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How to Light a Still Life

Objects don’t move, are easy to set up, and with a little creativity you can really get some interestingly beautiful shots.


  • Step 1: Arrange set & still life Begin to arrange the set and still life.
  • Step 2: Mount camera on tripod Mount your camera on the tripod.
  • Step 3: Arrange backdrop If you’re using a backdrop, arrange the backdrop behind the arrangement at a minimum of 6 feet away from the subject.
  • TIP: Your still lifes can take on life of their own and really 'pop' off the page just by keeping your backgrounds simple and clean.
  • Step 4: Position lights Position one light — with a soft box mounted onto it — at the same height as the subject, and at 90º angles from the camera and subject. This will create a dramatic soft light.
  • Step 5: Select your film, aperture, and shutter speed Select film, aperture and shutter speed that are appropriate for your lighting conditions.
  • TIP: Make sure not to select a shutter speed that is too fast for your camera’s optimal sync speed.
  • Step 6: Focus Focus on your subject.
  • Step 7: Compose your shot Compose your shot.
  • Step 8: Shoot away Take as many shots as you can, each time varying your composition slightly.
  • FACT: Georgia O’Keefe, who is known for her still life paintings of flowers, was married to the famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

You Will Need

  • A camera
  • An arrangement of objects or still life
  • Work or studio space
  • 1 to 2 lights
  • Soft box
  • And a backdrop or natural environment

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