Compose symmetrical photos properlyWhile this next tip may sound overly simplistic and obvious, it’s remarkable how many people don’t care to balance their compositions symmetrically. Take a look at this figure of an artist’s studio in the famous Fabrica la Aurora art complex in Mexico. Because the doorway is symmetrical, we can safely ignore the rule of thirds. Place your still life subject, in this case the potted cactus plant, dead-center in the frame.
The rule of thirds is a fantastic tool for nonsymmetrical scenes, but often not the best looking when the background is perfectly symmetrical.
Arrange foliage to catch the setting sunIf your chosen still life subject matter are live plants or flowers from a field or forest, make use of the setting sun to provide backlight. The sun will hit the back of the foliage, which creates a beautiful warm glow, as in the following figure.
If you’re averse to picking the foliage, you can still catch the sunlight by simply by moving the stem of the plant so that it sticks up above the rest of the foliage. If you have a friend with you, this process of repositioning the fern will be much easier.
Follow the equidistance principleWhile not a deal-breaker, when composing a still life scene, such as these Japanese books, follow the principle of equidistance. Equidistance means that the most important part of your subject should have a surrounding space that is equivalent on the opposing sides.
Take a look at the blue arrows in the figure. The white-space distance between the top corners of the books is pretty much equal. Similarly, the red arrows show equidistance vertically.
Don’t feel that you need to slavishly follow the principle of equidistance. It’s only a guide or suggestion that you can safely ignore as you like. Remember, it’s always best to know the rules first, and then you can break them.
Create both color and black-and-white versionsChoosing one of the three black-and-white filters for your still life photo has a lot of value, as black-and-white still life images traditionally tend to be considered more artistic. That doesn’t have to be true necessarily, as, of course, art can and should be in color. So then, why not add value to your collection by taking both a color and a black-and-white version of your photo?
You can either take a photo in black and white and then color or just take one photo in color and then convert it to black and white later within your iPhone’s Photos app.