How to Take Still-Life Photographs Using Your Digital SLR

Not every picture you take with your digital SLR has to show action or people. You can take charming, artistic still-life photographs. Arranging and photographing still lifes has the added bonus of letting you practice your craft on an uncritical subject.

1

Find a window that’s getting a fair amount of light and set up an impromptu studio on a table facing it.

Early morning or late afternoon light shining directly in the window casts a warm golden hue on your still life. Place a white sheet on the table and raise it at the end of the table. Tack the sheet into a wall behind the table or ask a friend to hold it upright. The sheet serves as the backdrop and the fabric upon which you place your objects.

2

Arrange the objects of your still life on the table.

A still life looks best when it’s comprised of an odd number of small objects, and the fewer the better. Five objects is a good upper limit; three is better yet. Antiques, kitchen items, and flowers are all good subjects.

3

Adjust your camera settings.

You want a shallow depth of field to draw attention to the still life, so use Aperture Priority mode and an aperture with an f/stop between f/4 for a small grouping or a single flower and f/7.1 for lots of flowers in a big vase. If you have nice light coming in, your ISO setting should be 200; go up to 400 as needed. A focal range of 85mm to 150mm lets you keep some distance or zoom in. Choose Single Shot drive and focus modes and turn on image stabilization if you have it.

4

Zoom in on your subject and position the auto-focus point over an object in the middle of your arrangement. Press the shutter button halfway to achieve focus.

If you’re going to print your still life, leave a bit of white space so that you can crop the photo suitable for framing. Use diagonal lines and be conscious of power points so that you compose an interesting image.

5

Take the picture.

A macro lens is ideal for zooming in tight on one flower. Afterwards, review the image to make sure the camera properly exposed the image and there are no obvious issues.

 
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