5 Still Life Lighting Tips for Beginners

I'd like to share with you a quite useful note from Digital Photography School web-site:

Lighting is the single most important element of “Still Life” photography. The way a photographer uses light for still life will add mood, give context, provide interest, and ultimately, create a dynamic still life photograph. Lighting for still life is not complicated. In fact, stick to these 5 tips, and you will nail your still life shots every time.

1. Use an simple backdrop: Wrinkles and ridges in a still life photograph - unless a part of the setting - will be distracting to your main subject. Be vigilant about keeping your backdrops smooth and simple.

2. Make your lighting contrasty: Whether you are using strobes, speedlights, or LED’s, it’s important that your “ratio” from one light to the next is varied. The main light should be strongest, and the second light should simply provide a nice fill.

3. Light directionally: Side light is always most effective for bringing out texture and creating dynamic variation between the highlights and shadows. Whether rings, or florals, side light will enable you to give dimension and depth to your still life imagery.

4. Pay attention to your angles: Two things to think about when faced with a studio lighting scenario. a). The position of the lights to your subject and b). the position of your subject to the camera. Side light will give dimension, but so also will the angle at which you take your shot [ie. side, above, below, etc.]. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change up angles. A photo is most interesting when you give a new perspective to something that is ordinary.

5. Light for shape: We see life 3 dimensionally. For this reason, the most dynamic photographs are the ones in which the audience could walk into the scene, or reach out and touch the subject. Lighting for shape will be most emphasized by side light, when your highlights spread along the edge of your subject and add that 3rd dimension.

Whether or not commercial Still Life is an area you want to enter professionally, practicing in a still life context will give you a better understanding of directing light for maximum photographic impact.


Search results on DT by a "still life" keyword gives 86,301 related images! But by no means you can really consider all of them as a good still life example.

I chose some ones that might be considered to be a still-life model (of course, from my POV):

© Jirkab

© Mist

© Zuboff

And in conclusion some of still life attempts from a beginner (it's me):

© Tanyae

© Tanyae

© Tanyae

© Tanyae

© Tanyae

Thank you for reading!

Photo credits: Jiri Bursik, Michaela Stejskalova, Starblue, Tanyae, Zoom-zoom, Zuboff.

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August 21, 2010


thanks for sharing the tips, lovely pictures too!

August 20, 2010


Lighting is my single biggest challnge of all in photography. Thanks for posting this wonderfully helpful blog on the subject :)

February 07, 2010


When I see your pictures I remember that photography is an art, not just physics.Thank you !

November 13, 2009


Very impressed by the images you include in your posting. Will now look at your portfolio. David.

October 29, 2009


thanks for sharing and nice advices,beautiful pictures too!

October 26, 2009


Thanks for the great tips we beginners need all the help we can get,
beautiful photos. I was away from dreamstime for a while and now I am back hoping to start taking photos and uploading them.

October 26, 2009


Beautiful images and great tips, thanks!

October 19, 2009


Big thanks all of you for responses and wishes! I also wish you success and pleasure in your work!

October 17, 2009


Very beautiful photographs you have,,,
thanks for the tips :) they are useful.

October 16, 2009


Thank you very much for sharing these tips.

October 16, 2009


Very useful blog! Great images! Thank you for sharing :0)

October 16, 2009


very useful blog, will def bookmark the site - thanks for sharing

October 16, 2009


Very helpful tips. Thanks for sharing...

October 16, 2009


Hello and thanks for your nice blog! I love to take photos with studio lights, one can play with them so a lot - changing angles, intensioty, distance even sometimes colorful filters - for example a gold filter makes so warm tonality. :-) Beautiful blog and I wish you all to have nice time during "playing with lightning".

October 16, 2009


very interesting and helpful! thanks!

October 16, 2009


Very interesting and useful blog! Thanks for the info, Tanya!

October 16, 2009


Thank you! very useful!

October 16, 2009


Thanks for the tips, some great example images too.

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