5 Still Life Lighting Tips for Beginners

posted on 16th of october, 2009

I'd like to share with you a quite useful note from Digital Photography School web-site:

Lighting is the single most important element of “Still Life” photography. The way a photographer uses light for still life will add mood, give context, provide interest, and ultimately, create a dynamic still life photograph. Lighting for still life is not complicated. In fact, stick to these 5 tips, and you will nail your still life shots every time.

1. Use an simple backdrop: Wrinkles and ridges in a still life photograph - unless a part of the setting - will be distracting to your main subject. Be vigilant about keeping your backdrops smooth and simple.

2. Make your lighting contrasty: Whether you are using strobes, speedlights, or LED’s, it’s important that your “ratio” from one light to the next is varied. The main light should be strongest, and the second light should simply provide a nice fill.

3. Light directionally: Side light is always most effective for bringing out texture and creating dynamic variation between the highlights and shadows. Whether rings, or florals, side light will enable you to give dimension and depth to your still life imagery.

4. Pay attention to your angles: Two things to think about when faced with a studio lighting scenario. a). The position of the lights to your subject and b). the position of your subject to the camera. Side light will give dimension, but so also will the angle at which you take your shot [ie. side, above, below, etc.]. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change up angles. A photo is most interesting when you give a new perspective to something that is ordinary.

5. Light for shape: We see life 3 dimensionally. For this reason, the most dynamic photographs are the ones in which the audience could walk into the scene, or reach out and touch the subject. Lighting for shape will be most emphasized by side light, when your highlights spread along the edge of your subject and add that 3rd dimension.

Whether or not commercial Still Life is an area you want to enter professionally, practicing in a still life context will give you a better understanding of directing light for maximum photographic impact.


Search results on DT by a "still life" keyword gives 86,301 related images! But by no means you can really consider all of them as a good still life example.

I chose some ones that might be considered to be a still-life model (of course, from my POV):

© Mist (Help)

And in conclusion some of still life attempts from a beginner (it's me):

Thank you for reading!

Comments (18)

Posted by Laurasinelle on August 21, 2010
thanks for sharing the tips, lovely pictures too!
Posted by Cmoulton on August 20, 2010
Lighting is my single biggest challnge of all in photography. Thanks for posting this wonderfully helpful blog on the subject :)
Posted by Mimnr1 on February 07, 2010
When I see your pictures I remember that photography is an art, not just physics.Thank you !
Posted by Davidwatmough on November 13, 2009
Very impressed by the images you include in your posting. Will now look at your portfolio. David.
Posted by Yuritz on October 29, 2009
thanks for sharing and nice advices,beautiful pictures too!
Posted by Fsali on October 26, 2009
Thanks for the great tips we beginners need all the help we can get,
beautiful photos. I was away from dreamstime for a while and now I am back hoping to start taking photos and uploading them.
Posted by Marilyngould on October 26, 2009
Beautiful images and great tips, thanks!
Posted by Tanyae on October 19, 2009
Big thanks all of you for responses and wishes! I also wish you success and pleasure in your work!
Posted by Ebamo on October 17, 2009
Very beautiful photographs you have,,,
thanks for the tips :) they are useful.
Posted by Creativei on October 16, 2009
Thank you very much for sharing these tips.
Posted by Wildmac on October 16, 2009
Very useful blog! Great images! Thank you for sharing :0)
Posted by Frantab01 on October 16, 2009
very useful blog, will def bookmark the site - thanks for sharing
Posted by Kenishirotie on October 16, 2009
Very helpful tips. Thanks for sharing...
Posted by Starblue on October 16, 2009
Hello and thanks for your nice blog! I love to take photos with studio lights, one can play with them so a lot - changing angles, intensioty, distance even sometimes colorful filters - for example a gold filter makes so warm tonality. :-) Beautiful blog and I wish you all to have nice time during "playing with lightning".
Posted by Keki on October 16, 2009
very interesting and helpful! thanks!
Posted by Littledesire on October 16, 2009
Very interesting and useful blog! Thanks for the info, Tanya!
Posted by Asyan on October 16, 2009
Thank you! very useful!
Posted by Fultonsphoto on October 16, 2009
Thanks for the tips, some great example images too.

Comments (18)

This article has been read 2922 times. 7 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Jiri Bursik, Michaela Stejskalova, Starblue, Tanyae, Zoom-zoom, Zuboff.

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