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20 Still Life Photography Ideas to Get You Inspired

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still life photography

Still life photography is an excellent training ground for beginner and experienced photographers alike. One of the main appeals of still life photography is experimenting with different textures, techniques, compositions, materials, and light sources in a controlled environment. You would be shocked to find out that even the most complex creative visions can be accomplished by tastefully arranging a series of inanimate objects. Still life photography is a great medium to experiment with because you are in complete control of your composition. 

However, it also gives you the responsibility of conveying a narrative and drawing the life out of what may otherwise be a boring subject. By combining balance, interesting geometrical configurations, playful lighting, and post-processing, you can drastically improve your photography skills and create beautiful compositions.. If you don’t know where to start, keep reading to draw inspiration from the following still life photography ideas.

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The 20 Still Life Photography Ideas to Get You Inspired

1. Make a Statement with Dimensional Typography


One of the most fun still life photography ideas involves experimenting with dimensional typography. Although this technique is primarily seen applied to food photography, you can let your imagination go wild and incorporate whatever you see fit. Dimensional typography allows you to convey a message using the help of your subject matter. By altering the composition of your photo, you can bring life to an inanimate object and tell its story.. Don’t forget to experiment with different textures, dimensions, and materials when using this technique for an endless amount of possibilities!

2. Blend Dimensions Using Sidewalk Chalk

chalk drawing on the sidewalk
Image Credit: Bru-nO, Pixabay

Creating a surreal photo does not require a complicated setup, expensive tools, or lots of expertise. Some of the most incredible photos can be created using sidewalk chalk, and it’s a fun and inexpensive medium that most people already have lying around. By drawing a 2D scene in sidewalk chalk and laying various 3D objects on top of it, you can blend dimensions to create surreal, mind-bending photos! This effect can be achieved using friends, but you can also get some really cool shots using ordinary household objects.

3. Add Some Life with Vibrant Flowers

beautiful vibrant flowers
Image Credit: Oldiefan, Pixabay

In traditional still life photography, flowers symbolize the progression of life, death, and the change of the seasons. Flowers also lend an element of grace to your photos with their beautiful simplicity and evocation of peace. They are also wonderful subjects for still life compositions as they are visually appealing, vibrant in color, and full of interesting detail.

4. Play with Texture Using Dishes

colorful dishes
Image Credit: JumpStory

An easy way to add an element of interest to your photos is by using the dishes in your cabinet as your subject. Dishes and other household wares vary in appearance, with some being smooth, shiny, opaque, matte, textured, rough, or irregular in shape. This adds an interesting element of texture to your shots and allows you to play with the reflections and glare in your photos.

5. Make Your Photos Shine Bright Using Jewelry

close up of a diamond ring
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

Pieces of jewelry are great subjects for still life photography because of the way they reflect light and mirror the surroundings around them. All types of jewelry are suited for still life photography, whether you use bracelets, shiny diamond rings, golden necklaces, or colorful earrings. Particularly, diamonds reflect light like no other stone, making them a great choice for experimenting.

6. Attract Attention with Unusual Angles

photo of a building from a low angle
Image Credit: Broesis, Pixabay

With still life photography, your subjects are completely under your control. Most people are used to seeing a certain object in a standard orientation, but that doesn’t have to be the case in your photos. You can instead orient your subject unusually, displaying them at uncommon angles and placing them in unique positions. You can also change the angle you are shooting from to twist the perspective of your viewers and attract their attention.

7. Stage Your Photo Like a Painting

vibrant fruit on a bowl and a yellow jar
Image Credit: Garreth Paul, Unsplash

When you think of traditional still life, you probably picture a standard subject such as a bowl of fruits on a counter or a vase of flowers sitting on a table. Likely, vintage and classical paintings also come to mind. You can jazz up your still life portfolio by recreating some of these classic works of art by staging your scene as if it was a painting. Think about incorporating fruits, glassware, interesting tablecloths, vintage clocks, rough cutting boards, and more. This will help your photo attract attention and invoke a sense of nostalgia.

8. Make Your Mouth Water with Food Photography

man taking picture of food
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Food is not only a great subject to photograph but also a great snack to enjoy after your shooting session too! There are almost endless possibilities and combinations when it comes to food photography, as this subject can be so versatile and personal. Start by photographing your favorite meal or fruit and see where it takes you.

9. Get the Party Started with Your Favorite Cocktail

cocktail drink
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Cocktail photography can be a fun challenge for more experienced photographers due to the complexity of managing the reflections glass vessels can produce. Although it is easy to photograph your favorite drink for your Instagram story on a Friday night out, understanding how light passes through glass and utilizing it to make the color and contents of a drink pop is a completely different game. Reflections can be tough to manage, but cocktails are very personal and can be manipulated in nearly any fashion for the execution of your ultimate creative visions.

10. Create A Tiny World in the Great Indoors

miniature houses
Image Credit: John Moeses Bauan, Unsplash

One of the best things about shooting still life photos is that they do not have to be limited to your reality. Instead, you can arrange a completely different scene using household objects, a little bit of arts and crafts, and the addition of tiny people.

11. Bring out Your Inner Child Using Toys

little dog and cat figures on the edge of glass
Image Credit: Bundo Kim, Unsplash

Using some of your favorite action figures, movie characters, superheroes, and other toys can be a great way to include an element of action to your photos. You can use toys to tell a story or even make a spinoff of your favorite fictional worlds.

12. Experiment with Patterns

shadow of metal stairs on the wall
Image Credit: Randy Laybourne, Unsplash

Patterns are a fun way to add an exciting twist to your photos by adding an element of regularity to your scene. Patterns can be created using almost anything, but they also occur naturally. Try creating patterns using different colors, shapes, textures, or individual items such as housewares or clothes.

13. Distort Reality with Glass Vessels

hand holding a glass ball reflecting its surrounding upside down
Image Credit: Anika Huizinga, Unsplash

Photographing glass is a complex task and difficult to get right. Due to the nature of glass, it is very easy to see any imperfections in the translucent material and mitigate unwanted reflections. However, glass can also be used to distort the scene behind it, allowing for an interesting and eye-catching visual effect.

14. Frame Your Subject

blue flowers with wooden frame
Image Credit: Debby Hudson, Unsplash

A fun twist on a still life scene can be accomplished by framing it as a painting. This technique can cause viewers to make a double-take and highlight the artistic characteristics of your photos. There are several frames available as well, from super intricate and detailed ones to more modern and simple models. Choosing the right frame can help you set the stage for the perfect shot and give viewers a new perspective on your photography.

15. Defy Gravity with a Delicate Balancing Act

banana on top of a vintage van toy
Image Credit: Berkin Üregen, Unsplash

You can create some exceptionally visually appealing photos with the help of a little post-processing magic. By stacking objects unusually, you can tell a story in your photos and highlight the interesting geometrical features of your subjects. Although this type of photography can be accomplished manually, a lot of the timeand editing software such as Photoshop are necessary.

16.  Pixelate Your Photos

string lights at a cafe
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Blurry, pixelated photos are generally the sworn enemy of most photographers, but when it’s intentional, pixelation can provide a unique and artistic effect. This effect is most easily achieved using food, which you can cut up into tiny cubes to achieve a pixelated look. By rearranging each individual cube, you can create a unique effect that is not only eye-catching but mind-bending as well.

17.  Style a Monochrome Photo


Although most people associate monochrome photos with bland shades of black and white, this does not have to be the case. Monochrome photos can also be produced by displaying subjects that are varying shades of a certain color. This allows the color to be refined and elevated through the use of different hues, tints, and shades that work together to create a desirable visual effect.

18.  Create Surreal Scenes by Combining Photos

the moon and a basketball ring
Image Credit: cocoparisienne, Pixabay

Still life photography gives you the power to alter reality and even add a surreal element to your photos. Some of the most impactful still life photographs actually combine multiple images to produce a desired effect using post-production software. By combining two unlike objects, you can create a visually appealing, creative, and unique image that is sure to catch the attention of anyone who comes across it

19. Don’t be Afraid to Zoom Out

cactus in the kitchen
Image Credit: TheVirtualDenise, Pixabay

Typical still life photos are constrained to a very small frame that just barely encompasses the subject. Subjects of this nature include bowls of fruit and vases of flowers on a countertop, which is what usually comes to mind when thinking about still life photography. However, you do not have to be constrained by this “traditional” technique and should embrace your subject’s surroundings and capture more of the scene. This can help provide viewers with more context and may even aid in the way your photo tells a story.

20. Try Your Hand at Photoshop

a deer on an iphone in a photoshopped picture
Image Credit: thommas68, Pixabay

Sometimes, the wildest creative visions have to be shot using the aid of complex lighting arrangements, intricate set design, expensive cameras, and cumbersome accessories that not everyone has access to. However, with a little bit of Photoshop magic, the same creative and unique effects can be achieved with minimal effort. Photoshop is an extremely powerful tool that all photographers should become familiar with as it can help elevate photos by multiple levels. Thankfully, there are several free resources for learning Photoshop, including online articles, Youtube videos, and books at your local library. Photoshop is a worthwhile program to learn and can help you achieve your wildest creative dreams.

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Overall, still life photography is a wonderful skill to learn that lays the foundations for more complex photographic techniques. It is a great technique for beginners.. However, even seasoned professionals find themselves returning to still life for inspiration. This type of photography is nearly limitless in scope and allows you to create your own reality by allowing you to take photos in an environment you are completely in control of. Although many people consider still life to be boring and monotonous, it is actually one of the most diverse types of photography and can create meaningful and impactful results. We hope that these still life photography ideas have given you the inspiration you need to take your next incredible photo.

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Featured Image Credit: Masha Rostovskaya, Unsplash

About the Author Laura Guziczek

Laura Guziczek is from New York City and an aerospace engineer by day, freelance writer by night. Although she is always moving around, Laura is currently based on Florida's sunny Space Coast, where she attends graduate school. Her passions and hobbies include astrodynamics, rocketry, spaceflight, planetary science, cooking, music, and art, making her a great fit here at OpticsMag! When she's not working, you can frequently find her traveling, honing her cooking skills, thinking about space too much, and hanging out with her friends and dogs.