Peony bouquetPeony bouquetPeonies in pastel in a watercolor montage.

February Tips_Creating a Still Life

February 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

During the winter, when days are short and weather unpleasant, still life photography or painting is a great project. Key elements to consider are:

  1. Tell a Story or Create a Mood or Feeling– What is the reason or objective for this still life? Why am I doing this?  Create a plot first. Warm or cool will help set the mood. Create tension or a relationship. Never forget - what is the center of interest? Is it evident? Do you want to emulate realism, abstraction, cubism, expressionism, impressionism? Lincoln with Window lightEnd of Day
  2. Lighting - You will need to decide on whether you want to use window light, candle light, tungsten light or utilize strobe light such as studio strobes or flash. Diffuse this light with fabric, tracing paper, frosted shower curtain or with bigger lights -  soft boxes or translucent umbrellas. Light and shade are key. Keep light from one direction (like the sun).
  3. Composition – This is not a landscape! Express your point of view. Horizontal is peaceful and suggests movement while diagonals suggest conflict. Differential in height is important and a triangular shape to the object in positioning with triangular movement is one way to go. Curved and circular motion is another possibility.  Remember to consider negative and positive space. Lost and found edges will help set a mood. Soft v. hard edges will help establish a relationship in that sharp edges bring out outlines and contrast while soft edges will help enhance these sharp edge effects. Texture is another element to consider – rough, smooth, even, uneven. Remember to simply!African daisy with orange vasesCircular Motion in Orange
  4. Materials and their arrangement – From choosing the background such as a home setting, canvas or other cloth or paper material to the objects you will display and their relationships. Surface qualities such as polished wood or acrylic will enhance reflections, while old wood or tumbled marble will not. Shapes, size and placement such as facing or overlapping, will exhibit a dramatic effect. Odd or even number of objects? Color, dark or light, tall or short, with a pattern or plain, straight or curved, large or small among other qualities, will have great effect. Remember, you are in control and the artist.peachesPeach Halves
  5. Traditional v. Contemporary – Traditional still life is horizontal. In times past, homes had high and small windows and artists preferred the light falling from the left. Use only one light source to mimic this traditional look. White foam core can help fill in and soften the shadows. Alter the perspective. The impressionist artist often kept the tabletop skewed.lobster feast_-2

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