Home sweet home – still life photography in a home setting

Back in June, my husband and I went to Denver, to visit an old friend of his. Her house, where we stayed, is small and tastefully decorated. It does feel like home. Among the various decorations there, I fell in love with a plate of natural fruit strategically placed over an old, wooden kitchen table. The fruit remained untouched throughout our stay, and I spent quite some time looking at how light changed the aspect of the arrangement, depending on the time of the day and on whether the door and windows were closed or open. I took the photograph above handheld, and without the aid of artificial lights, reflectors or diffusers.

Although the featured photograph is appealing to me and brings me good memories, it is not considered a “good picture”. In still life, and food photography in general, it is not desirable to have crossed shadows. If you look closely at the featured photograph, you will notice three crossed shadows of different strengths. In a professional context, this looks amateurish.

Some tips on still life photography

Still life photography is usually done with one main light source, positioned at seven or eight o’clock with respect to the subject, from the right- or left-hand side. Other, optional sources of light, if used, should have a lower potency and not create shadows. They can be used as fill light, softening the shadows from the main light source, as desired. Sometimes, particularly in some types of food photography, the main light source can be positioned across from the camera, to highlight texture. 

Below is a typical simple setting for still life photography. The light coming from the left hand side, a reflector on the right hand side to soften the shadows, and a backdrop.

Still life is a type of photography that one can do at home using mundane objects and food. This makes it is accessible to people during lockdowns (we now know that these can happen), people with mobility problems, or to anyone willing to photograph when the weather is bad .

The proximity and wide availability of still life subjects, however, does not mean that still life photography is easy. It does require a lot of patience. Sorting, cleaning, arranging, and properly lighting a composition take a good deal of time. Since newer cameras and lenses see EVERYTHING, dust, stains, fingerprints and other undesirable cosmetic elements need to be removed before one clicks the shutter. Furthermore, as one gets into this type of photography, one may feel the need to acquire specialized backgrounds, backdrops and props, which can become quite expensive, or time-consuming if you want to make your own. 

My still life photography work

I used to have great interest in still life photography. My old work on my pixels site featured flowers, books, conceptual and food and beverages whereas my latest work on GeoGalleries features fruit from the California harvest. Even though people seemed to like these types of photographs when I posted those on social media, prints never sold consistently. Sales of my still life photographs through stock photography agencies are also slow, and for those reasons, I decided to concentrate more on other genres of photography.

Reference book

If you have interest in still life photography, I particularly recommend Kevin Best’s Still Life Photography book, which can only be purchased as a kindle version (not an affiliated link).  

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Wall Art Botanical Images

Wall Art Photography projects

Wall Art landscapes and miscellaneous

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Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

9 thoughts on “Home sweet home – still life photography in a home setting

  1. Interesting explanation. I did look at the initial image before reading the text and I had decided that I didn’t really think it was up to your usual standards, without knowing just what was wrong. The lighting just seemed off and somewhat flat. Your explanation makes it all clearer! Then I looked at your link to the book and found I had bought it in 2016! Now I need to find it in my Kindle library!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think your still life’s have been great. I personally wouldn’t base your thoughts about them or their quality based on whether or not they sell on stock photography sites. Those purchases aren’t based so much on artistic value as they are for their ability to be used in advertising etc

    Liked by 1 person

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