Photography Cheat Sheet: Shooting Classic Still Life

If you’re thinking about giving classic still life photography a try, let this photography cheat sheet serve as you’re quick guide.

While it can‘t be helped that we‘re limited to taking photos indoors, there are still a bunch of things we can do to stay productive as photographers. Among them is picking up a new skill or trying out a new genre to challenge yourself. Classic still life is perfect for this occasion, since you most likely have everything you need to practice. Here’s a quick photography cheat sheet to help you get started.

In the cheat sheet below by Digital Camera World, we are given some camera settings to begin practicing classic still life photography. There’s an emphasis on “classic” here, and we’ll get to that in a bit.

For your first shot, set your camera to Landscape exposure mode, manual focus mode, f11 for aperture, and ISO 100. These will ensure you get photos as sharp and clear as possible. Adjust your settings as necessary, then take note of the additional tips below to improve or fine-tune your shot.

The key to effective classic still life photos is simplicity, low-key lighting, sculpting shadows, and a solemn mood. Dark backgrounds like dark-colored curtains will help set not only the mood but also make your still life subjects stand out. To complete the look, position the light source (if you’re using one) to create a side-light on the subject, or simply set up your scene next to a window and have it lit from the side.

Since classic still life photography borrows the aesthetics of still life paintings, your best bet to get the right mood and look is by studying the classic works of iconic still life artists like Rembrandt and Caravaggio. If the former sounds familiar, he’s actually the namesake of the Rembrandt lighting typically used for dramatic portrait lighting.

For finishing touches, you can also add a fitting Photoshop filter (Filter > Filter Galllery > Artistic) to enhance your results.

Liked these photography tips and tricks? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!

Cover photo by Elena Codau. Used with Creative Commons permission.