Have you ever tried still life photography with your iPhone? It’s not just for artists! In fact, knowing how to take great still life shots can be useful in so many different situations, including food photography, flat lays, product shots, and more. There is a lot that makes still life photography easier than other types of photography, too. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about objects moving around or changing positions. You simply set up your still life the way you want it and then find a good angle to capture it. Still life photography lighting, however, isn’t always easy, but we’ll cover that in detail below.
Here’s everything you need to know about taking still life photos with your iPhone.
- What is still life photography?
- What are the two types of still life photos?
- Still life photography subgenres
- Best lens, equipment, and settings for a successful still life photo
- What iPhone lens should you be using?
- Equipment for still life photography with an iPhone
- What iPhone Camera settings should you use?
- Still life photography tips and ideas
What is still life photography?
You’re sure to have seen lots of still life artwork in the past — you know, the vase of flowers surrounded by fruit? You may have even tried your hand at still life drawings and paintings in some long-ago art class. And while you can certainly take still life photos of fruit and flowers, there’s so much more to still life photography!
Basically, any inanimate object or objects arranged and set up in a predetermined position can become the subject of still life photos. Whether you want to photograph everyday objects, food, or just a pile of junk, you can do it to create a still life photo.
What are the two types of still life photos?
You can categorize still life photos into two groups: found still life and created still life. When you photograph a still life scene that you happen upon, it’s considered found still life. These include outdoor and indoor scenes that you notice and feel compelled to photograph, such as a photogenic mess in your child’s bedroom or a rock cairn by the side of the trail. You don’t change anything about the scene before you photograph it; you just find the perfect angle to highlight the existing arrangement.
Created still life photos, meanwhile, are arranged and photographed by you. These can include product shots, flat lays, food photography, or any collection of objects that you’ve arranged for the purpose of photographing.
Still life photography subgenres
Still life photography is a great genre for practicing and improving your photography skills in general — and it may never involve arranging flowers or fruit on a table. Ideas for still life photography can be extremely varied:
- Food photography: If you love to cook, food photography can be a great way to document and share your finished recipes.
- Product photography: A great skill to have if you sell things online. Product photography entails creating a clear photo that shows off an object without distractions.
- Tabletop photography: This is a more traditional still life style — photographing objects that are arranged artistically on a table or other surface.
- Flat lay photography: If you’re on Instagram, you’ve surely seen the ubiquitous flat lay featuring products, food, or objects that are photographed from directly above. This is a popular style for small businesses, but it’s also a fun way to practice your photography skills.
- Outdoor still life photography: Found objects like leaves, seed pods, rocks, and shells are fun to arrange and photograph outdoors.
Best lens, equipment, and settings for a successful still life photo
You don’t need a fancy camera or lens to take gorgeous still life photos. With a little practice and a few key pieces of equipment, you can get great shots using your iPhone.
What iPhone lens should you be using?
A telephoto lens is your best choice for taking still life photos. Currently, you’ll find telephoto lenses on iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and all newer Pro and Pro Max lineups. We don’t recommend using your iPhone’s digital zoom, as the quality of your photos will suffer.
If you aren’t shooting with the iPhone models mentioned above, you’ve got two options. The first is to use the lens you have. It’s no big deal, really. You may just have to get creative with your camera angles. Your second option is to purchase a clip-on telephoto lens for your iPhone. The Apexel HD lens kit includes a 2x telephoto lens, as well as two wide-angle lenses, a fisheye lens, and a macro lens.
Equipment for still life photography with an iPhone
As you do more experimenting with still life photography, you may want to add some additional equipment to your kit. None of these things are necessary to get started, but you will know when it’s time to upgrade:
- Tripod: Important for reducing camera shake and setting specific camera angles.
- Remote shutter: When used with a tripod, a remote shutter allows you to adjust things as you go without constantly changing angles to get the right shot. A remote shutter also reduces the blur introduced with handheld shots.
- Lightbox: Great for product photography, a lightbox helps you achieve perfect lighting on every surface of the objects you’re shooting.
- Portable photography lights: Instead of using the flash on your iPhone, invest in some portable lights that you can use anywhere.
What iPhone Camera settings should you use?
You don’t have to mess around with your iPhone settings too much when shooting still life photos, but there are a few things you might want to try. Your flash should definitely be off, as still life photos work better in soft lighting, and your camera’s flash can be quite harsh.
You may also want to experiment with Portrait mode, which will allow you to capture a sharp image of your still life while blurring the background a bit.
Still life photography tips and ideas
Now that you’ve got all the equipment you need, it’s time to start experimenting with different still life arrangements. Here are some tips for still life photography that you can use to get those creative juices flowing.
1. Take advantage of natural lighting for your still life
The best type of lighting for still life photography is natural, indirect light. If you are shooting indoors, use light from a window. Full sun might be too harsh for your still life. If the light is pouring in through the window, try to reduce the amount of light with a white curtain or even a piece of paper. Arrange your objects so that the window light is hitting them from the side. If you’re photographing your still life outdoors, wait for an overcast day so you won’t have to deal with harsh shadows and washed-out photos.
2. Use a simple background to minimize distractions
When shooting still life photos, the objects should be the center of attention, not the background. If you have Portrait mode on your iPhone, you can minimize distractions by making the background blurry. Otherwise, try to set your still life up in front of a plain wall. You can also drape fabric behind your still life or shoot flat lays on plain surfaces. The more you experiment with simple backgrounds, the better the results will be.
3. Create an off-center composition
Have you heard of the rule of thirds? It’s a photography rule that recommends placing the main subject of your photo slightly off-center for a more pleasing composition. This works well in still life photography, especially if you are working with asymmetrical compositions. To make it even easier to utilize this rule, you can use the grid feature on your camera to determine exactly where to place your objects in the frame. Go to Settings > Camera > Grid and toggle it on.
4. Use the rule of odds for your still life photos
This isn’t really a rule, but many professional photographers suggest that you use an odd number of each object within your composition. Three leaves, five flowers, or seven pieces of fruit, for example. An odd number of items helps the eye move around the frame and makes for a more interesting composition.
5. Leave plenty of negative space in your photo
The negative space within a photograph is the space that is not taken up by the main subject. Using the other tips above (a simple background and an off-center composition), you will automatically capture negative space within your photo. Negative space is particularly important in still life photography, as it gives the photo a calm, minimalist mood and allows the subject of the image to really shine.
Okay, photographers, ready to start experimenting with still life photography? Hopefully, these tips and ideas have inspired you. The next step is up to you.