Working with static subjects can be surprisingly difficult. For photographers accustomed to working with live models, styling details by hand can be a challenging hurdle to overcome. Luckily, there are a few guidelines beginners can employ to refine any still life. Content creation studio Mango Street Lab produced the following tutorial as a styling blueprint for any photographer looking to bring still subjects to life:
Choosing the Right Perspective
Many still life photographers choose between three straightforward angles: the bird’s eye view, the straight on perspective, and the 45 degree angle. There’s a time and place for each view. Experiment with each if you’re unsure of how you’d like to show off your subject. If you have trouble getting the angle you’d like, use a step stool or ladder rather than straining yourself. Regardless of the perspective you choose, be sure that the lines within your frame are straight.
Filling in the Composition
One of the biggest mistakes most people make when styling still life shots is leaving too much negative space within the frame. Instead, opt to allow your subjects to overflow outside of camera’s view. It implies a larger scene going on just out of our sight and makes for a more inviting final composition. Creating this effect is as simple as spreading out props to the edges of the image’s frame. That being said, be wary of over crowding your image with too many elements at once.
Thinking About the Mood
Believe it or not, the positioning of inanimate objects can play a huge role in the feelings your image evokes. For instance, take into consideration that shapes often have subconscious gender connotations applied to them. Often times, straight lines and harsh angles can be interpreted as masculine. On the other hand, more feminine curves and organic shapes are often preferred in food photography, as they’re naturally inviting. Determine what message you’d like to convey through your still life, and then ask yourself whether the image you’re working with is in line with what you’d like to say.
Of course, there are lots of other things that professionals take into consideration when arranging an image. But, finding the perspective, composition, and mood that work best for the image you’re trying to make is essential in creating something truly appealing. Don’t overthink still life photography. The best strategy is to play around, experiment, and try to find an arrangement that’s both imaginative and enticing.
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