel discomfort.
  6. Use strong points of the golden ratio. Place the main intersections of lines, objects, highlights in them. Most often, the glance moves from left to right. Try to place the most significant objects in strong points to the left of the center of the frame. Rules are important but you don't need to be afraid to experiment.
  7. Combine different textures and shapes. For example, a shiny metal dish or a glass decanter among matte fruits. And then your photography can be one of the best features of art galleries.
  8. Achieve maximum sharpness of details and textures. Arrange the main subjects to fall within the depth of field of your lens. You should not carry objects over considerable distances into the depth of the composition if you do not have the task of removing the rear objects from the field of focus.

Inspect your composition from the point where the camera will be placed.

Lighting for still life photos

Lighting for still life photos

The light affects how your photo will look, so these points must be taken into account to make beautiful still-life photographs.

  1. The light source is on the left. If you are shooting with a fixed light source (window, softbox, desk lamp), first place it on the left, at the level of your subject table.
  2. Try to achieve maximum softness of the light. Use the window on a cloudy day or when it is not exposed to direct sunlight (reflected light only). Use the softbox with an additional diffuser in front of it. This can be a standard travel diffuser (from a 5-in-1 set) or, for example, a sheet of tracing paper suspended from a crane.
  3. Use flags. For example, sheets of cardboard (preferably black) to shade the background and highlight the foreground or other important parts of the features of art galleries.
  4. Use reflectors. For example, stands for cakes from a candy store (they are cardboard, covered with yellow and white foil) for harder glare and reflections, sheets of white polycarbonate, or expanded polystyrene (sold in hardware stores), or just white cardboard - as reflector diffusers for soft shadow illumination.
  5. Avoid lightening the eyeshadow too much. Otherwise, the composition will look too flat.
  6. Gobo. Gobos help create an interesting light and shadow pattern. Make a do-it-yourself gobo from an old umbrella or a sheet of thick paper by punching holes in them and placing them between the light source and the composition. And then your photography can be one of the most interesting features of art galleries.
  7. Avoid too bright highlights. They can lead to a loss of texture, the appearance of an area of ​​absolutely white color in the picture.

Shooting process in nature-morte photos

Shooting process in nature-morte photos

Check out the technical part of the shooting process to avoid mistakes.

  1. Use lenses with a focal length of 85-100mm for full-frame sensors (50-65mm equivalent for APS-C sensors).
  2. Focus on the foreground of the main group of objects.
  3. Be sure to use a tripod. Your tripod should provide wide variations in height, and can place the center column horizontally.
  4. Focus carefully. Then turn off autofocus and image stabilization.
  5. Use the remote control. Wired or wireless will do. It will eliminate camera shake and avoid noticeable shake in the frame. And then your photography can be one of the most unusual features of art galleries.
  6. Shoot directly into your computer. Most modern cameras allow you to connect to a PC using a USB cable. Use a PC, laptop or tablet. This is very convenient for quickly and efficiently analyzing sharpness, lighting details, and other small details of the frame that are not visible on the camera screen. It is convenient to use Adobe Lightroom or software that camera manufacturers often develop (for example, Canon has EOS Utility and Digital Photo Professional).
  7. Shoot at the lowest standard ISO. Most cameras have 100-200 units. This will minimize the noise in your footage.
  8. Shoot at slow shutter speeds. This allows you to take well-lit still life photography even in low light (cloudy day, evening, weak light source).
  9. Clean the matrix. Any dust becomes more visible with long shooting. You can find information on how to clean the sensor in the instructions for your camera.
  10. Experiment with light and shadow. Don't try to shoot everything in one shot.
  11. Always shoot in RAW if your camera allows it. This will give you maximum flexibility in post-processing. And then your photography can be one of the best features of art galleries.
  12. Do not disassemble the composition immediately after shooting. Do not remove the tripod and camera from the shooting position. Often during post-processing, new ideas come up (for lighting, complementing the composition, etc.) and you have to complete the details.
  13. Postpone the photo for a day. After processing the image, do not look at it for about a day. After the rest, you will see better how successful it is.
  14. Reinforce the texture of objects. Sometimes it is interesting to cover objects with dust, giving them a shade of old age, "abandonment". To keep things clean or "dirty", avoid handling them with your bare hands; use rubber gloves.

Some Features of light brush

  1. Use a pocket torch with a halogen lamp. It gives light similar in temperature to daylight. However, diode flashlights are no less convenient: there are many of them, which means you can choose a convenient shape, size, power, color; they consume the battery more economically, which means they will last longer; they often have variable brightness - which is convenient for different shooting scenarios.
  2. Rehearse your brush movements. Before shooting, define the main areas that you want to illuminate, emphasize, and take in the shadows. Practice your brush movements so that it hits the lens as little as possible.
  3. Shoot a still life in the darkest possible location.
  4. Shoot with long exposure BULB if the camera allows. Control the shutter speed manually (remote control or laptop).
  5. Combine multiple frames. Shoot multiple shots, highlighting different areas, then combine the best elements in the photo editor.

Details of making a nature-morte photo

Details of making a nature-morte photo

Object selection

What you photograph is entirely up to you. If you look around, you can find a lot of interesting and captivating things that are worth a shot. Do not follow stereotypes and do not exclusively shoot flowers and fruits, there are many more possible subjects for shooting. Outside-the-box thinking is welcomed even in the most standard genre.

Pay attention to things around you, try to find images and subjects for a still life in ordinary everyday things. Look at this or that potential subject from different angles. When photographing, try to avoid reflective surfaces such as glass and metal, such surfaces can distort light and spoil the frame.

Tripod and shooting angles

Depending on the lighting, you may need to use a tripod. Using a tripod has a beneficial effect on still life photography, with its help you can observe the plot. Also, it will help you use long exposures and still create beautiful shots.

Try to make it so that the tripod does not limit you. Change the angles, do not be lazy to rearrange, or reconfigure the camera and mount it on a tripod in a new way. Otherwise, you will stop your work with a whole series of similar, even boring, frames with minor plot changes.

Background selection

The presence of a beautiful and successful background is already half the success of still life. It is best when the background when shooting is simple, beautiful so that it does not distract from the subjects of the still life. Monochromatic walls or a large sheet of white or colored paper with a simple pattern or no pattern at all are good backgrounds.

Think about how the background contrasts with the subject. If you do not want to shoot against a simple background, then think about what shade would look good and harmonious with your frame and could supplement the image. For small objects, you don't need a background, but instead, you need a surface for placing objects. Here, as a background, black velvet will look good, or just a solid black surface that absorbs light well.


There are many great possibilities in the editing stage. Various processes can completely change your still life. The HDR conversion process is very popular in this genre and it can be quite effective. Or you can play with layer masks with different exposures and paint on different areas of the image. 

Atmosphere and mood

The quality of the photos you create is influenced by the atmosphere and your mood. Moreover, this rule works not only when shooting still lifes. When you are relaxed, focused, and enjoying the filming process, you can be practically confident that your attempts will be successful. When photographing still life, it is important not to rush anywhere.

Unlike street and reportage photography, where the composition of the frame changes all the time and you need to have time to take the frame in time, the still life is static. It can take as long as you wish to create one still-life photograph. That is why you should pay attention to the little things and prepare for the shot as much as necessary. Set the lighting, subjects and take a closer look at what happens, if necessary, make adjustments and start shooting.

When shooting still lifes, your pictures shouldn't be fuzzy and blurry shots. You have unlimited time to focus. For product photography, a macro lens is perfect. If you don't have this type of optics, you can just try shooting in macro mode.

Inspiration in the classics

When creating your still lifes, thinking about lighting, compositions and ideas, do not forget to turn to the classics of the genre for help and inspiration. Picturesque still lifes have been created for hundreds of years. Perhaps you will find answers to many of your questions in paintings by Renaissance artists or contemporary photographers.

Studying the paintings will help you think about shapes, shades, and colors. The study of various solutions will lead to the creation of your unique still-life photography.

It's time to take pictures

Find the right day when you know for sure that you will not be distracted and in a hurry. Combine all the advice you have read and get ready to work.

Prepare the required still-life components, charge and set up the camera, take care of the lighting and create. You can try shooting with a maximum aperture of f / 1.8, if you have a fast lens, it will help in achieving artistic background blur.

Remember that still life is not only a composition of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, it can be anything. Find a subject that will inspire you and photograph it. Perhaps a photo box is useful to you.

Shooting still lifes as a source of income

There is a great demand for product photography, especially now, when there is a huge number of all kinds of magazines, and Internet sites. When photographing, do not hesitate to upload your photos to the Internet, you can even try registering on photo exchanges and promote your work there. The Internet has become the most effective way to find viewers.

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