Still Life Photography: The Ultimate Beginners Guide

Still life photography turns the everyday into something special. If you’re just starting to explore this fascinating world, you’re in for a treat. It’s surprisingly accessible, whether you’re just starting out and hunting for that spark of inspiration or already deep in the game and looking to add some versatility to your photography business. Still life photos offer the unique chance to control each detail of your composition and are a rewarding area for any photographer to develop their skills and explore their creativity in a thoughtful, measured way.


Still life photography, at its heart, is about giving life to the lifeless. It's about capturing stories within inanimate objects, stirring emotions, and revealing the beauty that lies in simplicity.

We’ve found that, unlike other genres, still photography grants you total control over every component within your shot. From the play of light on a bouquet of flowers to the choice of background and organization for a dinner table setting, still lifes immortalize the essence of these objects, offering a glimpse into their timeless beauty.


Still photography includes a rich array of sub-genres, whether you're drawn to the simplicity of straightforward shoots or the challenge of planning more intricate setups. Here, let's delve into a few types of still life photography that might ignite your next creative endeavor.

Tabletop Photography

Imagine the world within the confines of a table. This genre of still photography invites interior objects into the spotlight. It's a fantastic starting point for those new to the craft, offering a playground to experiment with composition and lighting in a compact, manageable space.


Product Photography

Blurring the lines between commercial appeal and still life artistry, product photography focuses on showcasing an item's finest qualities. Although this approach may seem like one of the simpler forms of still life photography, we love that there’s ample room to get creative with how the product is displayed.


Food Photography

Beyond just making viewers hungry, food photography is a type of still life photography that serves up stories of culture, tradition, or simple culinary delight. It's an exceptional medium for photographers to experiment with color, texture, and composition, turning every dish into a narrative feast.


Found Object Photography

In this intriguing corner of still life photos, everyday objects are reborn as pieces of art. By recontextualizing the ordinary or combining items in unexpected ways, we can invite the viewer to see the commonplace through a fresh, revelatory lens.



Lighting holds the power to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary. Here are three pillars for mastering lighting in your still photography:

    1. Start with Natural Light: Begin with the gentle, diffused radiance that spills through a window.        Mitigate any harsh shadows with sheer curtains or a reflector.

    2. Experiment with Artificial Light: Introduce a desk lamp to explore shadows and depth, enhancing textures and colors in your still life photos.

    3. Play and Experiment: Shift the light source around, observing how it alters the scene. Like changing from black and white to color, lighting can also dramatically change the mood of a still photo.

Whether we’re talking about still life photography for beginners or professionals, we really encourage you to keep experimentation top of mind. See how moving the light changes your shot, and don't be afraid to try out different angles. 



We appreciate still life photography for its ability to transform everyday objects into captivating artworks. But how do we elevate a simple collection of items into a composition that resonates deeply with viewers? 

Start with the rule of thirds. This is an age-old principle that divides your frame into nine equal segments. Placing your subject along these lines or at their intersections creates a more engaging still life photo. 

Balance is another key player. We strive for a sense of harmony in our still photography composition, where no single element overshadows another. Mixing up shapes, sizes, and colors can help achieve this balance. 

Finally, highlight your focal point. Decide what the star of your show is, and arrange other items to complement it - not compete with it. 


Simple still life photography doesn’t require elaborate interior setups or expensive props. It’s all about how we see and capture the world around us. If you’re searching for ideas, jumpstart your still photography journey with these suggestions. 

    1. The Solo Cup: No, not that Solo Cup. This is a single, textured mug against a stark, contrasting background that spotlights the morning’s first quiet moments.

    2. Fruit Tales: An age-old still life photo idea that never goes out of style. Arrange a mix of fruits, playing with colors and shapes. Try a close-up of a half-eaten apple for a twist on the traditional fruit bowl narrative.

    3. Shadow Play: Use objects with interesting shapes to cast shadows. Photograph the shadow as your subject, exploring form and negative space.

    4. Water Drops on Glass: Sprinkle water drops on a piece of glass and place it above colored paper or fabric. Focus on the droplets for a mesmerizing abstract.

    5. Essence of Flowers: Capture the essence of nature by collecting flowers and placing them around your home. 

These still photography ideas are just the starting point. Again tinker with lighting, composition, and your unique perspective to create captivating still life photos.



Every object around you holds potential for stunning still life photos. Each time around you is just waiting for you to capture its story. 

As you navigate this space, REFINED Co can help you achieve your creative vision.Our presets, including those designed in collaboration with commercial and interior photographer Ali Harper, are your gateway to stunning, professional-grade images. From light and airy to dark and moody, we have you covered. 

Remember that the beauty of still photography lies in practice and experimentation. Don’t be afraid to try new setups or perspectives, and most importantly, enjoy the process of creating art from the mundane.

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