Still Life Photography
You will find many definitions of “Still Life Photography” on the Internet. It can be a little confusing if you are new to this type of photography, or photography in general. This is NOT a post about “HOW” to do Still Life Photography—that topic is huge. This post is mainly to help familiarize you with knowing the ingredients of Still Life Photography, and knowing the difference between photographing Still Life subjects in the Studio compared to “Finding Still Life Subjects in your Environment.” (That is an important statement that I will touch on soon—below).
There are MANY definitions of “Still Life Photography” on the Interwebs; nevertheless, many of these definitions of the Still Life genre include the following similarities:
1) Your subject is an inanimate object
2) Your subject can be one, or more than one. It can be one or more subjects — a grouping of subjects.
3) You, the Photographer, control the subject (Or not — depending on the type of Still Life Photography you are undertaking — This is to be explained below in the Environmental Still Life Photography section).
4) You, the Photographer, may control the lighting (I will explain soon, my difference in approaching Studio Still Life Photography and Environmental Still Life Photography).
5) You, the Photographer, may control the background and foreground materials and props (Again, there is a difference for me when approaching Studio or Environmental Still Life work).
- Those are five good aspects of Still Life Photography that the Photographer may, or may not manipulate, depending on the type of Still Life Photography, your intent, and your goals in creating still life images.
Here is where the River Parts Ways when Discussing Still Life Photography
These Photography Genres (Styles, or Specialties) have already been mentioned; nonetheless, I will officially state now that there are two types of Still Life Photography—Let’s go over what they are, and the differences:
1) Studio Still Life Photography.
2) Environmental Still Life Photography.
Studio Still Life Photography:
In Studio Still Life Photography, the Photographer controls EVERYTHING, or that is, IF skilled enough, will attempt to control every aspect and part of the still life photography shoot. If you are working for a client, then THEY MAY ATTEMPT to control everything! That’s a WHOLE OTHER can-of-worms, and it does not concern this post.
Invariably, in Studio Still Life Photography, the Photographer will (or should) formulate the still life shoot before it even begins, perhaps, by drawing sketches and making notes on the set-up of the shot, and the desired outcome. At least, this is something that I ATTEMPT to do so I have some idea of which direction I’m heading with the shoot, before I begin.
In the Studio Environment, the Photographer can control the subject, the foreground, the background, the props, the equipment, and the lighting—Basically everything can be manipulated by the Photographer to get the desired outcome.
What Question Do I Ask Myself Before I Design a Studio Still Life Photograph?
I have one question I ask myself before I begin work on a Studio Still Life Photograph:
“I have this subject (or, a subject & a concept), and now what can I do with it to make an interesting composition?”
I start with the subject, and only then do I know where my thinking needs to go regarding table-top materials, background materials, foreground materials, accessories, props, lighting, and camera equipment.
Here are some Examples from My Studio Still Life Photography Collection
☆ See my Studio Still Life Photography Series at this #imagekind link:
Environmental Still Life Photography
“For me, Environmental Still Life Photography is more individualistic in its process: I do NOT start out with a subject—and typically, the shoots are NOT planned. Studio Still Life Photography is meticulously planned! If anything, Environmental Still Life subjects appear to me as Pleasant Random Encounters!”
Environmental Still Life Photography Subjects “Just Happen!”
I would say that Environmental Still Life Photography subjects come to me out-of-the-blue, by accident, random, and unplanned.
I will be walking along some road, hopefully, having my camera in hand, and then I see it — an interesting subject strikes my eye and I know that I can design an Environmental Still Life Photograph out of it.
I have certain rules I go by when creating Environmental Still Life Photography, which is different from my Studio Still Life Photography approach:
- I DO NOT manipulate the subject(s). If I don’t like the angle or point-of-view, then I move myself, but not the subject.
- I rarely use artificial light to design Environmental Still Life Photography.
- I use the natural foreground and background in the photographs (include them or exclude them, but DON’T add to them artificially), and I don’t add any extra props to these settings.
What Question Do I Ask Myself Before I Design an Environmental Still Life Photograph?
I have one question I ask myself before I begin work on an Environmental Still Life Photograph:
“That is an interesting subject — Now that this great subject has found me, how can I compose a thought-provoking image?”
☆ I may, or may not, use computer software “magic” to change the look of Studio and Environmental Still Life photographs.
Examples from My Environmental Still Life Photography Series
Title: “One Slipper in the Rain.”
Creation Date: 17 January 2019.
Series: Environmental Still Life Photography.
Series Years: 2017-2019 (On-going).
Copyright 2019 Nawfal Johnson
All Rights Reserved.
“There isn’t very often, a time when I want to rush and quickly take out my camera and take a shot. However, when I noticed the lonely slipper in the rain, with raindrops, leaves, and vertical shadows, I did rush for an umbrella so I could go out in the rain and make this image.”
☆ You can buy a High-Quality Print, or an Art Canvas of this Image, from my Fine Art Sales Gallery, at #Imagekind ! Please click on the following link to see your many fine art photograph options:
☆ See my Environmental Still Life Photography Series at this #imagekind link:
There are definitely differences in Studio and Environmental Still Life Photography.
Studio Still Life shoots are very strategically and painstakingly planned and executed. Environmental Still Life shoots, for me, are glorious discoveries, which are not pre-planned. Not just any subject will catch my eye and “force” me to take out my camera and photograph it. The subject must have some special quality, or produce some interesting effect (e.g. cool shadows, etc.), for me to be interested enough, and to spend the time to compose a shot.
IN SHORT, The Way I Work…
■ Studio Still Life Photography is Planned.
■ Environmental Still Life Photography is Random.