Learning Still Life Photography: Shooting Flowers 101
After finishing up my 30-day portrait challenge I am ready to take a break from studio portraits and work on something that feels a little slower paced.
I have been considering different challenges for the month of April and after talking with a friend decided still life photography would be a great skill to develop. We have challenged each other to create a weekly still life image throughout the next month and I would love for you to join the challenge as well.
A short disclaimer: I am not an expert on still life photography, this is purely a new skillset that I would like to develop. I am going to document my attempts, failures, and the resources I use as a chance to help others interested in learning the same thing.
If you know of a better technique or have tips to share please feel free do to so in the comments section.
The light setup is simple enough for everyone to do in their own home using a window and other materials that can be found on hand.
- I placed a black board behind the images and experimented with placing the flowers at several different angles toward the window. I used some black foam board to block light and as a negative fill. This was done in a largely intuitive way with a lot of experimenting.
- I had my camera on a tripod with a 2-second timer. This gave me time to shadow the scene as desired and avoid camera shake from my longer exposures.
- I used my live view option and checked my focus by zooming in on the part I wanted sharp before pressing the shutter.
For this image I photographed through the cellophane the flowers were packaged in to give it a muted look.
I first admired these roses as I passed by them in the florist section of our local super market. I was still thinking about them as I headed toward the checkout counter so I looped back around to snag them. I am very glad I did as I am still photographing them 2 weeks later.
I think they become even more interesting to photograph as they wilt and die.
I enjoy processing still life, non-human images so much more than my people portraits.
For people, I tend to edit my images in a very simple manner, it makes me uneasy to digitally change someone’s appearance so that they look “better”. I don’t mind getting rid of blemishes but anything beyond that makes me feel squeamish.
I really had fun letting my creative hair down with these edits. I don’t feel the same ethical and moral issues with flowers that I face when retouching people.
Here is my SOOC (straight out of camera) image versus my edited version. This is pretty hardcore editing for me. Again, my processing is usually very simple.
It felt slightly wrong to convert such lovely colors to black and white, but I am a major sucker for B&W images so I had to give it a go.
Photographing just one subject, the roses, was a very gentle way to step into the world of still life photography. If you are a beginner to this, like me, I would recommend you start with very simple compositions and subject matter.
I love the complex still life scenes with multiple subjects from the dutch painter Jan Davidsz. de Heem and the master Italian painter Caravaggio.
I don’t know if I will ever build such complicated scenes as their own. If I do, I will need to work up to it in a slow and methodical manner. Starting small and simple is the best way for me to learn.
Of course, I could not resist photographing my daughter with the flowers.
Sigma 50mm macro lens.
For the portrait with my daughter, I used the Paul C Buff 22 inch beauty dish and a reflector.
All processing was done using Lightroom.
- I can edit images with a heavier hand for non-human subjects then I personally would for people portraits.
- The dodge and brush tool are your friends when processing flower images.
- Negative fill and blocking light when used subtly can make a big impact on the overall feel of the image.
- Try a variety of angles with your subject, your light, and your camera.
I would love to see if you are inspired to create your own still life images. If you have any tips or recommendations feel free to leave them in the comments.
Disclaimer: I have several affiliate links in this post to equipment I personally use and recommend. If you purchase any items through the links you will be supporting my blog and I thank you for that.